Vail Daily letter: Solar a sound county investment
July 12, 2016
As former chair of the Eagle County Planning Commission, I applaud our county commissioners, Kathy Chandler-Henry, Jeanne McQueeney and Jill Ryan, for investing in renewable energy with the guidance and professional advice of their staff. Eagle County government has now purchased 1.6 mega-watts of both community and rooftop solar arrays, accounting for nearly half of the county's electricity needs, and offsetting all of the electricity used at seven facilities. Solar investments combined with other energy efficiency improvements are cutting over 2,000 metric tons of the county's carbon emissions annually, which is a 21 percent reduction. For this, the county citizens should be very proud.
Fossil fuels are a finite resource and a major cause of rising temperatures and climate change. It is only responsible that we, as a county, start transitioning to renewable energy sources, and market conditions have never been better. For example, to purchase its solar arrays, Eagle County used monetary reserves from several funds. Reserves are normally held in securities, which currently pay the county 0.5 to 2.1 percent annually. The payback on solar is 7 percent annually, about $325,000. Landfill reserves, which paid for one-third of the community solar, have to be set aside for landfill closure. The landfill has 100 years of life left, and phase one closure won't begin for 20 years. This is plenty of time to capture the 13-year rate of return.
Historically and during my tenure as chair, the Eagle County Planning Commission has had high expectations for the use of clean energy sources community-wide, even writing it into the county's master plan, a document that guides decision-making by the commission itself and the Board of Commissioners. The effects of global warming could be devastating to us locally, from increased wildfire risk, to droughts causing ongoing bark beetle epidemics, to ever-decreasing snowpack. Efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions while making sound investments with taxpayer dollars should be applauded.
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