The city of Glenwood Springs, Colo., was recently distinguished as the seventh city in the United States and the second in the state behind Aspen to be powered entirely by renewable energy. The perfect set of circumstances came together to make this possible. The city council started working with the Municipal Energy Agency of Nebraska several years ago. According to Doug Hazzard, electric superintendent of Glenwood Springs, “Recognizing that their contract would end in 2022, the city council of Glenwood Springs began looking at different options.”
MEAN was aware of this and the fact that Glenwood Springs was interested in increasing its profile of renewable energy. Glenwood Springs and MEAN thus agreed to a new contract, the terms of which took the city from a 35% renewable portfolio to one that is 100% based on wind power. Aspen differs in that it relies on hydroelectricity, wind power and landfill gas. Since the wind farms Glenwood Springs utilizes out of Nebraska are owned by MEAN, outside funding was unnecessary. Despite popular misconception regarding such a transition for the city, the existing rate structure will be maintained and the cost per windmill will actually decrease next year. As Hazzard stated, “The rates under our new contract with MEAN made it possible to obtain a 100% renewable portfolio without passing on a rate increase to our customers.”
The savings generated from the city’s complete shift to renewable sources will go a long way in helping to pay for Glenwood Springs’ future installment of a fourth substation. An additional substation has been on the city’s radar for several years — and for good reason, too. Situated along the I-70 corridor, Glenwood Springs is a prime location for Tesla and new Electrifying America car charging stations, which can ideally be spaced about an hour’s driving distance apart and in close proximity to shopping centers.
“While the ‘super’ charging stations would conveniently allow for a car charge in a matter of 30 minutes, there is a downside,” explained Hazzard.
Essentially, these stations consume a lot of electricity, creating load issues on the circuits. The employment of these stations, coupled with increased loads from growth in the same area, can have a significant impact on certain circuits of the distribution system. This is where a new substation in Glenwood Springs would be beneficial, enabling the city to transfer existing loads to the new substation to minimize stress on the distribution system.
“Maintaining the system in this way would establish reliability under contingency situations,” emphasized Hazzard.
Given the city’s success in switching solely to renewable energy, other projects are currently under evaluation. The city council has looked into solar farms. Unfortunately, limitations of the mountainous terrain and river valley pose challenges. Another avenue of consideration is electric vehicles. Technology advancements have come a long way, especially in terms of electric trucks. Hazzard indicated that the city’s fleet department is researching whether particular fleet vehicles can be replaced with electric versions. One plan that will come to fruition over the next few years will be the replacement of high pressure sodium street lights with LED lighting.
Glenwood Springs is fortunate to have a population of conscientious customers who not only welcome the city’s direction, but are also following suit in their own homes. The city has partnered with Clean Energy Economy for the Region. Because Glenwood Springs is low on manpower, CLEER administers the city’s rebates in accordance with the Glenwood Springs Electric Sustainability Program. This platform allows residents to receive rebates for switching to LED lighting within their homes as well as using solar-powered washer and dryer units, among other incentives. CLEER is able to be of assistance commercially as well. Specifically, it offers to assess how a given business can successfully reduce its power consumption.
As Hazzard highlighted, the rebate program is certainly a plus for residents. Yet, this is not their primary motivation. In fact, customers continue to sign up with CLEER even after their rebates expire. In actuality, the residents are proactive customers interested in doing away with a dependence on coal and promoting other green initiatives. Another common effort embraced by residents is the purchase of electric personal vehicles.
In light of all that the Glenwood Springs has accomplished in such a short period, it is the hope that other cities across the country will contemplate doing the same. In reality, everyone has a part to play, and it all starts with researching the topic and learning what changes can take place on individual and community levels.