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Clean Energy Economy for the Region

December 4, 2017, Vol. 10, No. 8

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Clean energy spurs economic development

Eight years of successes tallied for Garfield Clean Energy

Garfield Clean Energy progress report cover

Clean energy is a powerful tool for driving economic development, according to recent tallies from Garfield Clean Energy.

After eight full years in action, Garfield Clean Energy’s programs and services have driven millions of dollars in investments in clean energy upgrades and yielded millions in energy savings. Here’s a quick look:

  • Efficiency upgrades at 1,006 homes and 277 businesses and churches = $1 million in energy savings every year.

  • Documented private sector efficiency investments = $3 million-plus since 2010

  • Efficiency upgrades at 34 government buildings = $280,000 in energy savings every year.

  • Solar arrays on 32 government buildings = 8.4 megawatt-hours of electricity produced every year, worth $840,000.

  • Contractors and suppliers benefitting from increased business = 292 since 2010

To see the details, check out the fact-loaded new brochure covering Garfield Clean Energy’s cumulative results for 2010 - 2017. (8.4 MB file size)

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Battlement Mesa Metro District solar array

Large solar arrays like this one on Battlement Mesa will become more common as developers bring community solar gardens to Garfield County in 2018. Photo by Kelley Cox.

Solar garden projects to bring 11 megawatts
to Garfield, Mesa counties

Xcel Energy selects two Denver solar developers
to build and market arrays in 2018

Heather McGregor
Clean Energy Economy News

Two Denver-based solar garden companies are working to develop a string of community solar arrays for Xcel Energy customers in Garfield and Mesa counties. The companies are also negotiating solar energy purchase contracts with local governments.

Xcel Energy has awarded the two companies, Microgrid Energy and Oak Leaf Energy Partners, a total of 11 megawatts of development within its Solar*Rewards program for its customer base in the two counties.

“Garfield Clean Energy partners have been quick to subscribe to these projects, and have been key to making the projects move forward,” said Erica Sparhawk, program director for CLEER, which manages the programs and services of Garfield Clean Energy.

Microgrid Energy was awarded 4 megawatts for unrestricted sales and another 1 megawatt for low-income residential customers of Xcel in the two counties.

Microgrid has secured energy purchase contracts with the town governments of Carbondale, New Castle and De Beque, and a contract is pending with the Town of Silt, according to Jon Sullivan, director of project development for Microgrid.

Oak Leaf Energy Partners was awarded 6 megawatts for unrestricted sales. The Rifle City Council has approved an energy purchase contract with Oakleaf, according to city attorney Jim Neu. The Town of Parachute is in negotiations with the company, Sparhawk said.

Oak Leaf would not confirm its list of contracted customers, although Mike McCabe, one of Oak Leaf’s two principals, said, “Our gardens are almost entirely subscribed.”

In each case, the towns are working with the solar developers and Xcel to review annual energy consumption and existing solar energy generation. The aim is to determine the remaining amount of solar energy each town government needs in order to be 100 percent solar-powered.

The solar garden projects allow the town governments to lock in a low, but gradually escalating, price for electricity over the course of a 20- to 30-year contract.

For Carbondale, with a rough estimated need for 240 kilowatts of generating capacity, the energy cost savings over a 20-year period add up to more than $275,000, according to a recent presentation Sullivan made to the Carbondale Board of Trustees.

Both companies must also secure leases for land to locate the solar gardens. Based on the generation capacity of today’s solar panels, seven acres is needed to generate 1 megawatt of solar electricity, Sullivan said.

Microgrid has secured a 12-acre site along I-70 between Silt and Rifle for a 1-megawatt array, and a larger site in Palisade for a 2-megawatt array. The company continues to look for more open land suitable for an additional 2 megawatts and a 20- to 30-year lease.

McCabe said Oak Leaf has secured three sites, each large enough for a 2-megawatt array, in locations visible from I-70.

Both companies will be seeking bids from contractors to install the arrays, associated electrical equipment and perimeter fencing, and expect to complete the projects in 2018.

