Steps approved for renewable energy

John Scarffe, Nederland.  Nederland took positive steps toward its renewable energy goals during a regular meeting of the Nederland Board of Trustees at 7 p.m., November 21, 2017, at the Nederland Community Center. The Board also learned about Town marshal candidate public forums and cancelled its January 2 meeting.


Town Administrator Karen Gerrity said the search committee for Town marshal identified two final candidates for the position. The Town will host a public forum on December 4 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.


The public has been invited to come and to submit questions. The Board of Trustees and staff will also be interviewing the candidates, Gerrity said. With the resignation, effective September 15, 2017, of former Marshal Paul Carrill, Sgt. Larry Johns is serving as Interim Town Marshal, and he is one of the final candidates.


Gerrity also announced that the Jolly Old Elf will appear for the annual Holiday Lighting on December 1 at 5:30 p.m., in partnership with Nederland Downtown Development Authority.


By approving the Consent Agenda, the Board cancelled its January 2, 2018, regular meeting, which falls on the day following the New Year’s Holiday.


During Trustee reports, Trustee Alan Apt said he and members of the Nederland Sustainability Advisory Board (SAB) met with Xcel Energy representatives. They will soon conduct a public meeting regarding how the Town is going to become renewable in cooperation with Xcel, Apt said. The issue of solar came up because they have a solar program beginning in January, but it would cost more than the Town’s current energy bills.


The Town of Nederland will transition to 100 percent clean, renewable energy by 2025 after the Trustees passed a resolution making Nederland the fourth city in Colorado and the 42nd city in the United States to make this commitment on August 15, 2017.


Xcel has a program which includes credits. The Town would need a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Xcel stating that we are going to collaborate, and that would allow them to go ahead with an analysis, Apt said.


They will be getting a draft and plan to have an outreach to the public. “Should we have an open house?” Apt asked. We could look at different options and talk about the process or we could have a joint meeting of the Trustees, Xcel and SAB.


The next thing is the MOU, and do we want to take advantage of something in January?


The Town missed out on a rebate and Xcel was disappointed. We will talk to them about rebates for the Waste Water Treatment Plant, Apt said.


During public comment, SAB members Melody Baumhover, Camille Thorson and Jacob Aho with Climate Together leader Eryca Thorley addressed the Board.


Thorson said SAB members are interested in the proposal regarding the Town’s 100 percent renewable goal and the Waste Water Treatment Plant.


SAB is eager to continue working with the town to find ways to reach those goals. Baumhover said the Waste Water Treatment plant is the biggest electricity usage for the municipality.


It uses 50 to 70 percent of all the power Nederland pays, Baumhover said. The next phase of this project the Board is working on could include a solar array. “If we get this one checked off the list, we’re a lot closer.”


Aho said the treatment plant is a perfect site for solar. “Wind will blow snow off panels.”


The area is the gateway into the community and shows the town’s commitment, Aho said. The town can provide its own power locally, not only buying from Xcel. Right now, the investment tax credit is at 30 percent.


“If the town doesn’t buy the panels, we have a tax credit if someone else owns the panels,” Aho said. They should incorporate the possibilities of social power into the plans. It will pay itself off faster.


“We want to work with you and figure out what’s feasible,” Aho said. “We are working with the Planning Commission and Town staff to work out what is viable.”


Thorley said this is an amazing opportunity. They have spent the last three months looking at options and talked to anyone they could talk to.


The experts pointed to what is available in town. “We don’t have a lot of land available. The best, flattest areas you have already thought about,” Thorley said.


“We are asking you to commit to solar at the Waste Water Treatment Plant. It could be rolled into a loan. The design already looks great,” Thorley said. “Many people have pointed to this space.


“We are limited at what we can do unless we have an official meeting,” Thorley said. “It’s great to sit with Xcel, but we need to figure out as a team to negotiate what Nederland has as a goal and how we are going to accomplish that realistically. We’re excited to move forward.”


Mayor Kristopher Larsen suggested a work session in January between the Trustees and SAB. They could discuss ideas on what can or can’t be rolled into the treatment plant loan, what the town can bring and what Xcel can bring.


Thorley said that if the Board will say it supports us in this, then we can move forward and get figures. At this point we already know you save with solar. A lot of things have been presented to us and we’re looking for you to say we’re moving forward.


Larsen requested and received a nod of four Trustees to move forward and allow SAB to issue a Request for Information (RFI) and numbers. “You have our support, but I do think we should have a work session in January. If we can have the information from the RFI, that would be great.”


Thorley said that having the plant solar ready would be important. Trustee Kevin Mueller asked what level of return on investment the Board would accept, and Larsen said that our goal is 1.5 — getting the town totally renewable by 2020 is a sub goal.


Trustee Julie Gustafson pointed out that there is enough content to place it on the agenda as an action item. Larsen requested that staff assist in choosing a day for a work session. Larsen said to work with staff to figure out a good day for a work session.



(Originally published in the November 30, 2017 print edition of The Mountain-Ear.)