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Aspen approves wind deal

Aspen City Council approved a deal Monday where the city’s municipal electric utility will purchase more wind energy from a Nebraska supplier, which would allow the city to sell some of its locally generated renewable power to Holy Cross Energy.

Holy Cross would then sell the renewable power to the Aspen Skiing Co. and other local businesses that would be willing to pay a premium for the clean energy.

The city’s electric utility, which serves the historic town site of Aspen encompassing the area between Castle Creek, Aspen Mountain and the Roaring Fork River, already purchases wind and coal-fired power from the Municipal Energy Agency of Nebraska. The deal would see MEAN build four new wind turbines at its Nebraska wind farm, generating an additional 7 megawatts of energy that would be earmarked for Aspen and would be online by 2012.

With the completion of a new hydroelectric plant and the inking of the new wind power deal, Aspen’s electric utility will run on 80 percent renewable energy.

The deal is contingent on contract negotiations between the three parties, which should be finalized by the fall. The city is projecting a cost for the new wind energy at $0.055 per kilowatt hour.

With the additional wind power secured, the city will sell hydropower at a locked-in rate to Holy Cross, which buys nearly all of its power from Xcel Energy, but is allowed to purchase additional power from local suppliers.

Although the exact amount is subject to the contract negotiations, Holy Cross will sell most of the power to SkiCo, which is trying to eliminate its carbon footprint by 2020.

City Manager Steve Barwick called the deal an example of great cooperation by three major entities. SkiCo Environmental Affairs Director Auden Schendler said the deal is attractive to SkiCo because it allows the company to lock in a rate for a portion of its power supply, which is a hedge against rising energy prices.

Although City Council was short members Dwayne Romero and Mayor Mick Ireland, the three-man council approved the deal unanimously. Councilman Steve Skadron, however, said greater emphasis should be put on decreasing the demand for energy. Schendler noted that Holy Cross is providing greater incentives for electricity customers to upgrade to efficient appliances.

Councilman Jack Johnson pondered to what degree Aspen would accept the presence of wind turbines locally. Schendler said SkiCo is actually investigating putting a turbine on top of the Cirque at Snowmass Ski Area. If studies currently under way show great enough wind at the top of Snowmass, SkiCo would then begin a public process to determine acceptability, Schendler said.

by Curtis Wackerle, Aspen Daily News Staff Writer


17 June 2008