Roadmap: Breckenridge can achieve 100 percent renewable energy goal by 2035

Buttons and stickers pushing people to think about renewable energy sit scattered out on a table during Wednesday a forum sponsored by the Breckenridge for 100 Percent Renewable Energy Campaign Committee at the Summit County South Branch Library in Breckenridge.
Eli Pace / |

With the installation of more solar gardens, a continued commitment to energy-efficiency projects and fruitful negotiations with Xcel Energy, Breckenridge could draw every watt of the electricity it uses, public and private, from renewable resources as early as 2035, according to a new plan that’s to be presented Tuesday to town council.

The Roadmap to 100 Percent Renewables is the product of a task force created in March, when council directed town staff to form the panel and return with recommendations for moving Breckenridge toward a 100 percent renewable energy goal. The task force has met four times since its creation and produced the roadmap, now ready for council consideration and containing a series of nonbinding recommendations for achieving two goals. One focuses on having all town facilities running on 100 percent renewable energy by 2025 while the second aims to have the entire town, including homes and businesses, doing the same by 2035.

According to the roadmap, town facilities currently get about 21 percent of their power from renewable resources while Breckenridge as a whole stands at 3.5 percent.

That’s too low for the task force. Recommendations to bring that to 100 percent for town facilities include, among other things, the installation of a second solar garden at the McCain property, getting involved with solar projects in neighboring counties, power-purchasing agreements with Xcel Energy and continuing to pursue energy-efficiency projects.

However, there are some obstacles.

For example, the McCain property, which sits north of Coyne Valley Road and west of Colorado 9, is a 128-acre tract of land that’s owned by the town. A master site plan calls for another solar garden in addition to one that’s already there, but the cost might be prohibitive, as there remains about $120,000 worth of grading and fill work required for the second installation.

Another recommendation asks the town to look into buying land or to become the primary tenant in a solar garden in an adjacent county, possibly outside of Leadville or Fairplay. This suggestion comes on the heels of a similar proposal that ultimately fell apart over the land deal, said Beth Groundwater chairwoman of the Breckenridge for 100 Percent Renewable Energy Campaign Committee. Still, it was viewed as a good idea, she said, especially since it could be achieved with little to no upfront costs for the town.

According to the roadmap, there are a few variations on how a solar garden in an adjacent county that serves Breckenridge could take shape, such as Breckenridge becoming the anchor tenant and a solar provider assuming all the upfront costs; Breckenridge agreeing to buy solar panels from a solar provider in an adjacent county; or the town actively seeking to purchase the land and develop the solar garden itself.

As for the town as a whole, Groundwater said the 100 percent renewable energy goal won’t be achieved without negotiations between town officials and Xcel Energy. According to the roadmap, Breckenridge Mayor Eric Mamula and other town officials have already initiated these discussions, and the power company has been receptive to these talks.

With its work ongoing, Groundwater said the task force intentionally avoided “getting into the weeds” on some of the specific suggestions regarding business and residential buildings, as they felt it was more important “to show (council) the important points of how (Breckenridge) could meet these deadlines or goals.”

Other task force recommendations listed in the proposed roadmap include:

• Putting more money toward energy-efficiency projects in Breckenridge while considering a new audit of town facilities.

• Purchasing solar power from Xcel through a SolarConnect program that is expected to be released in the coming years.

• Hydro power at Tarn Dam

• Small-scale hydro and wind-energy projects

• Putting solar panels on town projects, including workforce housing

• Community outreach programs, including renewables education for businesses and residents, and potential financial incentives for renewable installation.

The town council meets the second and fourth Tuesday of each month. Before each meeting, there is a work session that begins at 3 p.m.

With the roadmap on the work session agenda, Groundwater said she expects the council to take it up around 5 p.m. However, because things can sometimes go early, she’s encouraging anyone who’s interested in finding out more about Breckenridge’s 100 Percent Renewable Energy Campaign to come at 4:30 p.m.

Also, there will be a slot for public comments at the council’s regular meeting, which begins at 7 p.m. Both meetings will be at Town Hall, 150 Ski Hill Road.

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