Garfield County ponies up for energy efficiency |

Garfield County ponies up for energy efficiency

Phillip Yates
Glenwood Springs correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado

GLENWOOD SPRINGS ” Organizers behind an effort to obtain a $2 million grant to implement energy efficiency and conservation programs in the area got a big boost on Tuesday.

The Garfield County commissioners tentatively approved contributing $200,000 toward efforts by Clean Energy Economy for the Region (CLEER) to receive a $2 million grant from the Colorado Department of Local Affairs and Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter’s Energy Office.

Commissioners must still formally approve any action directing that money toward the effort.

The $2 million grant is intended to help local regions of the state “maximize energy efficiency and conservation, enhance community livability, promote economic development in downtowns and address climate change.” However, communities vying for the state money must match at least 25 percent of the grant total, according to a memo prepared by CLEER.

Alice Laird and Heather McGregor, staff members of CLEER, appeared before the commissioners to ask how much the county might be willing to contribute to reach the 25 percent match.

McGregor and Laird plan to visit several other municipalities and groups in the area before Sept. 19 to determine how much those agencies may be willing to contribute to the project. Both told commissioners a stronger match total would strengthen their proposal with the state.

On Tuesday, Laird and McGregor met a receptive audience.

“At least $200,000 is on the table so you can take it to those other agencies,” Commissioner John Martin told the two.

Martin said commissioners wanted the message “to go out that we are in full support” of CLEER’s efforts to obtain the grant.

In July, commissioners voted to act as a “fiscal agent” for the group’s effort, along with providing a staff member to help with the grant application.

Being a fiscal agent means that if the grant is awarded to the area, Garfield County would be responsible for distributing the $2 million that might be awarded for various projects that could be contemplated.

Groups backing CLEER’s efforts sent a letter to the state outlining the area’s interest in the program. That letter paid off because the area is now one of 16 groups approved to file a final application for the grant.

The groups involved in working toward receiving the grant include: Parachute, Rifle, Silt, New Castle, Glenwood Springs, Carbondale, Garfield County, the Garfield County Library District, the Roaring Fork School District, the Garfield School District Re-2, Solar Energy International, Energy Partners Inc. and the Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association.

The grant could fund several energy-efficiency programs, including efforts at public facilities, and helping to fund renewable energy demonstration projects. Those demonstration projects would take up about $1.2 million of the grant should the area receive it, McGregor said.

The initiative would use third-party financing to install solar panels of up to 50 kilowatts on public facilities in every jurisdiction, according to another memo outlining the various projects that could be implemented with the grant.

“These highly visible installations will replicate the approach used to finance and install the solar (photovoltaic array) at the Carbondale Recreation Center,” the memo said.

Carbondale didn’t spend a dime for the solar panel system. Instead, Carbondale-based SoL Energy, which installed the array, sold it to a financial services firm, which is collecting the incentives that come with owning the PV system. Those incentives include federal tax credits and utility rebates paid by Excel Energy, according to previous news reports.

The city, which is paying for the electricity generated by the solar system, will have the option to buy the array in eight years at slightly less than half price.

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