Aspen, CO Water Department is Now Run on a Majority of Solar Energy

ARTICLE | Jul 8, 2011

The City of Aspen Water Department is now run on a majority of solar energy.  With a combination of City investment and state and local grants, the Water Department installed a two phase 92 kWh solar project that produces almost enough energy to power the entire department’s compound, which includes office buildings and water plant operations.

The solar array is one of the largest municipally owned in the Roaring Fork Valley.  The energy it produces covers 68% of the water department’s annual energy consumption.  This is equivalent to powering 11.4 average houses in Aspen for a year* and will offset 4,488.6 tons of carbon over the 50-year lifespan of the array.

“This project is just another example of the City’s commitment to renewable energy,” said Sam Irmen, the Water Department’s Efficiencies Coordinator.  “I’ve seen this array produce even more than we expected.  The thinner, clearer air at this altitude certainly makes this possible.”

In August 2008 the Water Department began planning for a multi-phased solar installation.  In phase one the City installed a 21 kWh system for approximately $140,000.  Plans then included installation of another 42kWh for the next two phases.  Grants the City won from the Governor’s Energy Office and CORE allowed the City to condense phases 2 and 3 and leverage the money to install more solar panels than planned.  With $262,200 in grant money along with $31,545 from the City, local solar company Sol Energy installed a 71kWh PV system – 30 more kWh than the department planned.

“It’s important that the City of Aspen take a leadership role in the environment and renewable energies and set an example for the populace,” said Ken Olson, owner of Sol Energy.  “The Water Department staff is so enthusiastic about this project and it’s great because they are generating power on-site, producing power right on top of the City water supply tank.  A space that otherwise would have been empty.”

The amount of energy the solar array produces can be seen in real time at the website

This not only offers transparency to the project’s energy production, but allows any citizen to see daily, weekly, monthly and yearly production.  At peak output, the water plant requires 125kWh of energy.  This 92kWh adds greatly to the City’s effort to reduce carbon based energy.  Based on Canary Initiative goals, the City aims to have its utility portfolio made up of 100% renewable sources by 2015.  It is currently at 75%.

For more information, contact Mitzi Rapkin, Community Relations Director, City of Aspen - Phone: 970-920-5082 or 970-319-2971- Email:

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