Craig among partners working to bring grant-funded solar field to YVEA property

Project will help reduce cost of municipal water and wastewater facilities, with long-term savings passed along to end users

Solar Farm at 900 Finley Lane in Craig, Colorado on Dec. 20, 2021.
Billy Schuerman / For the Craig Press

Craig is nearing the final phase of a solar project that’s been a long time coming, and it could mean long-term savings for water users in the city.

The project, in which the city of Craig is one of six partners, intends to build a roughly 26-acre solar farm on property owned by Yampa Valley Electric Association, said city manager Peter Brixius. Craig’s portion of the power generated once it’s built would likely be used to offset electricity costs for the city’s water and wastewater facilities, Brixius said, with the overhead reduction slowing rate increases over the course of many years.

“If everything goes as planned, we hope to have it built by the end of 2022,” Brixius said.

The project was initially slated to provide 2 megawatts, but as it grew in scope and the partnership size, that number has nearly doubled, Brixius said.

“The power generation from the field will be shared between six subscribers,” he said. “The city of Craig is the fiscal agent for a grant, and the partners are Craig, Moffat County, Routt County, Hayden, Steamboat Springs and Yampa. Possible we add one, but not sure.”

Brixius said that the bidding process led to the selection of a company called Ameresco, and as negotiations continued, a larger solar field was decided upon, and the ownership model was shifted to the contractor, meaning Ameresco will build and own the nearly 4-megawatt solar field, selling the power back to YVEA, who will then distribute it to the partners.

A $2.265 million grant from the state is paying for the partners’ contribution to the project. Brixius said no matching funds from the local entities was required.

“We haven’t settled on the formula, but by the time we divvy up the power generation between the six partners, the City of Craig we estimate will supplant 3 to 5% of our power usage, which Brixius anticipates will go toward lowering overhead costs at the water and wastewater facilities owned and operated by the city.

“Those are our largest power consumers,” he said. “If we can reduce overhead on those plants, it affects all ratepayers throughout the city, so indirectly, it’s a benefit to the ratepayers.”

Brixius said end users shouldn’t expect a rate decrease, but rather an improved prospective rate as various costs would normally cause rate increases. This energy cost savings, he said, would slow that ramp up.

“Any time we can control costs, it benefits the ratepayer,” Brixius said.

Brixius noted that not all jurisdictions in the partnership were certain to use their power with the same sources, though he supposed it was likely that those municipalities that have similar facilities were very likely to funnel the power gained from the solar project into their water and wastewater plants as well.

“Not sure how they apply those same benefits, but it’ll go toward cost reduction of government,” Brixius said.

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