City of Craig awarded $200,000 DOLA solar grant

The City of Craig was awarded a $200,000 regional solar utility/garden project grant last week as part of the Colorado Department of Local Affairs (DOLA) grant program that will allow a group of local organizations to investigate potential solar installations as well as power shaving and net metering strategies for the region.

In total, DOLA awarded $400,000 in solar grants to the region, which includes the City of Craig, Moffat County, Moffat County School District, Memorial Regional Health, The City of Steamboat Springs, Routt County, Town of Hayden, and Town of Yampa.

The City of Craig was awarded the second of two grants by DOLA, receiving a $200,000 regional solar utility/garden project grant, which seeks to establish the feasibility of developing a large solar utility in Moffat County, with purchase agreements to provide power to adjacent municipalities and other partners.

“All of that [development of a solary utility field] has to be determined in the feasibility study,” City of Craig Manager Peter Brixius said. “Once we select a contractor and go through the study, that help us identify where a large solar field can be established. That will help us determine the size of the field and some of the other funding options moving forward.”

The project works in concert with the peak power shaving project, according to a press release from the City of Steamboat Springs.

Usually, DOLA requires a 50/50 match on any grant awarded, but for the solar utility grants the local organizations were required to match just 25 percent, thanks to Gov. Jared Polis’ Community Solar Gardens Modernization Act. That act set aside some $12 million to help the state of Colorado push towards Polis’ 100 percent renewable goal by 2040.

Of the $200,000 grant, the City of Craig, Moffat County, MCSD, and MRH have to contribute $67,000 to the project, giving the four local organizations $267,000 to work with. The City of Craig has committed $20,000 to the project, according to Brixius.

The City of Craig, Moffat County, MCHS and MRH will work closely with Yampa Valley Electric and Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association, Inc. on the project to determine needs and feasibility, according to Brixius.

While the goal is to find out the feasibility of a solar garden to help power the area, Brixius said there has to be a way to make money off the project in the end.

“Unless we see a feasible return, the project won’t go forward,” Brixius said. “There has to be an income stream, and it has to be advantageous to all the organizations involved to offset some of the costs.”

The first DOLA grant was awarded to the City of Steamboat Springs and totals $200,000, allowing for work to be completed on assessing the feasibility, sizing and specifications needed for solar installations on both the Howelsen Ice Complex and Wastewater Treatment Plant, as well as on 13 other local government, utility agencies and school district buildings in Routt and Moffat Counties, according to a press release from the City of Steamboat Springs.

“Act locally and work together was our thinking when we all came together to pursue these grant opportunities,” said Assistant to the City Manager Winnie DelliQuadri. “Combining resources allows us to examine the feasibility of solar which would not be possible alone.”

Currently, the high energy use in these facilities, especially during peak demand, pushes pricing into the highest levels in Steamboat Springs. The goal of this project, according to the press release, is to install renewable energy solar panels at each facility, which will also provide a portion of power to the facility itself.

This will have an immediate impact on renewable energy usage in the region, and in the longer term, will carry out peak power shaving and at some sites, enable net metering to further benefit renewable energy use in the region, according to DelliQuadri.

“These projects represent an unprecedented opportunity for local governments to work together to increase the mix of renewable energy being utilized in our region while simultaneously decreasing long-term energy costs and building energy resiliency in critical facilities,” continued DelliQuadri.

Colorado has set a goal to be 100% renewable energy by 2040. This presents both a challenge and an opportunity for the region and acted as the impetus to work collectively and quickly to address the future.

Thanks to the grants though, it should help Northwest Colorado push forward towards the renewable energy goal of 2040.

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