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Clean Energy Economy for the Region

Dec. 5, 2015, Vol. 7, No. 11

Installation of solar array at Silt Water Treatment Plant

Workers with Sunsense Solar are busy installing a solar array at the Silt Water Treatment Plant.
Photo by Katharine Rushton, Sunsense Solar

Construction starts on 1 megawatt of solar

Silt water plant, first of three major installs, to be powered by sun

Heather McGregor
Clean Energy Economy News

Crews are setting foundations, erecting racks and installing solar panels in a wave of activity at the Silt Water Treatment Plant. The 234-kilowatt solar array is slated to be in service and powering the plant by Dec. 31, according to Katharine Rushton, commercial sales associate for Sunsense Solar.

Work on the project started Nov. 3. The project grew out of a solar workshop hosted last April by Garfield Clean Energy for its members, such as the Town of Silt, and other local governments.

The Silt array is the first of three major solar energy systems being installed in Garfield County in 2014 and 2015 by Sunsense, a Carbondale solar developer and contractor. Together the systems will add up to 1 megawatt of renewable energy capacity. Next up after the Silt project are arrays in Battlement Mesa and Carbondale.

The Silt Water Plant solar array will offset 100 percent of the plant’s electrical use on an annual basis. It’s being financed with a power purchase agreement and renewable energy credits from Xcel Energy, costing the town just $3,500 in upfront fees. The solar system will save the town an estimated $102,000 over the next 20 years, or about 15 percent of the plant’s total annual electric costs, and lock in electric rates for 20 years.(Click here for an FAQ on power purchase agreements.)

The Silt array includes 756 solar panels, each capable of generating 310 watts of electricity. A bank of eight inverters will convert the direct current electricity to alternating current, so the power can be used by the plant’s equipment or fed back onto the Xcel Energy power grid.

Facing a tight, two-month timeline, the crews are closely following each other for all three phases of building the ground-mounted array, Rushton said. The foundation contractor is digging and setting footers. The Sunsense crew is erecting the framework that will hold the array, and following with the solar panels and electrical wiring.

Sunsense is also partnering with Garfield Clean Energy to install an energy data logger at the plant as part of the project. It will measure electricity use and solar production in 15-minute intervals for display on the Garfield Building Energy Navigator website.

“The water plant operators have not had access to this detailed level of energy data until now,” said Mike Ogburn, energy engineer with CLEER, which manages the services of Garfield Clean Energy. “We were able to take advantage of the on-site expertise and some used equipment to get live energy data for the plant at a very low cost.

“Water plant operators in neighboring communities have been able to use this granular data to effectively tweak plant operations and achieve big cost savings,” Ogburn said. “Now the Silt team will have access to the same tool for this plant.”

Battlement Mesa, Carbondale projects up next for 2015

Next up for Sunsense is construction of a 435-kilowatt array at the Battlement Mesa Metro District Water Treatment Plant. Work on that project will start early in 2015, depending on the weather.

“We’ll get going with that one as soon as we can,” Rushton said. The Battlement system, almost twice as large as the Silt array, will take an estimated three months to complete. It’s expected to save the Metro District an estimated $202,000 over the next 20 years, and will generate enough power to offset the plant’s annual electric use by 100 percent.

“We have all our contracts and documents signed,” said Steve Rippy, manager of the Metro District.

Rippy said two sites near the water plant were being considered for the array.

“We’re now looking at the second site. It’s farther from the plant, and Sunsense will have to run more line. But it’s a bigger, flatter site, and it won’t impact any future expansion of the water plant, should that be needed,” he said.

The last of the three big projects will be a 379-kilowatt array at Roaring Fork High School in Carbondale, which is currently slated for completion at the end of June.

Like the Silt project, the Battlement and Carbondale projects are financed by power purchase agreements and Xcel Energy renewable energy credits, and are both sized to make the facilities net-zero for electricity.

