Mayor signs letter of intent for Craig community solar garden

State mandate requires certain percentage of utilities come from renewables

In other action...

At its regularly scheduled meeting Tuesday, the Craig City Council:

• Approved, 7-0, Sept. 25 meeting minutes.

• Approved, 7-0, September bills of $424,607.48.

• Approved, 7-0, a special events permit for Cowboy Christmas at the Boys & Girl Club of Craig.

• Approved, 7-0, the renewal of a 3.2 percent beer retail liquor license for Safeway.

• Approved, 7-0, the renewal of a tavern liquor license for Cool Water Grille.

• Heard introduction of an amendment to Ordinance No. 1020 to increase municipal court costs from $15 to $20 against designated defendants.

• Heard Craig Police Department monthly report.

There was reluctance Tuesday among some Craig City Council members to support a nonbinding letter of intent for the construction of a solar array in Craig.

Citing Tri-State Generation & Transmission, operator of Craig Station, as one of the largest employers and primary contributors to the Moffat County tax base, council member Don Jones questioned whether supporting construction of a solar garden in Craig City limits would send the wrong message to local energy industry employees.

“Here we are trying to keep coal in the area and all of a sudden we’re going to buy into something like this?” Jones said. “Don’t get me wrong, I’m for green energy, but what kind of a message are we sending to the power plant and the mines?”

Mark Boyer, of Clean Energy Collective who presented the letter to council for consideration, said he doesn’t anticipate any serious resentment from the coal industry considering the garden, which would consist of 2,468 solar panels and annually produce 957 megawatt hours of electricity, yields about as much power in a year as a coal-fired power plant the size of Craig Station generates in about an hour.

Council member Jennifer Riley added that because of new state regulations providers are now mandated to supply a certain percentage of their electricity from renewables.

The council endorsed the letter of intent, 7-0.

The letter was spurred by a recent request for proposals by Yampa Valley Electric Association to adhere to new renewable energy mandates.

Clean Energy Collective was one of many company’s that answered the RFP, Boyer said, which is still open.

Though Clean Energy Collective has not yet won its bid, Boyer said he wanted to have an agreement in place designating a site and stipulating lease terms with the city should the company get the go ahead from YVEA.

According to that preliminary agreement, the solar garden would encompass approximately 4.5 acres at 880 W. First Street. Clean Energy Collective would construct and maintain the solar garden at its own cost, and pay the city $1,200 per year for a 50-year ground lease.

Unlike solar panels on a house, which requires a minimum investment of $18,000, Boyer said YVEA ratepayers would be provided with the opportunity to buy into the garden, at an estimated cost of $500 to $600 per panel.

Once constructed, the solar garden would be added to YVEA’s electrical grid and customers would receive a credit back on their bills for the electricity generated by the panel or panels they purchased.

Purchasers of solar panels could expect a return on their investment in about 12 to 15 years, Boyer said.

“It’s just like having solar panels on your roof or a power plant in your backyard,” Boyer said, “without the inconvenience of having solar panels on your roof or a power plant in your backyard.”

Joe Moylan can be reached at 875-1794 or jmoylan@craigdailypress.com.

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