Shared from the 6/4/2019 The Denver Post eEdition
By Mario Sanelli
The Denver Post Glenwood Springs on Colorado’s Western Slope last week became the seventh U.S. city — and the second in the state — to be 100 percent powered by renewable energy.
Every home, business and street light in the resort city of almost 10,000 people will be fully powered by energy from wind and hydroelectric resources. Officials from the Municipal Energy Agency of Nebraska, which has supplied bulk power to Glenwood Springs since 2012, signed a contract with the city on Wednesday afternoon at Glen-wood Caverns Adventure Park.
“What initiated this was much like if you have a free agent in basketball or football, you want to lock up that free agent before they hit the open market,” Glenwood Springs Mayor Jonathan Godes said. “The MEAN contract was up in a couple years.”
Glenwood’s renewable energy will primarily be generated by wind power from MEAN’s stations on the Eastern Plains. Western Area Power Administration will supply a shade under 7 percent of the power from hydroelectric power, according to a story by Matthew Bennett in the Glen-wood Springs Post Independent.
Aspen was the first Colorado city to have its electricity be solely from renewables. Its mix is roughly 50 percent wind, 45 percent hydropower and 5 percent from solar and landfill gas, according to information provided by The Sierra Club.
The goal of Glenwood Springs to use 100 percent renewable energy without raising the rates. In fact, the cost of wholesale energy to the city, Godes said, will be lowered by half a million dollars a year.
“Three to four years ago it would not have been (possible) without the city paying a significant premium to achieve that,” the mayor said. “Wind turbines and solar panels have advanced greatly (since Aspen went 100 percent renewable in 2015). Because of the ability to negotiate a contract and with the technology, it fell into our lap. We started asking the question, ‘What would it take to get us to 100 percent?’ It was desired by everybody but was surprising with the speed with which it came.”
The site of last week’s contract signing, Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park, is one of the first theme parks in the country to use 100 percent renewable energy to power its 12 rides and a new gondola.
“Glenwood Caverns in general has always taken a stance on the environment,” said owner Steve Beckley, who opened the park with his wife, Jeanne, in May 1999 after the couple moved from Denver. “We’re on the forefront of sustainability and protecting the environment.”
The caverns aren’t just for tourists. There are organisms that live deep inside the caves that are an essential part of the environment that Beckley is trying to preserve.
The site has airtight doors and is a constant 52 degrees Fahrenheit with 90 percent humidity, said Beckley, who graduated from the Colorado School of Mines with a petroleum engineering degree.
Computers monitor those levels every 20 minutes to ensure an environment that houses pseudoscorpions, springtail insects and millipedes is well maintained.
“This was such a win for Glen-wood,” Godes said. “Our economy is driven by tourism. Why not invest in a community that’s on the cutting edge? It’s also a wakeup call for city and staff of what else we could do.”