Steamboat City Council to consider solar garden proposals Tuesday night |

Steamboat City Council to consider solar garden proposals Tuesday night

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

— 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.

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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:

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