About three miles outside of Aspen, Colorado, Holy Cross Energy, the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority, and Pitkin County representatives are conducting a feasibility study for a local, renewable energy microgrid.
The project would connect the Aspen-Pitkin County Airport with neighboring public facilities including Holy Cross Energy’s Aspen office, pedestrian snowmelt systems, and the RFTA bus barn.
In addition to increased solar energy capacity and electricity storage, the study is looking into the feasibility of a thermal heat transfer system. The microgrid’s electricity sharing will be incorporated into the existing infrastructure of Holy Cross Energy, an electric cooperative, while new components will be developed for thermal energy distribution between buildings.
Currently, there is no estimated total size of the proposed microgrid. However, county officials have indicated that it will likely total multiple megawatts of energy.
Using technology seldom seen in the United States, the microgrid plans to harness excess heat generated from the facility’s idling vehicles, boilers, and mechanical operations in addition to onsite geothermal energy.
Aspen microgrid feasibility study
Officially, planning for the Aspen-adjacent microgrid began in 2019 with a $200,000 grant from the Colorado Department of Local Affairs. The project was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but the full feasibility study is now set to be completed by June 2021.
Currently, the project is in the first of three phases, in which energy conservation opportunities are being identified within existing sites. Next, the utility and county will pinpoint the specific technology necessary to create a fully-independent microgrid within the facilities. Primarily, this consists of increased solar generation capacity alongside large lithium-ion storage banks. rene
Upon completion of the study and engineering plans, officials plan to seek additional implementation grant funding from the Colorado Department of Local Affairs and FEMA.
Battling climate change and increasing energy security
Aspen’s airport-area microgrid is the latest innovative effort from the Rocky Mountain town which became 100% renewable in 2015. Currently, the facilities in consideration host a 105 kW solar array and a fleet of energy-efficient, electric buses.
One of the primary goals of the feasibility study is to showcase opportunities for increased efficiency and energy sharing within a microgrid.
However, the concept behind the project was originally pushed forward after the Lake Christine Fire threatened utility electricity access in 2018. Following this, a recent natural gas outage and the worst year for wildfires in Colorado’s history, combine to make Aspen’s microgrid plans vital for the city’s ongoing access to reliable sources of energy.
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