A solar garden similar to this Xcel Energy one in Boulder has been proposed for Craig.

Clean Energy Collective/courtesy

A solar garden similar to this Xcel Energy one in Boulder has been proposed for Craig.

Steamboat City Council to consider solar garden proposals Tuesday night


Past Event

Steamboat Springs City Council meeting

  • Tuesday, March 4, 2014, 5 p.m.
  • Centennial Hall, 124 10th St., Steamboat Springs
  • Not available


— The Steamboat Springs City Council on Tuesday night could decide whether the city should buy into a new solar garden planned for Craig.

The alternative energy option comes as city staff is recommending the council start to devise a new energy purchase and usage policy that could help guide the city's future energy decisions.

Anne Small, the city's director of general services, said council will have to take into consideration that the solar garden is a “limited opportunity that may not be around until we finish this (new energy) policy.”

Elected officials in Steamboat and Routt County last month expressed interest in the Clean Energy Collective's new solar array that is projected to provide 577 kilowatts of clean power capacity from 1,922 solar panels.

City staff in November asked the Clean Energy Collective for two proposals to replace the energy usage at Centennial Hall and the Steamboat Springs Community Center.

Each would require a significant up-front capital investment with the savings expected to come in the long run.

Replacing the Centennial Hall energy usage with solar power, for example, would cost the city an estimated $400,950.

Assuming there is a 3 percent annual increase in the cost of electricity, it is projected it would take 18 years to recover those costs from annual energy savings.

After 25 years, the savings are estimated to total $593,969.

The prospect of new solar energy at city facilities received a mix of reactions from the City Council ranging from excitement to cautious optimism.

Council member Sonja Macys said purchasing into the system could be an opportunity for the city to “lead by example” in utilizing more renewable energy.

Council member Kenny Reisman said that when the city considers the solar option, it should weigh it against other capital improvements that could benefit the users of city facilities while making them more energy efficient.

During Tuesday's council meeting, city staff will present a long list of potential capital projects they are considering in future budget cycles, which could help the council weigh the savings from the solar project.

Staff also will outline the things they have done in recent years to make their facilities more energy efficient.

Heating and cooling system improvements at the Howelsen Ice Arena were among the most significant changes.

The $114,613 project was expected to generate an annual savings of $23,158 and pay for itself after about five years.

Read more about the alternative energy proposals below:

Alternative energy proposals for city of Steamboat Springs

Alternative energy proposals

To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210, email scottfranz@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @ScottFranz10

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Scott Wedel 3 years, 1 month ago

Is this supposed to be an investment or an admirable idea leading by example?

When government makes an investment that is supposed to be leading by example then that is a recipe for disaster because the investment aspect means questions are not asked how it supposed to lead by example, and the lead by example aspect means questions are not asked why it should be believed to be such a good investment. And so government so often sees claimed "good investments" with claimed "good social benefits" go horribly wrong. The Iron Horse was supposed to be an investment with social benefits. If former city manager John Roberts was still around then he could described the financial disaster of Victorville's investments.

The mistake that government makes when considering that sort of investment is failing to ask if why the private sector wasn't able to find investors and why the business is trying to sell it to government. If this is such a good deal then Ski Corps, Sheraton, etc should be all over it. The fact that the city is being asked to take the lead means that private investors do not see this as such a good investment.

Nor does it make much sense that "government leading": is supposed to serve as some sort of inspiration and inspire private investors to follow. Private investors do their own analysis and are not going to be persuaded by government being an investor.

It is a pretty simple calculation that an investment paying off in 18 years has a projected rate of return of less than 4%. That is a pretty awful investment. So it is pretty clear why it is being sold to governments and wasn't snapped up by private investors.

A local energy efficiency program loaning people money to install cost effective energy savings such as insulated windows in which the property owner then repays from lower energy bills should be expected to return well over 10%.


Sam Jones 3 years, 1 month ago

Thanks for the comments Harvey and Scott.

Hopefully a lot of your questions and comments will be address tomorrow night at the council meeting. I have contracted to buy a relatively large piece of the community solar array for my home and feel very comfortable with the economics behind that investment. I own an investment company and have degrees in economics and finance. I believe this article provided a bit of a set up for objections by presenting only partial and selective info giving one reason to raise an eyebrow. Leadership by the city is important but probably the 5th most relevent reason why the city might consider an investment in the array.

For instance - Scott. Your 4% return isn't accurate - it's 5.7% and 5.7% is better than 0.0% being earning in cash and money markets where the city treasury lives. There are several other important motivators that should become known in the discussion tomorrow but I'll save the punch line for then.

Personally and very subjectively, I would rather the city spend money on the following: 1. Things that have a payback of any sort an 2. Things that will offer our city more control and stability in their variable expenses. This is an opportunity that provides both. It is not an Iron Horse or anything that carries additional residual costs or even the potential for investment loss.

Thanks again for the input and hope to see you tomorrow night

Sam Jones


Scott Wedel 3 years, 1 month ago

"Scott. Your 4% return isn't accurate - it's 5.7% and 5.7% is better than 0.0% being earning in cash and money markets where the city treasury lives."

Rates of return should be compounded over time and not a straight line division of 100% by 18. 4% compounded for 18 years is over 100%.

And a city considering whether it has sufficient reserves to build a police station hardly has an issue of dead money sitting in reserves.


mark hartless 3 years, 1 month ago

It does not even matter if it is a "good investment" and returns substantial profit. It is STILL outside the proper domain of municipal (or any) government.

Just the opportunity and temptations for cronyism and nepotism surrounding such "investments" is reason enough for them to be kept FAR AWAY from government.

Who's brother owns the solar panel company? Who's friend is the realtor that has the land listed? Who will profit from building the infrastructure? Who's wifes trucking company will haul the material to the site?

On and on it goes... opportunity for endless questionable decisions that might have been taken for personal or secondary reasons.

THIS is why "investment" (good or bad) should be something done by INDIVIDUALS with THEIR OWN money... Period.


Scott Wedel 3 years, 1 month ago

The city's materials includes many other projects in which the payback is less than 5 years. There is no good reason why those haven't already been funded.

The city also has many more projects with a payback in less than 10 years. City should certainly consider those.

This solar project should serve as a lesson in how to properly make a financial decision. Any city council members who supports an 18 year payback when many other projects have faster paybacks is displaying financial incompetence.


Fred Duckels 3 years, 1 month ago

This project may save money in the long run, I don't know, but it is intermittent power and in the big picture we need constant power. That depends on a conventional plant running full time and this renders the intermittent project basically a duplicitous feel good effort.


Steve Lewis 3 years, 1 month ago

From the earlier County meeting, the county judged the Solar Garden investment will have a payback of about 16 years. The panels lose about 1% generating capacity a year, so it matters that CEC guarantees 80% or better of the original capacity, for the life of the contract. The panels are insured for damage.

This is a better investment for longterm local stakeholders, given that after about "16 years" the panel's electricity is all bonus.

For commercial property, I could not establish how this outlay fits in my taxes. I'd like some depreciation to offset where I previously had electric utility deductions. The 30% rebate requires CEC to "own" the panels for 5 years. Not sure how to treat a new asset I do not own in my tax return.


Scott Wedel 3 years, 1 month ago

Any organization the size of SB city government should have no trouble finding many projects with less than a 10 year payback period.


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