Aspen City Council wants to proceed with a deal that will see the city purchase 10 million kilowatt hours per year of electricity from a soon-to-be installed hydropower facility on Ridgway Reservoir in southwest Colorado.
Aspen electric utility officials presented details of the proposal to City Council at a work session Tuesday. Nearly a decade ago, city officials began discussions with Tri County Water Conservancy District (TCWCD) officials about plans to retrofit the existing Ridgway Reservoir dam with two turbines to generate hydropower. The new facilities are expected to come online in 2015.
The city has worked out a deal with TCWCD and the Municipal Energy Agency of Nebraska (MEAN), which supplies Aspen with wind and coal power to supplement locally generated hydropower. Under the deal, Aspen will essentially swap coal-fired power from MEAN with power from the Ridgway dam during the winter months. The city will pay the same rate for the Ridgway power that it pays the Nebraska provider, which is 5.9 cents per kilowatt hour. The initial contract is for a 20-year agreement with MEAN and the Ridgway facility operators.
The city will only buy the Ridgway power during the winter months, as that is when Aspen’s demand peaks, but also when the supply of local hydropower is at its lowest.
“It fits our energy requirements like a well-tailored glove,” city utilities director David Hornbacher said of the Ridgway facility.
The city is currently in the permitting process for a new hydropower facility drawing water from Castle and Maroon creeks that, combined with its Maroon Creek plant, will supply about 6.1 million kilowatt hours per year of electricity. If built, the cost per kilowatt hour for power from the plant would be around 10 cents, figuring in the debt service on the capital costs. However, that price drops dramatically once the bonds for the project are paid off, which the city projects would happen sometime between 2029 and 2035. The city currently pays under 3 cents per kilowatt hour for power from its Maroon Creek and Ruedi Reservoir hydro facilities, now that both have been paid off.
If the Castle Creek and Ridgway projects go forward, the city will be getting about 95 percent of its energy from renewable sources. The goal is to be 100-percent renewable by 2015.
Aspen Mayor Mick Ireland said the Ridgway deal is a “no brainer.”
City staff will bring the contracts back to council in an upcoming regular meeting for official approval.