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Performing arts center, Skico housing project lead Basalt’s green revolution

Both buildings will be all-electric, reducing their carbon footprint as Holy Creek Energy heads to 100% renewable

Siding is installed on the side of the performing arts center for The Arts Campus at Willits in Basalt on Thursday, March 18, 2021. (Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times)

There is a quiet revolution underway in Basalt that is transforming the town into a model of energy-efficient building.

Rocky Mountain Institute started the revolution back in 2014 when it began construction of an Innovation Center that produces more energy than it consumes, thanks to energy-efficient design and a photovoltaic system on the roof.

Habitat for Humanity Roaring Fork caught the attention of Colorado Gov. Jared Polis with its all-electric, net-zero housing project called Basalt Vista. The last phase of the 27-unit residential project is underway.



By June 2021, two more buildings in Basalt will showcase the future. Aspen Skiing Co. will complete its all-electric workforce housing project this spring at a site just off Willits Lane. Next door to the south, the all-electric power, net-zero Contemporary Center for the Performing Arts will be completed in June.

“Basalt is like Electric Town USA,” said Auden Schendler, a Basalt resident and Skico’s senior vice president for sustainability and community engagement.




The absence of gas lines to the workforce housing building and performing arts center and their 100 percent reliance on electricity are significant because it means they will reduce their carbon footprint each year as electricity provider Holy Creek Energy gets more green, Schendler said.

Holy Cross, which serves 44,000 customers in the Roaring Fork Valley and Interstate 70 corridor in the Colorado mountains, received 39 percent of its power from renewable sources as of 2017. It’s now up to 44 percent and set its sights on being 100 percent clean energy by 2030.

If the buildings had gas for heating, they would produce CO2 emissions for their lifecycle of 50 or more years, Schendler said. The former town councilman believes the new buildings can make Basalt a leader in energy efficient construction.

“It’s a signal we can to this with all new construction,” Schendler said. He believes the town’s next step should be requiring all-electric for new construction.

The Arts Campus at Willits, the nonprofit organization constructing the new performing arts center, touts the building as a 21st century center.

“We believe from our calculations it will be net zero,” said executive director Ryan Honey.

A 65-kilowatt solar electric system soaks up the sun’s rays on the roof of the new performing arts center constructed by The Arts Campus at Willits in Basalt on Thursday, March 18, 2021. (Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times)

That means the 10,000-square-foot building will produce more power than it will consume. That is possible, in large part, because of a 65-kilowatt solar electric system being installed on the roof. Sunsense Solar founder and owner Scott Ely said the solar panels for this project are “bifacial” models manufactured by LG. They generate power from both sides rather than one.

“The solar panels are mounted on an elevated, ballasted racking system to maximize this bifacial production as well as leave room for shedding snow,” Ely said. “It’s a very progressive design and application.”

The system has been designed to offset all energy consumption, but that is based on estimated. It will depend on actual usage once the center is completed, he said.

TACAW received a grant from the Community Office for Resource Efficiency to help pay for the solar electric system.

Groundbreaking on the center was undertaken in mid-June. The facility is scheduled to be completed by June 1. It features a 1,973-square-foot theater that can accommodate an estimated 275 people seated and 400 standing. It also has a 2,214-square-foot commons area that can also be incorporated into use for performances.

Kendall Smith, left, and Ryan Honey stand outside of the performing arts center as the construction continues by The Arts Campus at Willits in Basalt on Thursday, March 18, 2021. (Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times)

“One of the key things we’ve done is segment the portions of the building,” Honey said. “This big theater space is the biggest problem when it comes to being energy efficient. You put 400 people in the room and they start dancing, it gets really hot, really fast. So how do you cool it down quickly and efficiently?”

The key is to heat or cool it only when it is in use. “Accordion doors” separate the theater from the rest of the building so heating and cooling can be targeted to portions of the building where it is needed.

Meanwhile, Skico’s contractor is on the home stretch with the workforce housing project. The 53,000-square-foot building will have 43 housing units and 150 bedrooms. The building will be the first of its size in Colorado to rely entirely on electric power, according to Skico.

scondon@aspentimes.com


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