Whether or not you buy the oft-touted claim that Colorado gets 300 days of sunshine per year, the fact is we get plenty of it in Aspen Snowmass. That makes for a lot of fun in the sun, but also underpins a growing clean-energy industry. With robust state tax incentives and favorable net-metering laws, solar power projects are not only viable, but desirable in our neck of the woods.
Aspen Skiing Company (ASC) has been at the forefront of harnessing solar energy since 2004, when it installed the first solar array in the ski industry at Aspen Highlands ski patrol headquarters. Framed by the famous Maroon Bells, the 2.3-kilowatt array off the patrol building deck has made for plenty of photo ops and conversation starters — but this installation, as groundbreaking as it might have been for the industry 15 years ago, still only powers about a third of the building’s overall energy consumption.
Still, it was a good project to warm up with, so to speak. ASC knew it had to go bigger to make a real impact. In 2007, they installed a solar array four times the size of the Highlands one, 10.6-kilowatts, on the Thunder River Lodge, an ASC employee-housing complex in Carbondale. It powers about one-third of the 23-unit building’s electricity use, and more importantly, keeps 27,000 pounds of carbon dioxide out of the air each year.