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Golden-Based Energy Lab Working With Aspen on Renewables


The City of Aspen is working with an outside agency to come up solutions on how to meet their renewable energy goal. The City’s utility wants to be completely renewable by 2015. As Aspen Public Radio’s Marci Krivonen reports, the City is working with NREL, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory to come up with solutions. And, the controversial Castle Creek hydro plant is still in the cards.

Right now, Aspen’s electric utility runs mostly on renewable energy. A mix of hydro, wind and solar make up about 85 percent of the utility’s power that’s delivered to roughly 3000 homes and businesses. In the next couple of years, the City want to reach 100 percent. William Dolan is the Utilities Project Coordinator for the City of Aspen.

"This 100-percent renewable goal fits underneath a broader goal that was set by the Canary Initiative to reduce our greenhouse gases. Really at its heart, it’s one of the ways in which we are committed to reducing Aspen’s greenhouse gas emissions," Dolan says.

After a November 2012 advisory vote on the Castle Creek Hydro project, Dolan was given a new task. A majority of voters wanted to stop to the project, which would divert water from Maroon and Castle Creeks to generate power. So, Dolan set out to find alternative methods of reaching the 100-percent goal.

"And, during that time, I concluded that there was a tremendous amount of value in having an independent, outside group conduct this analysis and NREL was really at the top of my list."

Joyce McLaren is a Senior Energy Analyst for NREL. 

"NREL is the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and we are the nation’s foremost lab for energy efficiency and renewable energies," she says.

It’s a government agency based in Golden, that has a staff of experts in renewable energy and energy efficiency. She says her agency is working on a list of possible solutions for Aspen so that it can meet its renewable energy goal.

"Certainly the location and the geography is going to play into which options are available, as well as the restrictions that the City is under from their current electricity provider, so we have to consider the options as they relate to both the physical circumstances of Aspen, the grid infrastructure and any kind of policy restrictions there might be, as well."

Will Dolan with the City of Aspen says the Castle Creek energy center will likely be on NREL’s final list of options. That will be presented to City Council in March.

"I’m not so sure that it’s going to be a single project or contract, or power purchase agreement that’s going to get us to 100 percent. It might be a combination of several," he says.

On Monday night, Dolan will request Council approve an $8000 dollar expenditure to maintain the City’s FERC permit for the Castle Creek project. It doesn’t move the project forward, but keeps the status quo in case the project is revived in the future.

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