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Aspen small hydro draws more barbs



ASPEN, Colo. - Aspen's effort to decarbonize its electrical supply through development of a small hydroelectric project continues to draw strong criticism from traditional environmental allies.

The effort to divert water from Castle and Maroon Creeks to generate power had previously been criticized by homeowners along Castle Creek who objected to substantial dewatering. Flyfishermen also objected.

Now come objections from Skip Harvey, a native son of Aspen who is now chief executive of a group called ClimateWorks Foundation. It's a network of philanthropies and expert groups working on energy policy in the world's largest countries.

Writing in The Aspen Times , Harvey faults the small hydro plan as misguided. The city assumed too little cost, more rapidly increasing costs of electricity from coal-fired sources and too little cost of operation. After 27 years of operation, he says, Aspen would still have a debt of $6 million - more than the project was originally projected to cost.

"And that's the rub," he writes in an op-ed piece. "I strongly agree with the goals of the Canary Initiative. We need to transition away from fossil fuels. I have spent my professional life promoting green energy. But I have also learned that you only get to spend a dollar once, so you better make your best buys first. There are ample opportunities to spend money in Aspen on energy efficiency, and they will reduce fossil fuels at a far lower cost than this project."


Novel effort to decarbonize gondola

TELLURIDE, Colo. - Can even one-fifth of the electricity needed to move the two million passengers each year on the gondola at Telluride be provided by locally generated renewable energy?

That was the goal set in 2008 by something called the Green Gondola Campaign. To do so, organizers will need to generate 250 kilowatts. With $20,000 from contributors, organizers now intend to get started on that grand ambition by installing a two to 10 kilowatt array of photovoltaic cells on the roof of a gondola station.

Those contributing to the effort can sponsor gondola cabins, getting name recognition on those cabins in return.

Most of the electricity now used for the gondola comes from burning coal.


Building a trickle in Vail, Aspen

VAIL, Colo. - Even after the Great Recession descended on the United States like a dark theater curtain, multiple cranes continued to dominate the skyline over Vail and carpenters, electricians and all the rest remained fully employed.

But those big hotels are now finished, and there's not much going on in Vail or more broadly in the Eagle Valley. The Vail Daily reports about 1,400 building inspections for the first half of the year, compared to nearly 5,700 in 2008.

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