“People are itching to get these projects off the ground,” SMPA Renewable Energy Technician Brad Zaporski said. SMPA asked for proposals on the design and construction of renewable energy projects to be located within the co-op’s service territory. They plan to accept two groups of proposals for projects sized 50 kilowatts to 500 kilowatts and 500 kilowatts to 2 megawatts.
The move to investing more into alternative sources of energy was a reoccurring theme across the region in 2011 and is The Watch’s number seven story of the year. Along with asking for proposals, SMPA selected the Clean Energy Collective of Carbondale, Colo., to pursue negotiations for a community solar project within the co-op’s service territory, and the two organizations are now working to develop a one-megawatt, community-owned solar farm.
In February, the Delta-Montrose Electric Association offered a similar program with its Local Power Partnership program, where members can buy a share of a solar array and in return receive credit on their bills for their ownership portion. In Ouray County, the Planning Commission toured residential solar arrays to help guide them in drafting visual impact regulations as small-scale solar power becomes a more common choice among its residents.
And alternative power research didn’t just involve solar in Ouray County. In a collaborative effort with Colorado State University, the county approved a 20-meter anemometer tower to monitor wind speed on the shoulder of Horsefly Peak to see if wind is a viable source of power as well.
Perhaps the most dramatic alternative power story of the year was that of the proposed Solar Fuels Institute in Telluride, where a multidisciplinary group of research scientists from leading universities around the world hope to revolutionize the world’s energy production in the next decade.
To that end, they would utilize the new science facility run by the Telluride Science Research Center as a retreat from their home research laboratories, a place where they could come together to share out-of-the-box ideas and collaborate with engineers to bridge the gap from the theoretical to practical applications.
“There are many models for this sort of scientific research institute,” Nana Naisbitt, executive director of the Telluride Science Research Center, said, mentioning Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts and the Aspen Center for Physics as examples. “Telluride could become synonymous with great science.”
And while excitement seems to be growing in the region for alternative forms of energy, not everything in 2011 was positive. As SMPA updates its grid with the installation of automated digital meters, the co-op received some backlash regarding health and privacy concerns.