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Alt fuels coaching could kick-start Glenwood Springs CNG station

GLENWOOD SPRINGS ­— A pilot project in Garfield County aimed at boosting the use of alternative-fuel vehicles locally could help provide the market jump start needed to open a public compressed natural gas (CNG) fueling station in Glenwood Springs.

Earlier this year, the city of Glenwood Springs and the county partnered to offer a $100,000 incentive for an operator to open a CNG fuel station in the city that could serve both individual owners of CNG vehicles and large vehicle fleets.

Trillium CNG, the same company that built the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority’s new bus fueling station in Glenwood Springs, remains the lead candidate to carry out that venture.



Eventually, Trillium proposes to build the facility at the existing West Glenwood Shell Station in partnership with station owner Al Butler and Western Petroleum.

Before proceeding with the estimated $1 million investment, though, Trillium has been conducting market research to make sure there will be enough demand.



Last week, the Refuel Colorado Fleets project named Garfield County among nine Colorado counties where energy coaches will be provided by a participating nonprofit organization to help business and government fleet owners do the necessary assessment to consider expanding their use of alternative fuels.

“In very round numbers, it takes between 100 and 150 vehicles to begin to develop the kind of fuel demand needed” for a CNG fueling station, said Michael Ogburn, energy engineer for the Carbondale-based Clean Energy Economy for the Region (CLEER), which is leading the coaching project.

The quickest way to get there is to convince enough fleet operators, both public and private, of the energy efficiency savings they can achieve by switching to alternative-fuel vehicles, he said.

“For Trillium, they need to know how soon they can expect those vehicles to come on line, and how they can get enough other people interested,” Ogburn said.

Energy coaching will be done locally by Garfield Clean Energy, which works with local governments, businesses and individuals to achieve energy savings in buildings and homes, using CLEER’s model.

“The Refuel Colorado Fleets pilot project will apply these same coaching techniques to the evaluation of existing fleets, to reduce petroleum use and save money by using alternative fuel vehicle options,” according to a recent press release announcing the project.

Already, CNG conversions are under way, or at least being explored, for fleets operated by Garfield County, RFTA, the White River National Forest, the city of Glenwood and other area towns. Energy companies, including Encana, have also switched much of their fleets over to CNG.

Ogburn said CLEER has also been in touch with area electrical and heating/air conditioning contractors, as well as Mountain Valley Developmental Services, which operates a transportation fleet for its clients, about possible conversions.

The next step in the educational campaign, and part of Trillium’s research efforts, will be a CNG tour on Aug. 28. The tour will include visits to existing CNG fueling stations, converted fleets, RFTA and the new Berthod Motors Dodge dealership in Glenwood Springs.

Berthod will not only be selling GMC and Dodge CNG vehicles, it has equipped its new service bays to be able to work on CNG vehicles, Ogburn said.

“Shortly after the tour we will be planning a panel discussion about the use of CNG locally, and will hear from some of the elected officials who support it,” he said. “The idea is to step up that interest level, and begin to dive into an analysis so that people can start to make decisions.”

A U.S. Department of Energy grant to the Colorado Energy Office is funding the alternative fuels coaching project.

The nine counties were selected after a two-month survey of 21 cities and counties in western Colorado and along the Front Range.

jstroud@postindependent.com


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