Sullivan said this is the first major round of community solar garden development hosted by Xcel Energy in Garfield and Mesa counties. He said Xcel is expected to award more solar garden contracts in the coming years, and those projects would be opened up for sale to Xcel’s business and residential customers.

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New Castle wins approval to use excess solar energy at nearby facility

Xcel Energy approves town’s request to apply ‘aggregate net metering’ to solar array on Public Works Facility

Heather McGregor
Clean Energy Economy News

A seven-month effort by the Town of New Castle to transfer excess solar power generated at one facility to another nearby facility won final approval from Xcel Energy on Nov. 30.

Dave Reynolds, New Castle’s building official, said his quest concluded with a simple email from Xcel Energy. The email approved the town’s formal request to apply what’s called “aggregate net metering” to the excess power produced by a solar array on the town’s Public Works Facility.

It will allow the town to transfer the excess solar production from Public Works toward some of the usage at the town’s nearby wastewater treatment plant.

Installers placing solar panels on New Castle Public Works building, 2009

In 2009, installers added a 70-kilowatt solar electric array to what was then New Castle's new public works facility. Photo courtesy Sunsense Solar.

New Castle’s success in using a little-known rule within Colorado Public Utilities Commission regulations opens the door for other local governments in Garfield County, said Erica Sparhawk, program director for CLEER.

“Other government facilities have solar arrays that are producing more power than the facilities can use, such as the array on the Garfield County Fairgrounds Riding Arena. New Castle’s work with Xcel Energy cleared a path for other governments to make use of this policy and apply that excess power toward usage at nearby facilities,” Sparhawk said.

For years, the 70-kilowatt solar array on two buildings at the New Castle Public Works Facility has produced more energy than the facility uses. Even after the police department moved in, the array still produced 15 to 20 percent more electricity than needed.

That prompted Councillor Greg Russi to ask if the excess power could be credited to another town facility. Reynolds took on the project.

Reynolds first approach Xcel Energy in May, and with Sparhawk’s help, connected with Kevin Cray, Xcel’s solar trade relations manager.

“Kevin did some digging, and was able to figure out it was doable and legit,” Reynolds said.  Then the utility had to figure out which department would handle the town’s request. “Kevin was the one who pushed it through the different departments.”

In 2012, the Colorado PUC had approved a large set of rules governing how utilities handle renewable energy produced by customer-owned facilities. Within those rules was a section on aggregate net metering, which laid out the conditions for customers to apply excess electricity generated at one facility toward the usage at another facility.

The PUC’s rules are clear. To apply aggregate net metering, a utility customer must meet all these conditions:

  • The facilities to be aggregated must be located on one parcel, or on properties that are contiguous, and owned by the account holder.
  • The electricity generated can only be for customer’s own consumption.
  • The meters must all be under the same account holder.
  • The meters must be on the same rate schedule.

Still, the process to apply an untested rule to a real-world situation was a bit bumpy.

“We were definitely treading new ground with this,” Reynolds said. “My impression is we were first ones working with this policy.”

New Castle wanted to use the excess power at its wastewater treatment plant. It’s on a contiguous parcel of town-owned land, but is separated from the Public Works yard by railroad tracks. Reynolds had to find other state law that defined parcels as contiguous even if they are separated by an easement such as a rail line.

Then Reynolds and Cray discovered that Public Works used a different utility rate schedule than the wastewater plant. Reynolds dug into the town’s list of meters, and found two meters controlling small parts of the treatment plant operations that could be switched over to the rate schedule used for Public Works.

At one point, there was talk about having to connect the facilities with a costly electric line under the railroad tracks, but Reynolds and Cray determined that aggregated net metering is simply handled as an accounting matter in the billing department

Together, they worked out the format for an official letter of request that the town would send to the utility. Reynolds sent the letter in early November, and received the official approval from Xcel about three weeks later.

The end result won’t yield much savings for the town, as the two meters don’t draw much electricity.

