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Mountain News: Tourism must adapt



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Separately, Pitkin County commissioners are expected to hear a proposal for revised regulations governing uses of riparian areas along creeks and rivers. The change would be needed to accommodate plans for several small hydroelectric projects, often called micro-hydro, in Pitkin County. One plan is being proposed for Brush Creek adjacent to a home.

A larger project is anticipated for the Crystal River at the old mining town of Redstone. A hydroelectric plant was operating there as early as 1901, but the existing building is in ruins. Pitkin County Open Space and Trails officials plan to buy the site for $250,000. The Redstone Historical Society hopes to restore the building and, at some point in the future, build a micro-hydro plant.

“We certainly support any effort that will produce electricity outside the grid,” said Commissioner Jack Hatfield. However, he questions where the money will come from.


Major solar array in works

CARBONDALE, Colo. – A major array of solar collectors is in the works near Carbondale. The Aspen Skiing Co. is putting up more than $1 million, while the private Rocky Mountain School is providing the land.

If approved by Garfield County officials, it would be the largest solar collector on Colorado’s Western Slope. A larger complex is being constructed at Alamosa, which is on the Eastern Slope, if still in the mountains.

Carbondale is already a hotspot, so to speak, of solar energy activity. It has one company, Solar Energy International, with an office, and solar panels erected at both the town hall and fire protection district headquarters to generate electricity.

The Aspen Times explains that the solar array will cover a large amount of land, 120 feet by 240 feet, and in theory will provide enough electricity for 20 households per year.

In fact, the school — in addition to providing the land — will pay for 30 to 40 per cent of the electricity at a fixed rate higher than the current market rate for electricity produced at coal-fired power plants.

Making it possible, explained energy expert Randy Udall, are the grants from Xcel, Colorado’s largest investor owned utility, which is mandated to provide 20 per cent of its electricity from renewable sources by the year 2020. The Federal Energy Policy Act of 2005 also provides tax credits. Because of such grants, solar farms can earn investors 6 to 10 per cent annually.

In the case of the Aspen Skiing Co. investment, a return of only 6.5 per cent is expected “if everything goes well,” said Matt Jones, the company’s vice president and chief financial officer. But while the solar will not directly benefit the ski company, it appealed to the staff and, more importantly, to the Crown family, which owns Aspen Skiing.

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