Pitkin County gives nod to energy grant requests | AspenTimes.com

Pitkin County gives nod to energy grant requests

Janet Urquhart
The Aspen Times
Aspen CO Colorado

ASPEN – Applying energy-mitigation money to a proposed greenhouse at Aspen’s Cozy Point Ranch passed muster with Pitkin County commissioners Tuesday, but allocating dollars for spin bikes that generate power did not.

The two proposals were among a dozen that went to commissioners during their annual review of grants from the Renewable Energy Mitigation Program, or REMP, which 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.

For example, a property owner who installs a heated driveway must either offset that energy use with other measures on the property or pay a REMP fee.

The local Community Office for Resource Efficiency’s board of directors, with the help of a citizen advisory group, winnowed a list of 19 applications for $1.2 million down to 12 recommended efforts totaling $308,838. Formal county approval will come later (the Aspen City Council also must approve the expenditures), but county commissioners gave each proposal a critical look Tuesday.

Some commissioners also suggested that the efficiency office develop some basic standards for energy savings by which projects can be judged in the future. Whatever the standard, a majority agreed allocating $8,000 toward fitness spin bikes at the Aspen Recreation Center that would put power back into the grid as they were ridden didn’t cut it.

“It meets the standard of trivial,” Commissioner Michael Owsley said.

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A proposed $12,000 grant to be put toward a 42-foot-diameter geodesic greenhouse at Cozy Point, a city-owned open space property, raised eyebrows, but commissioners didn’t say no. The nonprofit Aspen TREE (Together Regenerating the Earth through Education) is proposing the greenhouse, powered through renewable energy, to serve as a public demonstration, research and education facility. The structure will, however, require county land-use review.

“This doesn’t seem to me to be the best place to have this kind of experiment,” Owsley said, predicting objections from Brush Creek homeowners perched on the hillside above the ranch.

“This is now. This is not the future … I support more funding,” Commissioner Jack Hatfield countered.

Hatfield balked, however, at $30,000 to install plug-in stations for electric vehicles at five Roaring Fork Transportation Authority VelociRFTA stations. Consumers would swipe a credit card to buy power to recharge their vehicles. Last year, commissioners had concern about a similar expenditure for stations around the city of Aspen.

A surcharge on the electricity should allow the free market to meet the need for the charging stations, argued Commissioner Rob Ittner, who supported the expenditure nonetheless.

Also winning informal approval from commissioners were the following grants:

• $5,000 to Amatis Controls LLC to install meters and tune up 10 solar hot-water systems on public projects that previously received CORE rebates.

• $9,000 for lighting retrofits at GrassRoots TV stations in Aspen and Carbondale.

• $27,000 for a solar thermal heating system at the Roaring Fork Conservancy’s planned Roaring Fork River Center in Basalt (the conservancy received $30,000 toward a geothermal installation last year).

• As much as $119,229 for energy efficiency upgrades in Pitkin County buildings.

• $8,000 for a sidearm hot-water heater and two solar thermal panels at the Brush Creek Apartments, employee housing in Snowmass Village.

• $19,000 to the city of Aspen for an efficient pump in the irrigation system at Rio Grande Park, plus as much as $30,000 for on-site renewable-energy systems at the park.

• $31,500 to replace windows in part of the city’s Truscott Place housing complex on the condition that the complex gets an energy audit to identify other upgrades.

• $14,109 to upgrade the building control system at Aspen’s Yellow Brick School.

The grants are provided as reimbursements once a project is actually done.

janet@aspentimes.com