“Those meters probably won’t be able to eat up all the excess, but there’s no way to change the rate schedules on other meters at the wastewaster plant,” Reynolds said..

“We’re going to get through a year of it and see what happens,” Reynolds said. “We may have some other electricity uses coming up on that property, or on other town property that’s contiguous, that we could put on that meter.”

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Solar stock tank group purchase ‘a huge success’

Holy Cross Energy initiative yields sales
of 58 passive solar tanks for livestock

The Passive Solar Livestock Tank Sales Event offered by Holy Cross Energy in October resulted in the sale of 58 tanks to livestock owners in Garfield, Eagle and Pitkin counties.

Local response to the wholesale-pricing offer swamped the manufacturer, Pine Ranch Products of Santa Clara, Utah. The company is expected to complete filling the orders with a delivery of tanks by Dec. 15.

Horse drinking from SunTank

A horse takes a drink from a SunTank, the passive solar-heated livestock tank.
Photo by Joey Calabrese, Holy Cross Energy

“We wanted to reach out to our livestock owners and let them know about an energy efficient way of watering livestock,” said Mary Wiener, energy efficiency program administrator for Holy Cross Energy.
SunTanks rely on insulation and passive solar heat gain to prevent freezing, even in sub-zero temperatures, eliminating the need for costly electric heating units or the hard work of breaking and shoveling ice.
“We are absolutely astounded at the success of the sales event, by receiving 30 orders for a total of 58 tanks, and we thank all members who participated and made it a huge success,” Wiener said.
In addition to the wholesale pricing for all buyers, at 9 to 14 percent below retail, Holy Cross negotiated for free shipping on the tanks and offered customers a $300 rebate, which cut the total cost of the tanks in half. The sales event was open to all livestock owners in the three counties.
Staff at the Colorado Mountain College Veterinary Technology program noticed the offer and ordered 10 tanks.
“We are replacing 10 electric-heated tanks that were running 24/7 with 10 passive solar tanks,” said Dr. Jeff Myers, director of the CMC Vet Tech program, located on the Spring Valley campus near Glenwood Springs.
The swap helps fulfill CMC’s effort to be environmentally responsible, Myers said, and delivers two other key benefits. It eliminates the need for electric wires inside animal pens, and because the water in the tanks is not directly exposed to sunlight, the system inhibits the growth of algae.
“The tanks will provide a better source of water for our animals, and mean less cleaning for us,” Myers said.
The CMC Vet Tech program has six horses, five cattle, 15 goats, four sheep, four alpaca and one llama, so the tanks will be well used. Other heated watering systems will continue to be used for the programs chickens and ducks.
On Missouri Heights, Denise Henderson said she “couldn’t be happier” with the SunTank purchased for her horse, Summer.
“For me, this is a game changer,” Henderson said. “I used to have to run out 150 feet of electric line, and cover my tank with plywood, and strap it to the tank. This is so great. It fits right under my frost-free pump.”
Henderson said her horse adapted to the SunTank immediately. The 25-gallon size will keep Summer well-watered for two days. The tanks also come in a 40-gallon size.
After a partial delivery of SunTanks by Pine Ranch Products in November, the remaining tanks are expected by mid-December. Customers will be notified once the delivery arrives, and can pick up their tanks at Holy Cross Energy headquarters, 3799 Highway 82 in Glenwood Springs from 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., Monday through Thursday.
Customers, or anyone picking up a tank for someone else, should bring the confirmation letter to be sure they receive the correct tank.

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Habitat ReStore sneak peek event

About 50 people interested in seeing the energy efficiency aspects of the new Habitat ReStore, along with those who played a role in developing the project, gathered for a "sneak peek" event on Nov. 30. Photo by Erin Danneker.

Sneak peek at new Habitat ReStore
reveals high-efficiency features

Building envelope, mechanical systems, lighting
and solar deliver big savings for nonprofit

Maisa Metcalf and Heather McGregor
Clean Energy Economy News

A crowd of about 50 people got a sneak peek into the clean energy innovations used for the new Habitat ReStore at a special event on Nov. 30.

