Although the Western Slope city of Rifle is in the heart of an oil-and-gas drilling boom and will be the hub for future oil shale development, it is going to rely on a more reliable independent energy source to run its wastewater reclamation facility: solar. In fact, Rifle will have one of the largest combined solar energy systems in the U.S.
Maryland solar company SunEdison and the City of Rifle will join forces to build a 2.3 megawatt system that will power both the city’s wastewater treatment system and water pump station. SunEdison will finance, construct and maintain the system and sell electricity back to the city under a 20-year agreement. According to the Glenwood Post Independent, this system will be one of the biggest solar energy systems on line when it is built this year. Over in the next 20 years, it should offset an estimated 152 million pounds of carbon dioxide if the city had used fossil fuels to run the facilities.
Since Rifle, with a current population of nearly 10,000, is susceptible to the booms and busts of fossil-fuel energy development, city officials said they are planning to develop an "Energy Village" business park to promote alternate energy sources to help the environment and stabilize the local economy. "This solar project demonstrates the Rifle will invest in alternative energy strategies that will allow the city to become a technology and energy showcase," city officials noted in a press release.