Breckenridge kills part of solar panel project |

Breckenridge kills part of solar panel project

BRECKENRIDGE – The Breckenridge Town Council Tuesday shut down a controversial proposal to install freestanding solar panel arrays at the Riverwalk Center and Breckenridge Golf Club. Council killed the project by not calling an earlier planning commission rejection of the project up for review.

“It doesn’t appear that we’re going to see installations at the golf course clubhouse or the Riverwalk Center as presented,” Mayor John Warner said at the council work session Tuesday afternoon.

Council members noted that the project could be considered in a different format in the future.

The town will move forward with less visible solar panel installations at nine other public buildings in town, including the recreation center, the police station and the Stephen C. West Ice Arena.

Council members, who said they received approximately 50 e-mails from the public, most in opposition to the solar panels, said the response to the project made them question the community’s awareness of the commitments involved in the Sustainable Breck initiative.

“We want to be green as long as we don’t have to see it,” Councilman Mike Dudick said. “How many other things are in the Sustainable Breck plan that aren’t what the community wants? Because this is clearly one of them.”

Though members of the public were largely in favor of solar projects in general, those who spoke out against the arrays said the Riverwalk and golf club solar panels would damage the historic feel of the town, might impact property values for nearby homes and would lock the town into technology that might change or improve in the coming years.

The project would have included the installation of 10 stand-alone solar panels – each 18 feet high and with a 16-x-16 foot surface – between the Riverwalk parking lot and Park Avenue and more than a dozen panels of similar size around the golf course clubhouse.

The proposed solar installations at the Riverwalk Center were expected to generate approximately 23 percent of the building’s total power annually, saving the town an estimated $6,700 in energy costs in the first year and reducing the building’s carbon output by about 83 metric tons annually.

The solar panels at the Breckenridge Golf Club would likely have generated 71 percent of the facility’s annual energy consumption, saving the town approximately $10,800 in the first year.

The panels have to be placed near the facility consuming the power they generate, according to town officials.

Town staff initially recommended the Riverwalk and golf club panel projects be given passing scores under the town’s development code, but the Breckenridge Planning Commission disagreed with the suggestion, saying the installations were impermissible under the code.

The approved solar panels will be installed without cost to the town through an agreement with a private vendor, who will purchase and install the arrays at the remaining nine locations around town taking advantage of a tax credit available only to the private sector. The town would then pay the private vendor for the discounted energy generated by the panels to power the public buildings.

After five years Breckenridge could purchase the panels at fair-market price, but the town is under no obligation to do so. If the town did not purchase the panels, the private company would remove the arrays after 20 years when the contract expires. The Town of Breckenridge will only be responsible for the insurance payments for the panels that are installed. The private owner of the panels will pay all installation and upkeep costs.

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