A tight building envelope, proper ventilation, efficient mechanical systems, LED lighting and a 56 kilowatt rooftop solar array combined to create a “beyond-code” store and warehouse facility that’s expected to save Habitat about $24,000 a year in utility costs compared to conventional construction, according to Habitat Construction Manager Dana Dalla Betta.


Watch this one-minute video of the Habitat ReStore groundbreaking ceremony.


For example, a blower-door test showed that the building exceeds the current International Energy Conservation Code’s standard by a factor of three, Dalla Betta said. The solar array is expected to offset about 65 percent of the facility’s annual electrical use, she said.

The Nov. 30 event was part of the Energy Innovation Series sponsored by CLEER, CORE and Garfield Clean Energy.

Green Line Architects designed the building, Confluence Architecture consulted on building envelope, SGM handled engineering and energy modeling, Alpenglow Lighting Design handled the LED lighting, and Sunsense Solar installed the solar array. A $200,000 TRUE Pioneer Grant from CORE helped fund the efficiency and solar upgrades.

Habitat will consolidate its three existing stores into one location, cutting transport costs by concentrating all inventory in one location.

These energy and operational savings will help Habitat expand its primary mission of building affordable housing projects in the Roaring Fork and Colorado River valleys.

The 40,500-square-foot store south of Glenwood Springs is expected to open in January.

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Energy Contractor Training

FREE Energy Contractor Training

Learn about new programs to grow your business and close projects

For any contractor interested in learning more about residential and commercial energy efficiency and leveraging programs to close sales.

Thursday, December 7, 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
Third Street Center, 520 S. Third St., Carbondale

  • RENU residential loan program (get authorized!)
  • 2018 rebates from CORE and utilities.
  • Grants for nonprofits and income-qualified clients.
  • Plus: extra installer incentives from Black Hills Energy.

It’s free, and lunch is included. Please RSVP.

RSVP today for this free workshop by email or phone. / or call (970) 704-9200

Presented by CLEER, CORE, Garfield Clean Energy, Energy Smart Colorado, Black Hills Energy, Energy Outreach Colorado and the Colorado Energy Office.

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Alpine Bank

Holy Cross Energy

Garfield Clean Energy

Many thanks to Alpine Bank,
Holy Cross Energy,
Garfield Clean Energy
and CLEER contributors.

Your support makes this work possible.

Colorado Gives Day

Invest in CLEER for
a clean energy future

Giving on Colorado Gives Day boosts your donation!

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In this issue

Clean energy spurs economic development

Solar garden projects to bring 11 megawatts to Garfield, Mesa counties

New Castle wins approval to use excess solar energy at nearby facility

Solar stock tank group purchase ‘a huge success’

Sneak peek at new Habitat ReStore reveals high-efficiency features


FREE Energy Contractor Training: Dec. 7, Carbondale

Free webinars offered on IECC, energy efficiency: Dec. 8-29

Colorado Communities Symposium:
Jan. 31 - Feb. 2, Aurora

Winter Walk & Bike Week: Feb. 5 - 9


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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


Free webinars offered on IECC, energy efficiency

Series aimed at building and mechanical contractors, code officials

A robust series of free one-hour webinars focused on energy efficiency in residential and commercial structures, based in the International Energy Conservation Code (IECC), has been expanded for the month of December. The series offers 10 webinars on Wednesdays and Fridays from Dec. 1 through 29.

For a description of each webinar and a link to the advance registration page (required for participation), download the full schedule here.

Friday, Dec. 1, 12 to 1 p.m.: IECC Paths to Compliance

Friday, Dec. 1, 3 to 4 p.m.: COMcheck Basics

Friday, Dec. 8, 12 to 1 p.m.: COMcheck Basics (same as Dec. 1 class)

Friday, Dec. 8, 3 to 4 p.m.: Commercial Energy Code Plan Review Submittals

Wednesday, Dec. 13, 12 to 1 p.m.: What’s Coming in the 2018 IECC?

