Piling on renewables at Telluride

Telluride’s latest push toward 100 percent renewables for town-owned operations would result in the municipal government buying 450 panels for affordable housing, but in a solar farm 80 miles west in the Paradox Valley. Town of Telluride photo

Telluride’s latest push toward 100 percent renewables for town-owned operations would result in the municipal government buying 450 panels for affordable housing, but in a solar farm 80 miles west in the Paradox Valley. Town of Telluride photo

Telluride piles on solar panels as it reaches for goal of renewables

TELLURIDE, Colo. – Little by little, Telluride continues to put money into renewable energy, inching toward a goal of 100 percent renewable energy for municipal operations by 2020.

The town government’s most recent plan is to purchase solar panels for the town’s extensive affordable housing, in which 30 percent of residents live. This program covers about two-thirds of that deed-restricted housing.

The panels wouldn’t be on the housing units themselves. Telluride sits in a box canyon, and some places get absolutely no sunshine on the short days of winter.

A much better place is 80 miles west, in the desert-like Paradox Valley. There, a company called Clean Energy Collective has a solar farm with 4,784 photovoltaic panels. The town is buying up to 450 of them, at a total cost of almost $330,000.

Residents of the affordable housing units will derive energy credits from the panels on their owner-occupied deed-restricted housing, but their ownership of the panels will not go with them when they leave the deed-restricted units. Rather, ownership of the panels will stay with the units.

If owners want credits to be applied to their homes, they will be required to be in compliance with energy conservation regulations. In their rental housing, credits will go directly to the Telluride Housing Authority, which owns the units.

Mayor Stu Fraser along with Bob Delves, then mayor of Mountain Village, in 2009 announced a commitment to secure 100% of the region’s electricity directly from renewable sources by 2020. Since then, Telluride’s town government has:

• Purchased 215 panels in the solar array in the Paradox Valley to offset electricity used in municipal operations.

• Installed a hydro system at the water treatment plant, which will offset approximately 40 percent of the town government’s energy use, and a solar array, which offsets 10 percent of wastewater treatment plant power use.

• Initiated green building standards and updated them twice since 2007;

• Implemented TEMP (Telluride Energy Mitigation Plan), a fund that is tied into construction within the town.

In addition to the above, the town is looking to buy into a hydroelectric project. A dam on the Uncompahgre River, located about a half-hour away, near the town of Ridgway, is being retrofitted to produce electricity. The City of Aspen is buying much of the hydroelectric power produced during winter. Telluride’s municipal government is looking at buying into the summer production from the 8-megawatt system.

“It would be a huge step toward meeting the mayor’s challenge that was set out in 2009,” says Karen Guglielmone, the town project manager.

Telluride is already invested in a hydro station at Bridal Veil Falls, the picturesque waterfall at the head of the box canyon.

Two steps forward and its back you go

TELLURIDE, Colo. – Mary Chapin Carpenter, who has played at Telluride Bluegrass many times, has a song about “it’s two steps forward and then it’s back you go.”

That song comes to mind in connection with the energy report for Telluride given by the town’s project manager, Karen Guglielmone. In 2009, the town set a high goal for reducing its complicity in greenhouse gas emissions. Compared to a 2005 baseline, it wanted to reduce emissions 20 percent by 2020.

How are things going? Strictly by the numbers—well, it’s back you go. Emissions have actually grown 6.7 percent, owing to an increase in use of electricity, natural gas, and transportation fuels in municipal operations. Growth in the volume of treated water was one cause, as was longer operating hours of a park’s facility.

But this growth has been partially offset by an increase in renewable energy in the town government’s portfolio. Municipal operations account for about 6 percent of energy use in Telluride.

Have you heard of efficiency paradox?

ASPEN, Colo. – There’s probably a name for it, but the “efficiency paradox” will do. It afflicted Denver after the big drought of 2002. Denver Water urged customers to conserve water, and they did an admirable job of it.

The conservation habit continued after reservoirs filled again. But then, the water utility was getting less revenue, so it had to raise rates. What’s up with that, asked customers. We use less and we pay more?

That same problem is confounding Aspen, where the municipality has both an electrical and a water utility. The problem is more apparent on the electrical side. Town residents overall have decreased energy use 3.4 percent annually since 2008. That is creating stress on the revenue side, says Lee Ledesma, the city’s utility finance manager.

She tells The Aspen Times that the city puts tens of thousands of dollars into the energy-efficiency program through rebates for energy-efficient upgrades to lighting, refrigeration, heating, and air-conditioning systems. Recently, the program’s focus has shifted from residential to commercial customers.


About Allen Best

Allen Best is a Colorado-based journalist. He publishes a subscription-based e-zine called Mountain Town News, portions of which are published on the website of the same name, and also writes for a variety of newspapers and magazines.
This entry was posted in Mountain towns, Renewable Energy, Telluride. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Piling on renewables at Telluride

  1. Pingback: Piling on renewables at Telluride – Mountain Town News | Renewable Energy News

  2. Pingback: Renewable Energy in Telluride | Lodging - in Telluride

  3. This rebound effect you describe is known as Jevons Paradox so named after English economist William Jevons who first described it in the middle 1800s with respect to the increased consumption of coal in response to the development of the steam engine… a paradox in more ways than one.

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