Re: Solar, Storage, Scotland
It’s too bad the three-county community solar and storage study only received such brief notice in the Nov. 11 paper. While it shows a lot of solar potential, it shows the many limitations locally. Some of those may be overcome someday, but mostly our topography is a problem.
However, our topography is useful for electricity storage in pumped hydro energy storage (PHES) facilities, like Xcel Energy’s successful Cabin Creek Station. Over a decade ago, anticipating faster wind power development, the University of Colorado’s electrical engineering department evaluated PHES sites. Two were sited on the Roan Plateau, with lower reservoirs and generators near Parachute and its plethora of power lines. Given all the environmental issues which hold these up, it’s interesting that on the Roan, gas wells were drilled at the location of the upper reservoir and pipeline paraphernalia planted at the lower reservoir location. These facilities would have provided sustainable tax revenue, and a big stake in the renewable energy economy, for Garfield County. But Colorado opted for “cheaper” power from gas and Pueblo coal.
Back to the present, since most Carbondale residents are Xcel customers, we should be encouraging the PUC to modify Xcel’s proposed “Integrated Resource Plan” to front-load more wind and solar generation. The PUC should also approve the “Colorado Power Pathway” transmission lines, with the southeastern extension. This is all under consideration right now, and great outcomes are not assured, though somewhat expanded wind and solar production is required now by Colorado law.
The climate meeting in Scotland made this paper also, but Scotland’s energy story was mostly ignored in the reporting from there. It’s quite applicable to Colorado. Scotland’s electricity supply is essentially “net zero” now. Scotland’s population is close to Colorado’s, as is their oil and gas production. Their land area is about that of the eastern plains of our state. They have 20% less electricity demand, and about 25% higher rates. Ten years ago, Scotland, like Colorado, generated most of its power from coal and gas, with a few wind turbines. But they just put their heads down and built enough wind turbines to now supply 60% of consumption. We were at about 20% in 2020. They have already closed all their coal power plants and mines. Their gas plants only supply 10%, which is less than their clean electricity exports. They are expanding wind power into the seas nearby, but we have unexploited solar. They are also considering new or expanded pumped hydro energy storage, along with detailed hydrogen production and heating electrification plans. Who knows if we will emulate them?
Now bouquets of ochre fluff
Hail, all hail, Cornell
It must be said Carbondale is a very green town. I don’t mean greenwashed with words, but actively pursuing climate remediation measures. We’ve taken the leadership in the Roaring Fork Valley.
However, more can always be done and it’s often constructive to see what other municipalities are doing. For example, the city of Ithaca, New York, home of Cornell University, recently committed to electrify and decarbonize all of its buildings.
I mean all of its structures, not just municipal premises. This is more than passing building codes that ban oil or natural gas in new construction. We’re talking about approximately 6,000 homes and commercial buildings being retrofitted to eliminate fossil fuels for heating and appliances.
Natural gas and propane stoves will be converted to electric induction appliances powered by solar panels. Forced air heat pumps are being contemplated.
Structures account for about 40% of greenhouse gas emissions in this country. Ithaca is saying their efforts will save 160,000 tons of carbon dioxide, the equivalent of a year’s worth of driving for 35,000 cars.
Ithaca has hired a Brooklyn-based firm named BlocPower to conduct the transition. They’ve already retrofitted more than 1,000 apartments in their home borough in less than two years. Ithaca’s goal is to meet all electricity needs with renewable energy by 2025 and achieve carbon neutrality by 2030.
All of this, of course, will be very expensive. Ithaca plans to defer the costs with private equity, state and federal incentives, and manufacturer rebates.
Our town trustees, Planning and Zoning Commission, Environmental Board and Clean Energy Economy for the Region should look into what Ithaca and other forward-looking communities are doing to stem the tide of climate change.
Fred Malo Jr.