Friday, Dec. 15, 3 to 4 p.m.: Intro to Building Science

Wednesday, Dec. 20, 12 to 1 p.m.: IECC for Existing Buildings

Friday, Dec. 22, 3 to 4 p.m.: IECC vs. ASHRAE 90.1 -- Building Envelopes

Wednesday, Dec. 27, 12 to 1 p.m.: Issues, Concerns and FAQs of the IECC

Friday, Dec. 29, 3 to 4 p.m.: HERS Index and Code Compliance

The webinars are hosted by Colorado Code Consulting, the Colorado Energy Office and Xcel Energy. Instructors are Shaunna Mozingo of Colorado Code Consulting and Robby Schwarz of Energy Logic.

All webinars are eligible for 0.1 ICC CEU and 1 AIA learning unit.

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Colorado Communities Symposium

Jan. 31 to Feb. 2, 2018
Hyatt Regency Aurora-Denver Conference Center
13200 East 14th Place, Aurora

Presented by State of Colorado and Compact of Colorado Communities, sponsored by Association of Climate Change Officers

Join Gov. John Hickenlooper and elected officials and community and business leaders from throughout Colorado to participate in visioning workshops and educational programs related to climate preparedness and clean energy development in Colorado.

The symposium is divided into five tracks, and sessions will delve deeper into each topic area on the second and third day of the event.

  • Resilience and Hazard Risk Mitigation
  • Clean Transportation
  • Water, Agriculture and Forestry
  • Energy Efficiency and Clean Energy
  • Economic Vitality

To view the full program agenda, click here.

Registration details
Register for Jan. 31 as a one-day pass, or for all three days. Prices vary, and registration is on a first-come basis. To register, click here.

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Winter Bike and Walk to Work Week

Winter Walk & Bike Week

The worldwide Winter Bike to Work Day and in Colorado, Winter Walk and Bike to Work Week, are coming up in February.

Everyone is encouraged to join in the global effort to participate in walking and cycling to work, to school and for other activities Feb. 5-9. The week culminates with Winter Bike to Work Day on Friday, Feb. 9.

The worldwide event has its own website, and soon riders and walkers will be able to pledge their ride for a global competition. In 2017, nearly 10,000 people participated.

Take a sneak preview of the site (still awaiting updates for 2018) to get a taste of the fun, and watch an 11-minute video of winter biking.

Stay tuned to the Clean Energy Economy News in the new year for more info on local Winter Walk and Bike Week events.

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Pueblo in the running for hundreds of jobs at solar panel factory

Pueblo Chieftain
Nov. 16, 2017

Pueblo is in the running for a 705-worker solar panel factory and solar farm.
The Colorado Economic Development Commission approved up to $3.5 million in state incentives on Nov. 16 to help Pueblo in its bid to recruit the company, which is based in India and has the code name of Project Clear Skies.

Pueblo must beat out a list of sites located in Texas, South Carolina, New York, New Mexico, Florida and Virginia. The state incentive money would be matched by local governments. Jobs would pay an average of $53,000 a year.

Read the whole story here.

Will electric car sales become like the pond with proliferating lily pads?

Mountain Town News
Nov. 4, 2017

Remember the riddle about the lily pond that begins with one lily, the number doubling each day? The pond seems empty even when it has become an eighth filled. But you can do the math for the three days beyond.

That riddle comes to mind when Will Toor talks about the adoption rate for electric vehicles in Colorado. Today they constitute just 10,000 or so among the 5 million-plus cars, trucks, and motorcycles. But the growth rate for EVs has averaged 41 percent since 2012, and this year sales are up 73 percent over the same months of last year.

Toor, the transportation program director for the Southwest Energy Efficiency Project, sees this progression as evidence for a coming tipping point in transportation electrification. Like the lilies, this automotive pond will soon look very different.

Read the whole story here.

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