Town Mulls Possibility of Community Investment
by Peter Shelton
Sep 20, 2012 | 620 views | 0 0 comments | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Town Mulls Community Solar Investment

“You look around and you don’t see returns of 6-7 percent on an investment,” enthused Mayor John Clark.

At Ridgway’s regular town council meeting last week, Clark and the rest of the council heard a presentation from San Miguel Power Association and its partner, Clean Energy Collective, on an opportunity to own solar panels that could, over time, deliver a profit to the town for its energy use.

Carbondale-based CEC is the company building a five-acre solar farm in the Paradox Valley (“348 days a year of sun”) that will be operated by SMPA. Photovoltaic panels in that array (there will be 4,800 of them when it’s completed) are now being reserved by SMPA customers: individuals, businesses and, potentially, larger institutions including towns and counties.

CEC sales representative Kristin Kuhlman of Telluride told councilors that power from the array will feed directly into the electric grid. Anyone purchasing a panel will receive a credit on his or her monthly electric bill equal to the amount of power generated by that panel. And, in approximately 14-16 years, the panel owner will have paid off the initial investment and actually begin to see a profit.

SMPA Key Accounts Executive Ken Haynes added a few details. The panels will cost $704 each, given all the available rebates. The contract with SMPA is for 20 years, though the estimated life of the panels is about 50 years. Each panel is estimated to produce about $45 worth of electricity per year. The “average” home would need 16 panels to zero-out electrical usage. And, for the life of the contract, “the return on your investment is 6 percent.”

Councilor Jim Kavanaugh asked, “Is the Town of Telluride buying?”

“You can only reserve now,” Kuhlman replied. “When construction is finished, you can buy. The Town of Telluride is interested. As is the Mountain Village, San Miguel County, the gondola, Telski. Yes, they are very interested. It’s an exciting project. And we’d love your support.”

Mayor Clark said, “I’d love to be the poster child for this. We’ll have to look in the budget process for the money. But this is an investment. You can be sure we’ll be talking about it.”

The town’s budget workshops begin this week.

Given the environmental benefits, the opportunity to “model for future generations,” Kavanaugh concluded, “It is time.”


Town Manager Jennifer Coates told Ridgway’s town council on Wednesday (Sept. 12) about a significant grant opportunity from the Boettcher Foundation to help develop the community’s fledgling Creative District.

Coates reviewed: the town was given $8,000 in 2012 by Colorado Creative Industries as one of a handful of provisional creative districts in the state. Ridgway’s Creative District Commission has been using that money to further economic-development projects related to the arts.

Coates and Mayor John Clark had just returned from meetings in Denver with CCI and other creative districts. (They had, in fact, just stepped out of the car after the six-hour return drive.) The big news was that the Boettcher Foundation is making available a good deal more money to creative districts around the state, provided they kick in substantial matches.

The Boettcher grants, Coates said, are $25,000 cash grants. Five thousand dollars could come to Ridgway “this month,” she said. That first part would require a $5,000, in-kind match from the town or its creative district.

Next year’s Boettcher contribution would bump up to $10,000, but would require a $10,000 cash match. And the same for the following year: $10,000 from Boettcher and $10,000 from local sources. It presented a big fundraising challenge locally, Coates said, but also a big opportunity.

Councilor Jim Kavanaugh said, “I’m all, whatever we can do to support it.”

Coates added, “The state wants the creative districts to succeed. Part of it is, to have our creative district sustain itself. This would be a programmatic investment in that sense and not a capital investment.”

Councilor Ellen Hunter asked, “How much will we need to budget [for it] this year?”

“Nothing,” Coates replied. “It’s in-kind dollars this year.”

Councilor Eric Johnson moved the town “enter into contract with CCI” to pursue the Boettcher grant. The motion carried unanimously.

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