Yampa Valley communities to construct 14 solar arrays thanks to $2.1M DOLA grant

Yampa Valley Electric Association employee Steve Vestal positions a solar panel at a solar array that was built near YVEA's headquarters on Routt County Road 129 in 2016. Thanks to a $2.1 million grant from the Colorado Department of Local Affairs Energy Impact Fund, 14 governmental agencies from Craig to Yampa will be installing solar arrays beginning this spring. (File photo)

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS— The installation of 14 solar arrays at governmental agencies from Craig to Yampa will begin this spring thanks to a $2.1 million grant from the Colorado Department of Local Affairs Energy Impact Fund as part of a regional solar project.

“It’s long overdue, and it’s fantastic,” said Steamboat Springs’ City Councilmember Sonja Macys, who served on the council from 2011 to 2015 and was elected to her current four-year term in November 2017. “The other thing that’s wonderful about this is the regional nature of the grant because we can do so much more when we pool our resources, and we can just collectively work together.”

With a background in natural resources and sustainability, Macys has been outspoken about a need for more sustainable energy alternatives.

“I was trying to push through this kind of thing back in 2011,” Macys said. “We had the opportunity to do a big solar array and get a grant.”

At the time, she identified the city’s $750,000 electric bill and wondered if the city could do something like this project to offset the cost.

Winnie DelliQuadri, special projects intergovernmental services manager for the city of Steamboat Springs, said this project helps fund the installation of solar arrays across Routt and Moffat counties, including in Steamboat Springs, Hayden, Oak Creek, Yampa and Craig.

“We worked really hard to make sure that each of the communities was included and benefited from the project,” DelliQuadri said. “The government entities in each of these communities are truly trying to be as efficient as possible and trying to create value for their communities. So hats off to the folks in each of the communities for their willingness to partner on a project.”

Individual projects are receiving funding through the Energy Impact Funds, a program that was created to assist political subdivisions that are socially and/or economically impacted by the development, processing or energy conversion of minerals and mineral fuel. The projects range from $63,500 to nearly $900,000 and involve DC and AC electrical work, minor boring for ground mount foundations, trenching for AC conduit and minor site grading.

With the grant award, project partners can begin the performance contracting process. Construction is slated for spring, and projects are anticipated to be complete in a year. The grant funds will be used to buy down the payback period for each partner to a 10-year period.

DelliQuadri said each project partner looked at its facilities and identified where they thought solar arrays would work. Steamboat Springs will tackle the largest project, a $900,000 solar array at the city’s wastewater treatment plant.

“To be clear, the city’s biggest energy user is the wastewater treatment plant, and after this project, there will be less greenhouse gases involved in powering the wastewater treatment plant,” DelliQuadri said.

Water and wastewater treatment plants in Craig and Hayden, the sewer treatment plant in Yampa, the Moffat County High School campus, the transit operations center in Steamboat and the Yampa Valley Regional Airport are also part of the regional project.

“It’s going to power our terminal, which is obviously our biggest user of electrical power, and a portion of the array is going to power our airfield lighting,” said Yampa Valley Regional Airport Director Kevin Booth. “The idea is that we buy a lot less power from the local utility company and generate our own clean power, so environmentally, that’s the big plus. Hopefully, we save some money on it as well.”

All partners have signed a memorandum of understanding with the Colorado Energy Office and performance contracting intergovernmental agreements with McKinstry, the company that will oversee construction of the individual projects.

“This is an enormous grant for Northwest Colorado and shows the commitment from a number of organizations to be fiscally efficient and also in moving toward renewable energy in support of Colorado’s goal of being 100% renewable energy by 2040,” DelliQuadri said.

The city of Craig also received a $1.8 million grant from DOLA. The two grants bring nearly $4 million to Northwest Colorado.

DelliQuadri said this is a huge partnership that spans the Yampa River basin, but it is not the first.

Other regional efforts include the Bean Pole Project, an effort in the early 2000s to bring high speed internet to communities in Northwest Colorado, and the Yampa River Legacy Project, which included a variety of conservation projects intended to protect and enhance the ecological health of the Yampa River and surrounding areas.


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