With three major projects running consecutively from November through June, Sunsense hired seven more workers to join the company’s staff of 14 in order to get the projects completed on time.

“These combined contracts are worth $2.3 million, and Sunsense will be directly investing $1 million into the Garfield County economy through wages, subcontractors, equipment rental and purchasing supplies,” Rushton said.  

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Carbondale policy taps severance, mineral funds
to meet energy targets

New policy could be a model for other communities

A new policy in Carbondale directs at least 20 percent of the revenues the town receives from oil and gas development to help reach targets for energy efficiency, petroleum independence and renewable energy.

The Carbondale Board of Trustees passed a resolution establishing the policy in a 7-0 vote on Nov. 25. The policy taps two sources of funding the town receives each year: state severance tax revenues and federal mineral lease revenues.

The revenues fluctuate every year, depending on energy production. In 2014, a notably high year, the town received $189,903 in severance tax and $398,583 in federal mineral lease revenues, or a total of $588,486.  

“By dedicating a portion of these funds toward energy efficiency, petroleum independence and renewable energy, we are working toward a long-term community goal of having a lower carbon footprint, in a way that generates jobs and economic growth today. Carbondale is investing the proceeds of today's oil and gas extraction into a greener and more energy efficient future,” said Allyn Harvey, Carbondale Mayor Pro Tem.   

The policy grew out of a series of meetings of the Carbondale Clean Energy 2020 Technical Advisory Committee and a recommendation by the Carbondale Environmental Board. Both boards recommended state severance and federal mineral lease funds as a potential source of funding to reach adopted climate and energy targets.

As written, the policy acknowledges the important role that the energy sources generating these revenues currently play in our economy and society, and points to the need to use these natural resources carefully to prepare for the future.

CLEER and CORE worked together to help formulate the policy, and will be sharing the approach with other communities. It’s a model that could also work at the county and state level, said Carbondale Trustee Frosty Merriott, a member of the Clean Energy 2020 Technical Advisory Board.

“If the Garfield County and the state of Colorado each dedicated a small percentage of the revenue generated from these sources towards energy efficiency, we could make great strides in helping businesses and households significantly cut energy costs and carbon emissions,” Merriott said.

About severance and mineral lease revenues

Colorado severance tax is an excise tax based on the value of production for oil and gas, coal, molybdenum and metallic minerals. The state of Colorado collects this tax and distributes it to city, town and county governments.

Federal mineral lease funding is generated from rents and royalties paid by energy companies for the extraction of natural resources from federal lands. In the case of Garfield County, FML funds are distributed to city and town governments, school districts and the Garfield Federal Mineral Lease District.

For 2014, Garfield County government received $2.5 million in state severance tax revenues, and the Garfield Federal Mineral Lease District received $5.4 million. Adding all severance and mineral lease revenues together for cities, towns, the county and the FML District, a total of $13.3 million will be paid in 2014.

Click here to download the Town of Carbondale policy, adopted Nov. 25, 2014.

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Screenshot of Edwards Elementary School Thanksgiving holiday power-down

This screen view of energy use at Edwards Elementary School on CLEER’s Building Energy Navigator shows electric use at the school for the month of November 2014, in the dark green bars, compared to November 2013, in the light green bars. The school’s Thanksgiving holiday power-down shows significant savings during the fourth week of the month.

Edwards Elementary saves money for Thanksgiving

Holiday “power-down” project in Eagle Co. schools saves $250

A Thanksgiving “power-down” project to save electricity at Edwards Elementary School over the holiday break has resulted in an estimated $250 in savings.

Edwards Elementary Eco-Action Team

Edwards Elementary math teacher Katie Leibig discusses the difference in energy consumption in various countries across the globe with students in the school’s Eco-Action Team. Students were assigned a country and received a percentage of a donut to represent the percentage of natural resources that country uses.
Photo by Cindy Tibble


The power-down started on Friday, Nov. 21, when fourth and fifth grade students in the Edwards Eco-Action Team searched the school to shut down unnecessary electric-powered equipment and devices for the nine-day break. With the help of CLEER’s Building Energy Navigator website, they are now sizing up the results.

