Local municipalities applying for solar energy grant

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS – In an effort to be more environmentally conscious, the city of Steamboat Springs has teamed up with several other local municipalities to transition two city facilities to using solar energy.

The city conducted a feasibility study and found the wastewater treatment plant and the transit operations center made the most sense to transition to solar energy due their high-energy usage, according to City Manager Gary Suiter.

Steamboat, in conjunction with Hayden, Yampa, Oak Creek and Craig and Routt and Moffat counties, applied for a $2.1 million grant from the Colorado Department of Local Affairs to fund the solar project and expects to hear back on whether or not the grant has been approved in January. Winnie DelliQuadri, the city’s special projects/intergovernmental services manager, said each municipality is matching the grant funding with a combined $3.1 million over 10 years, with Steamboat paying $53,710 for the transit operations center and $616,220 for the wastewater treatment plant.

While the city will go into debt to first finance the project, city officials expect to save on utility bills when they convert to solar energy and use the savings to pay back the debt.

“Our state is moving toward a clean energy economy and that has some economic impacts on our region,” DelliQuadri said.

DelliQuadri added the situation is a “win-win” because it involves cleaner energy and will save the city money in the long run.

“It’s a way for government to move toward clean energy as we’ve been mandated to do and at the same time make government operations more efficient by lowering our utility costs,” she said.

While the move comes as a result of Colorado Gov. Jared Polis’ promise to transition to more renewable energy sources, Suiter said Steamboat is extra conscious of the matter due to its outdoor appeal.

“Everybody is transitioning to the new energy economy,” Suiter said. “Being a ski resort town, there has to be a sensitivity to climate change and reducing greenhouse gases.”

In a 2019 work session, the city discussed a goal of switching to renewable energy in city buildings, and Suiter said this grant is a first step.

“I think we all agree that sounds like a good idea, if feasible,” council member Lisel Petis said during Tuesday night’s council meeting.

In the same meeting, city leaders vowed to review the vehicles set for replacement in the city fleet — including police cars and public works trucks — to explore adding more electric or hybrid vehicles.

The project is still being negotiated with Massachusetts-based solar energy company Ameresco, but a report to the City Council from Suiter said the project would offer a benefit for 20 years without concern for annual maintenance.

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