Solar panel garden could come to Craig, Yampa Valley Electric Association customers | SteamboatToday.com

Solar panel garden could come to Craig, Yampa Valley Electric Association customers

Erin Fenner/Craig Daily Press

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

— Solar panel manufacturer Clean Energy Collective is in discussions with Yampa Valley Electric Association and the Craig City Council about where it can build a 5-acre solar panel garden.

The garden would have about 2,300 panels and could provide power to about 200 homes.

"Anybody who's a customer of YVEA will be able to own panels," Clean Energy Collective President Paul Spencer said.

Each panel would cost about $800 and could help a consumer save about $45 on his or her energy bill each year.

Sasha Nelson, a field organizer for Conservation Colorado, said she is thrilled that solar panels will be part of Moffat County's landscape.

"I love giving people choices. I am always an advocate for helping us be more sustainable," Nelson said. "I hope individuals in the community will get behind this project."

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YVEA board Chairman Dean Brosious said that although the panels would be built in Craig, most of the consumers likely would come from Steamboat Springs.

Clean Energy Collective "picked Craig because it's more affordable," Brosious said.

Craig City Council member Joe Bird said he has mixed feelings about the project because he is concerned that a new energy competitor negatively could affect Tri-State Generation & Transmission Association employees.

"With the regulations and everything that's happening, it seems like a lot of things are being changed," Bird said. "I just don't like the direction I see things going."

Nelson disagreed with that sentiment.

"People are still going to need other energy sources," Nelson said. "It doesn't force people to go away from their energy of choice."

Spencer said those invested in the coal industry don't need to worry.

"The coal power plant literally provides as much power in a couple hours as this (solar panel garden) does in a year," Spencer said.

Mayor Terry Carwile said he is behind the project because it could help Craig diversify in energy.

"We've always been an energy leader," Carwile said. "So now, oil and gas is getting quite a bit of attention. But if we want to be a leader in the energy business, we got to do this."

The renewable energy requirement for YVEA requires 30 percent of its energy come from renewable sources by 2020. Carwile said that means Craig should jump on the opportunity before YVEA looks to other communities.

"If they can't purchase renewable energy here, they have to buy it elsewhere," he said.

Last week, the City Council went over possible locations and turned down the first option that would have been next to the Public Safety Center on First Street. Bird said it could be an eyesore.

"I don't know that I want to see some solar panel garden off the side of the road," Bird said. "There's other areas in Craig where it's not as visible but has similar results."

City Council members agreed that a good area for the panels could be by the new wastewater treatment center. Clean Energy Collective had proposed paying $1,200 per year for the plot by the Public Safety Center.

"My preference is the property be on First Street,” Carwile said, “but the important thing is that the thing is built."

Erin Fenner can be reached at 970-875-1794 or efenner@CraigDailyPress.com.

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