Energy-gobbling home boosts funds for ‘green’ projects

Janet Urquhart
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO, Colorado

ASPEN – Energy-conservation projects throughout the Roaring Fork Valley are poised to get a sizable boost in funding thanks to one Aspen-area mansion that will consume far more than its allotted share of energy resources.

The 15,000-square-foot home, to be constructed on Sunnyside Lane off McLain Flats Road, will require a $468,947 payment to Pitkin County’s Renewable Energy Mitigation Program, or REMP, according to Brian Pawl, chief county building official.

The program collects money from development that exceeds an energy budget established in the city of Aspen and county building codes. The funds are allocated to other efforts that reduce energy use or promote the use of renewable resources, but a check for close to a half-million dollars is not typical, according to Pawl. Often, measures such as solar-voltaic panels or geothermal heat pumps are employed to offset a home’s energy use. The other option is to pay a fee.

“I haven’t seen a REMP check of that magnitude in a while,” Pawl said.

Plans for the Sunnyside Lane home (the lot is owned by LW Development Inc.) call for 5,994 square feet of snowmelt surfaces (heated outdoor surfaces such as driveways), plus a 1,678-square-foot outdoor, heated pool and 96-square-foot outdoor spa, Pawl said. The amenities drive the residence over its energy budget, he said.

A building permit for the home’s construction has yet to be issued, but on-site mitigation for energy consumption hasn’t been proposed at this point – hence calculation of the REMP fee, Pawl said.

The fee revenues are turned over to the Community Office for Resource Efficiency, better known as CORE, which offers a range of rebates year-round to homeowners for energy-efficiency upgrades and appliance purchases, among other efforts, and offers annual grants for similar improvements.

Mona Newton, who has been executive director of CORE for nearly a year, said she thought there might be some mistake when she heard about the anticipated payment.

“I was kind of shocked,” she said. “That’s probably how much we awarded in grants last year.”

In fact, the 2012 round of grants plus the year’s worth of rebates came to a little more than $400,000, she said.

The organization was already looking to increase the pool of money available for its popular rebates. EnergySmart rebates, available only within Pitkin County, go to home improvements such as efficient water heaters, new windows, insulation upgrades and similar measures.

The CORE rebates, available to applicants from Aspen to Glenwood Springs even though the funds are generated within Aspen and Pitkin County, go to such items as energy-efficient appliances, solar-thermal and photovoltaic installations, she said.

Finally, there are the annual CORE grants. May 1 is the deadline for applications. CORE’s board of directors reviews the requests, but ultimately, county commissioners and the Aspen City Council decide how grant dollars will be allocated. The impact of carbon savings resulting from projects is considered as applications are evaluated.

Past grant recipients include area schools, worker-housing projects, governments and nonprofit organizations. Funds have been awarded for everything from energy-efficiency upgrades and retrofits to greenhouses, electric-car charging stations and the purchase of wind power.

The anticipated windfall, thanks to one big payment, will require diligence on CORE’s part to ensure it’s spent wisely, Newton said.

“That gives us opportunity but also responsibility,” she said.

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