“On the weekend days, the savings was about 8 to 9 percent, and on the weekdays, the savings was about 40 percent,” said Mike Ogburn, energy engineer with CLEER.

“As the week went on, those savings added up,” said Ogburn. His early estimate, based on the school’s Navigator readings, is that the school will achieve about $250 in savings for the holiday week power-down.

The Edwards Eco-Action Team students are already coming up with ideas for doing an even better power-down for the Christmas break, he said.

When students get involved in saving energy at their schools, they learn how energy is used in buildings, and how conserving energy resources helps the environment, he said. And when school districts save money on energy bills, they have more tax dollars available for their primary mission of education.

NWF Eco-Schools logoThe money-saving power-down is the result of two projects in the Eagle County School District working together:

  • CLEER’s facility energy coaching and its installation of the Building Energy Navigator energy tracking systems at 10 schools in the district, funded by Eagle County.
  • The Eco Schools educational program, a National Wildlife Federation program being delivered in four schools by Walking Mountains Science Center and funded by a grant from Vail Resorts. The program includes a required unit on energy.

A $58,000 grant from Eagle County’s Eco-Build Program funded the installation of Navigator hardware and software. The grant also paid for energy coaching by CLEER staff for the school district’s facilities staff, faculty and students.

The installations were done over the summer, and eight schools are now equipped with data loggers on their gas and electric meters to track energy use in 15-minute intervals. Actual monthly energy bill data is being collected and displayed for 10 of the district’s 15 schools.

“Eagle County School District’s facilities staff was very helpful in identifying which schools would be best for energy tracking,” Ogburn said. “And they were on site with us for every installation.” School district staff also gave CLEER permission to request two years of utility bill history from gas and electric utilities, which was loaded into the Navigator system to provide a baseline for energy-saving projects going forward.

Edwards Elementary is the first school in the Eagle district to run a power-down experiment, guided by Ogburn and by Cindy Tibble, Eco-Schools coordinator for Walking Mountains Science Center. Edwards Elementary teachers Katie Leibig and Jeanine Kenney are leading the Eco-Action Team working on the project.

“We also worked on a summer power-down last spring,” said Tibble. “This Thanksgiving experiment is the first time we’ve been able to view the results on the Navigator.”

For the Edwards Eco-Action Team, access to the Navigator data will help in their quest to achieve a bronze award from the National Wildlife Federation’s Eco-Schools program next spring. Eco-Schools is a comprehensive program for schools to operate as eco-friendly facilities and for students to learn how they can help make that happen. Schools that complete a series of seven steps can apply for Eco-School certification.

In addition to monthly Eco-Schools classes, Leibig, Kenney and Tibble presented an all-day Eco-Institute on a Saturday that was focused on energy and energy conservation.

And at Edwards Elementary, the Eco-Action Team has asked each class in the school to assign a “power patrol.” These students in all grades make sure their classrooms are shut down at the end of the school day, with lights out and electronics turned off or unplugged.  

“I’ve observed a great deal of enthusiasm from this group about hands-on projects that will lead to actual change for their school,” said Tibble.

CLEER’s Mike Ogburn said the access to energy use data on the Navigator website helps students see the big picture of school energy use, and the incremental results of their actions to save energy.

“Students know the school is bigger than their own homes, and costs more to run. But they might not know exactly how much bigger. With this data, they can see it costs about $50,000 a year for the electricity and gas used to power and heat their elementary school, and about $200,000 per year for a high school,” Ogburn said.

“After running the power-down experiment, they can see by the very next day whether their actions had a positive impact on energy use,” Ogburn said.

With the success at Edwards Elementary, Ogburn is encouraging other schools in the district to run similar power-down experiments.

