Board approves research phase of solar project

CENTER — Center Town Board and Town Clerk/Treasurer Joan Mobley viewed a PowerPoint presentation outlining the steps in a possible solar project for the town that potentially could save thousands of dollars in electric bills.
Renewable Energy Systems (RES) gave the presentation. The company already has worked with local farmer Dick Ramstetter and San Luis Rural Electric Cooperative (SLVREC), the potential owners of a 2.8 megawatt solar array in rural Saguache County just outside Center. The 25-acre project site is located at the corners of County Road B to the south, C to the north, 43 to the west and 44 to the east.
The low-profile panels “will hardly be noticeable to anyone,” Ramstetter observed in an article last year. SLVREC will have a company install the panels this summer and then Ramstetter will lease it to them for eight years. At the end of that time the utility will own the solar array.
RES is currently involved in projects in Baca County, Limon and Pueblo, besides Penitente. Center would be its own owner/operator, but could choose to partner with Saguache County or a private individual.
Based in the UK but headquartered locally in Broomfield, the company is a leader in the development, construction, financing, and operation of solar, energy storage, wind, and transmission projects worldwide. RES has partnered with several large corporations in the U.S., Australia, Turkey and Europe, such as Google and Pacific Corporation to help communities afford their solar projects.
The solar array would cost the town about $1.5 to $3 million to set up, but would quickly realize returns in energy saved from power generation. Construction would run about six months. The first year savings were approximated at $15,000, but quickly grow to six figures over a 25-year time period.
Questions were asked regarding whether the company would credit the town for cloudy days when it had to rely on the grid for power (Xcel Energy) and could not realize any power savings. Natacha Kiler, business development manager with the firm, explained that the estimated savings amount reflected averages that make allowances for cloudy days and other events that would affect savings.
Trustees also inquired whether there would be any jobs generated by the project, but Kiler said only one or two employment positions would be created because solar farms are relatively self-maintaining.
The board approved a measure that would allow RES to research the feasibility of a project in Center and present their findings to the board in detail before proceeding any further.

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