by Ben Williams
With most of our electricity coming from coal, that’s a lot of emissions: Approximately enough CO2 to fill 2,000 Washington Monuments each year, or the same amount of gas released by driving an average-sized sedan around the world 356 times!
Although the Town of Mountain Village purchases wind credits to offset some of this gas, The New Community Coalition is working on an additional strategy – one which will produce power right here, in Mountain Village.
Enter the Green Gondola Campaign (GGC), an initiative to install 250 KW of solar panels in Mountain Village to power 20% of the gondola with Colorado sunshine.
The GGC is a fundraising initiative. For every dollar raised a known amount of solar panels can be installed, and a known amount of emissions reduced. Unlike our wind credits, which are generated by a wind farm located out-of-state, solar panels installed in Mountain Village will generate power locally – power that will be used right here.
The GGC will install new solar panels effecting a tangible, new emissions reduction that otherwise would not have occurred. In renewable energy lingo, this concept is termed “additionality”, one of the main criteria defining a “good offset” verses a “bad offset”.
By turning donations into solar panels, and raising a specific amount of money towards a known goal the Green Gondola Campaign meets additionality criteria.
CO2 has a true cost, a cost equated to the actual cost of producing power by solar photovoltaic technology instead of coal-based combustion. When you give $314 to the GGC, for example, you can be sure your donation will offset 1 metric ton of CO2 over the 20 year lifespan guaranteed by the panel manufacturer. That’s important. It represents the true cost of offsetting a known quantity of CO2 with a specific renewable energy project. It’s not some arbitrary denomination. Every donation offsets a known quantity of CO2, and engenders the renewable energy required to do so.
When viewed from this perspective, the economics of renewable energy begin to work. It’s nearly impossible to measure the “true cost of coal” that includes externalities such as acid rain and climate change. But we can calculate a cost of carbon based on the true cost of offsetting it with a specific project. With each donation made to meet a desired offset level, new renewable energy projects are funded cooperatively and community-wide emissions reductions can be recorded. If we’re to meet the 2020 Climate Action Plan or the Telluride Renewed Challenge, we need to act quickly. We need to act now. The GGC is the first step to demonstrate that a community carbon exchange may be a tool to engender rapid renewable energy development.
If everyone who rode the gondola gave just $1 to the Green Gondola Campaign we’d have enough money raised in less than a year to reach our goal!