Steamboat City Council passes on solar garden opportunity
March 4, 2014
Steamboat Springs — The Steamboat Springs City Council was intrigued Tuesday night by the idea of buying into a community solar garden being built in Craig, but it wasn’t interested enough to pursue the energy option out of its regular budget cycle.
"Conceptually, I love the idea of this," council member Kenny Reisman said. "But I struggle with the timing. It’s tough to go out of pocket."
He said if the panels were sold out by the time the council considers the option during its budget hearings in the fall, that would mean the community had bought into garden.
"I don’t see the downside in waiting," Reisman said.
Council member Sonja Macys was the only one on the dais who wanted to move forward and tap into the alternative energy.
She proposed that the city spend about $94,000 to convert some of the energy at the Steamboat Springs Community Center to solar.
"I think there’s a strategic advantage to purchase into something that pays back over time," Macys said.
She added the city should continue to take a leadership role in promoting sustainability.
However, her motion to buy into Clean Energy Collective’s solar array was not seconded by any other council members.
Council President Bart Kounovsky and other council members said the proposal needed to be weighed against other budget items.
He also pointed out that in the city’s most recent goal-setting workshop last year, sustainability was mentioned as a priority, but it didn’t rank in the top-five goals for the council at the time.
"Last year, we gave (city staff) direction that it’s not one of our top-five goals," Kounovsky said. "It could be this year and then we might say ‘go.’"
The council also was receptive to the request from city staff to come up with a new energy purchase and usage policy that could help to prioritize and guide future spending decisions.
Council members asked the staff to present them next week with a rough estimate of how much it might cost to work with an outside consultant to come up with such a policy.
"There are a lot of other opportunities we don’t know about that we would like to educate ourselves on," General Services Director Anne Small said. "We do need some outside help."
Council’s decision on the solar array came after a few community members spoke in support of the opportunity.
Sam Jones said the timing was important because an investment tax credit being offered to the city now will go away. He added it wasn’t likely that another solar garden would be built in the area anytime soon.
Megan Walker, a college student majoring in sustainability, urged the council to "think of the long-term future of Steamboat and approve this."
The Clean Energy Collective’s new solar array is projected to provide 577 kilowatts of clean power capacity from 1,922 solar panels.