And the Eco-Schools program is expanding as well, Tibble said. “Four more schools have said they want to start an Eco-Action Team and will likely get started in the next month or two.”

For more info on the Eco-Schools program in Eagle County, contact Cindy Tibble at or 970-827-9725 ext. 136.

Learn more about the National Wildlife Federation’s Eco-Schools program.

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Energy Coach Maisa Metcalf’s Hot Tip for December

Make smart use of heat tape with a daily timer

In Colorado’s cold, snowy climate, heat tape installed along the lower edge of a home or building’s roofline can prevent destructive ice dams from forming. While heat tape melts snow and ice on your roof, it also heats up your electric bills.

Installing a timer to limit heat tape to running just during the warmer daytime hours will save energy and save money.

Heat tape on a roof

It’s somewhat counter-intuitive, but heat tape makes far less impact on the rooftop snowpack at night, when temperatures are coldest. Any snow or ice that melts will freeze again soon after it drains away from the tape.

Running heat tape during the day, when temps are higher, gives your roof a much better chance to drain off that melted snow and ice.

If you install a heat tape timer, it will cycle on and off every day through the winter season. The savings can add up fast. Each 100-foot span of heat tape running 24/7 can add from $40 to $60 to a monthly electric bill.

Whether your heat tape is controlled by a timer or not, make a note to turn it off next spring once the roof melts out.

Rebates are available for Glenwood Springs Electric customers for electrician-installed heat tape timers on homes and commercial buildings.

CORE also offers a rebate for timers installed at households and businesses in the Roaring Fork Valley.

And Holy Cross Energy offers rebates for its residential customers in Garfield, Eagle and Pitkin counties for do-it-yourself and electrician-installed timers.

For details, visit the heat tape timer page on the Garfield Clean Energy website.

Believe it or not, the heat tape timer page is the most frequently visited page on the Garfield Clean Energy website, snagging hundreds of hits per month. Do a Google search for “heat tape timer,” and the page pops up as the top non-commercial listing.

For the archive of Energy Coach Hot Tips, visit and click on “Learn about clean energy” in the left sidebar.

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In this issue

Construction starts on 1 megawatt of solar in Garfield Co.

Carbondale to direct 20% of mineral funds to energy efficiency

Edwards school powers down for Thanksgiving

Energy Coach Maisa Metcalf’s
Hot Tip for December: Heat Tape Timer

CLEER staffers earn BPI
Building Analyst certification

Metcalf, Navigator and EV Rally featured in CMC Annual Review

In the news

Invest in CLEER
on Colorado Gives Day

Colorado Gives Day

Build a clean energy economy on
Colorado Gives Day
Tuesday, Dec. 9

If you have ever read this newsletter, gotten personal assistance from our energy coaches, received a clean energy rebate or loan, or been inspired by our work to build a clean energy economy, please click here to help make more of this happen! Thank you!


CMC Annual Review

Metcalf, Navigator and
EV Rally featured in
CMC Annual Review

CLEER staff member Maisa Metcalf is the subject of a feature article and two-page photo spread in the new Colorado Mountain College Annual Review magazine for the 2013-2014 academic year.

The magazine also covers the Oct. 3 EV Rally of the Rockies, which was organized by CLEER and Colorado Mountain College staff as a Garfield Clean Energy project, and includes a photo of CLEER’s Building Energy Navigator in use at a kiosk at a CMC campus.

Metcalf is featured as a student in CMC’s Sustainability Studies program, where she is earning her bachelor’s degree. She learned about climate change in a CMC environmental studies class, and it has become her passion.

“I realized that I wanted to do something that would make an impact in the world, something to make things better,” she states in the article. In addition to classwork, she pursued a two-month internship with CLEER in 2012, which soon evolved into a full-time job as an energy coach.

“Helping people -- for me, it’s the best part of my job,” said Metcalf in the article. “Sustainability relates to everyone, and to everything. For me, studying sustainability has been a life-changing experience.”

