Breckenridge celebrates new solar sites, looks to solar future |

Breckenridge celebrates new solar sites, looks to solar future

Caddie Nath
Summit Daily News
Summit Daily/Caddie Nath

BRECKENRIDGE – Breckenridge leaders flipped the switch on one of several town solar sites Tuesday afternoon, but the 440 arrays, faces turned to the brilliant September sunlight, were already generating more energy than the nearby Public Works facility needed.

The ceremonial switch-flipping celebrated the town’s extensive solar project, the largest so far in the county, coming online. Solar panels at three of seven town facilities, installed through a power purchase agreement, are now up and running, generating clean energy for the buildings they stand alongside.

“This is an important step for our community, to create a sustainable future,” Mayor John Warner said at the dedication ceremony. “It’s an extremely proud moment for me. Adopting renewable energy as part of our long-term, strategic SustainableBreck plan is right in line with the priorities of the Town of Breckenridge.”

The new arrays, totaling 460 kilowatts, are expected to generate 10 percent of the town’s electric energy annually, saving an estimated $900,000 and eliminating 18,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions over the next 20 years.

The power purchase agreement allows the town to buy the energy generated by the new arrays at a cost lower than would have been paid for traditionally sourced electricity from Xcel, but without paying overhead costs to install the panels. The panels are installed and owned by a private contractor, who sells the energy generated back to the town.

The arrays, initially intended for the Riverwalk Center and the Breckenridge Golf Club in addition to the current sites, incited some controversy earlier this year among locals concerned the arrays would be an eyesore in the carefully preserved center of town.

Breckenridge eliminated the two controversial array proposals, but pushed forward with the widely supported solar projects at seven other facilities.

Now the town is on to the next project to foster clean energy consumption in town: a community solar garden.

The Breckenridge Town Council agreed recently to buy in as an anchor subscriber to a planned county solar garden and is now dreaming of building a garden of its own.

“We’re so excited to see this project coming to fruition,” Councilwoman Jen McAtamney said of the PPA solar project at the dedication. “(And to be) right on the cusp of being able to start the next project. I understand that this morning they were out walking Stilson and the McCain properties and looking at places we could put a really big solar garden, which would be a huge benefit to the community.”

Solar gardens are designed to allow “widespread participation” in renewable energy projects. Unlike the power purchased arrays, which must be constructed alongside the facility they power, energy generated by a solar garden can be purchased by and sent to any individual in the community.

The community solar garden allows subscribers, who can be anyone in the Summit County Xcel service area, to buy at least 1 kilowatt of energy to power their homes. A single kilowatt is expected to cost between $3,000 and $5,000.

“With the solar gardens, there are some up-front costs, but we’re buying at such a low price per kilowatt,” McAtamney said. “And to be able to meet those energy goals and have that commodity to sell back to the community in the future, that’s a huge win.”

The county and Breckenridge solar gardens are still in the preliminary visioning stages, but the town has agreed to buy into the county’s 500-kilowatt (3-acre) solar garden, which, if approved by Xcel Energy, will be constructed at landfill near Keystone sometime next year.

Details of a potential Breckenridge solar garden have not yet been decided, but McAtamney said it will likely be smaller than the county’s garden.

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