We continue our dive into some of the 51 recommendations from the Environmental Sustainability Task Force (ESTF) report, returning to the final section of the report, Institutional Factors. In the last article, we continued our review of the Institutional Factors section and recommendations for developing climate action policy, strengthening the sustainability financing framework, and establishing a clean energy plan. The report and a link to comment can be found on the Town of Estes Park website. (https://estespark.colorado.gov/estf)
Solid waste management
Starting at the end of the report, the next section of the ESTF report is Solid Waste Management, Recommendations 21-43. There are high level efforts in our community to educate us with information on this particular topic. The recommendations of the ESTF report are concise and very easy to understand. A few of the many local resources include the League of Women Voters and the local weekly Eco-sense article. The school again held a sustainability workshop last weekend. We thank them for helping to make sustainable solid waste management something we can all understand and embrace here at Estes Park. Read the ESTF recommendations for waste management. Contact city administrators and ask them to act as soon as possible. (https://www.eptrail.com/2022/05/23/learn-ways-to-keep-estes-green-at-ephs; https://www.lwv-estespark.org/; Estes Recycles page https ://www.lwv-estespark.org/content.aspx?page_id=22&club_id=706933&module_id=385414)
The first section of the ESTF report, Sustainable Energy, contains recommendations 1 through 20. There are some striking statistics regarding the potential, versus reality, of solar generation here in the Estes Valley: % of residential structures in Estes Park can be retrofitted for solar power generation. As of November 10, 2021, only 1.47% of electric utilities in Estes Park Power and Communications’ service area had solar or wind net meter systems (158 net meters out of 10,742 registered electric meters).
Solar opportunities and recommendations
The report lists a number of programs that would benefit the community, many of which are already being used in other Colorado communities. Colorado Solar and Storage Association (COSSA) explains the benefits of the Solar Friendly Communities program. (https://cossa.co/solar-and-storage-friendly-communities/) Standardized plan review software, such as SolarAPP+ (https://solarapp.nrel.gov/) “can perform compliance and process building permit approvals for qualifying rooftop solar systems: Integrates with existing government software Automated plan review, permit approval and project tracking Standardizes up to 90% of standard system plans Verification inspection checklist and final approval after installation.” The ESTF report cites an example of a community in Colorado that has benefited from such programs. “Steamboat Springs has significantly increased residential solar generation by earning a Solsmart “silver” designation, while reducing its solar authorization fee to $0 and limiting the authorization process to five business days.” (https://solsmart.org/)
The 26% federal tax incentives have been extended through 2022 (reducing to 22% in 2023 and fully expiring at the end of 2023). The cost of solar installation has been roughly halved over the past ten years, “as solar panels have become more efficient and reliable”. The report recommends that Estes Park “follow the examples set by Fort Collins, Nederland, and Boulder County in making $1,000 solar installation grants available to those in eligible financial circumstances.” (https://www.fcgov.com/utilities/residential/renewables/solar-rebates)
The report examines some options to encourage commercial solar projects and battery storage opportunities, particularly for use as “micro-grids”, which would be useful in emergencies and to stabilize the main power grid.
The installation of photovoltaic (PV) panels on city properties, such as the event center, pavilion, visitor center, parking garage, museum and on the ground, such as the site of closed landfill on Elm Road, presents opportunities that could power hundreds of residents’ homes. “A significant advantage would be to have energy produced locally, instead of being completely dependent on a distant source. In this regard, the [Platte River Power Authority] PRPA recently released a Request for Proposals (RFP), part of which calls for the creation of up to 250 MW of new solar generation capacity. Nominations are currently being reviewed. (https://www.prpa.org/financial-information/contract-administration/)
Solar generation in schools
The report notes that although our Estes Park schools are not part of city governance, these schools present an excellent opportunity for solar generation in our community. The report mentions that “Two groups of local high school students and their instructors, supported by the Estes Park EducationFoundation, are currently considering a ‘feasibility study’ to put solar generation on Estes Parkschool buildings.” We were unable to find information about this study on the Estes Park Education Foundation website. (https://www.epeducationfoundation.org/current-project) Integrating studies for durable solutions into our education system will be key to helping young leaders bring hope to their peers and to future generations.
Examples of school districts improving staff and the services they provide using the energy savings generated by installing solar power are noted in the ESTF report. The availability of financial support in Colorado for grants is also mentioned.
The Estes Valley has the resources in place to consider storage options and emergency use of our lakes, Lake Estes and Lake Mary’s. The report details these ideas and makes recommendations for exploring them, such as using solar PV to provide electricity to pump water from Estes Lake to Mary’s Lake to store water (as a battery) to then produce hydroelectricity when the local network needs it. Other hydroelectric projects in the Estes Valley should be pursued by our Light and Power department.
Tell the City to act
The ESTF report, a massive effort written by a dedicated team of local volunteers, was delivered to the City of Estes Park Board of Directors in January 2022, nearly six months ago. It is a comprehensive tool that the city can use to pursue meaningful action. As members of the community, we must emphasize that the report represents only a first step towards the actions the city must take to ensure the sustainability of our city now and for future residents and visitors. If the city acts on these recommendations, we must insist on transparency and publicity in how these recommendations are implemented.