On the same page, a photo shows other CMC students exploring a Building Energy Navigator touch screen in a kiosk at a CMC campus. CMC has installed a Navigator kiosk at all of its campuses so students, faculty and the public can check out building energy use and solar energy production college-wide.

In the magazine’s “Partnerships” section, CMC faculty member Adrian Fielder is shown with his all-electric Nissan Leaf. He was one of eight electric car drivers to participate in the first-ever EV Rally of the Rockies event on Oct. 3, and was a key organizer of the event in partnership with CLEER and Garfield Clean Energy.

CLEER put on the rally after seeing that a growing network of public EV charging stations have made it possible for all-electric vehicles to travel long distances on western Colorado’s scenic highways. Charging stations installed at six CMC locations play key roles in that network.

“We decided to place the chargers at a number of campuses across the CMC district specifically so we could help build a regional charging infrastructure in the central Rocky Mountains,” Fielder states in the article.

Download the CMC Annual Review here (note: 7.7 MB file size)

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CLEER staffers earn
Building Analyst certification

BPI training includes
testing for home safety

CLEER energy coaches Maisa Metcalf and Matt Shmigelsky earned Building Analyst certifications from the Building Performance Institute (BPI) through a course offered this summer by CORE, EnergySmart Colorado and City of Aspen Utilities.

Also earning Building Analyst certifications were Ryland French, energy efficiency intern with City of Aspen Utilities, and Brad Davis, energy programs coordinator for Walking Mountains Science Center in Avon.

Marty Treadway, EnergySmart Program Manager at CORE, helped organize the regional training course. Treadway and two other local building analysts also took the course for the required refresher training.

“Bringing both a professional trainer and the BPI-certified exam proctor to Carbondale gave our workforce access to top-level training while avoiding travel costs and lost time at work,” said Treadway.

“This is good knowledge to have for my energy coaching work,” said Metcalf.

The students learned how to conduct a blower-door test, which shows where cold outdoor air is leaking into a home. They also learned how to test furnaces, boilers and hot water heaters to make sure hazardous gases are properly vented, and to check for proper air flow in kitchen and bathroom exhaust fans.

"Energy efficiency is the low hanging fruit of the energy world,” said Shmigelsky. “With a strong contingent of BPI-trained analysts working in the region, efforts to uncover energy savings will ensure resources and rebate dollars are used effectively."

“By completing my building analyst certification and working with my fellow energy advisers, I am now far more prepared to provide homeowners with the best possible expertise and guidance to make their homes more efficient and comfortable,” said Davis.

“Earning my BPI Building Analyst certification has given me a greater appreciation for the pool of energy analysts we have in the Roaring Fork Valley,” said French. “With the certification, homeowners can be confident that their analyst is highly qualified and can help them identify opportunities to save energy and make their homes comfortable and safe.”

The students will be due for a refresher course every three years, so they stay current on developments in building technology and changing code requirements.

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Submit your news and events to
Clean Energy Economy News

Clean Energy Economy News accepts news, events and training information related to clean energy and sustainability for monthly publication. Send your items to Editor Heather McGregor at


Denver Business Journal, Nov. 6, 2014

Colorado lands in top 10 nationwide for new clean energy jobs

Colorado ranked fourth in new clean energy and clean transportation jobs during the third quarter, according to a new report from Environmental Entrepreneurs, a nonpartisan business group based in Washington, D.C.


The Aspen Times, Nov. 17, 2014

RFTA, Eagle County eye
$5 million investment
into solar farm

Two local governments are exploring a combined investment of $5 million to become owners in the next solar farm constructed by the Clean Energy Collective.


Fox News, Nov. 19, 2014

Poop-powered bus hits
British roads

GENeco announced the launch of the Bio-Bus, the first bus in the United Kingdom powered on biogas generated from recycled food waste and treated sewage. It hit the road in November, ferrying passengers around southwest England.

Watch the 4-minute video below on YouTube.