Grants to green up county fairgrounds

Ryan Graff
Post Independent Staff

GLENWOOD SPRINGS- Sunsense Inc. of Glenwood Springs has received a grant from the StEPP Foundation to improve the air and the energy efficiency of the Rio Blanco and Mesa County fairgrounds.

The money comes from a $1.2 million settlement reached between the health department and American Soda LLP over alleged air quality violations in Parachute, said StEPP Foundation executive director Ellen Drew.

Sunsense was awarded $115,000 to fund a program called Fairgrounds Resource Efficiency Demonstration, or FRED.

As part of FRED, Sunsense will install solar-electric panels and solar-powered hot water heaters at the fairgrounds, said Sunsense owner Scott Ely.

The grant will also be used to upgrade the lighting and insulation in the fairgrounds’ exhibit halls for better energy efficiency, and will help buy biodiesel fuel for the fairgrounds’ vehicles, said Ely.

In addition to installing the energy-efficient technology at the two fairgrounds, Sunsense will also install kiosks to explain the technology.

“We thought the county fairgrounds were a good way to get this information to a large number of people,” said Ely. He said everyone from Boy Scouts to bingo players uses the fairgrounds.

The solar panels, insulation, and lighting upgrades are designed to make the fairgrounds cost- and energy-efficient.

“We’re offsetting the electricity costs to the fairgrounds,” said Ely of the solar electric panels. The panels will provide a small amount of the energy used at the fairgrounds, and save the fairgrounds money, said Ely.

In addition to permanent improvements to the fairgrounds, part of the grant money will buy biodiesel fuel for the fairgrounds’ vehicles.

Ely said the grant will pay the difference between the cost of regular diesel and B-20 biodiesel. B-20 fuel is 80 percent petroleum-based fuel and 20 percent plant-based diesel, and also more expensive than regular diesel.

The StEPP foundation, which awarded the grant, works with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and awards grant money to organizations working to improve the environment.

The source of grant money is usually kept secret, said Drew. But when the settlement was reached with American Soda, company officials requested that part of the fine be put back into the communities where its employees live, said Drew.

The settlement was reached in November 2002 after American Soda was accused of air pollution violations at its mine in the Piceance Basin and its processing facility near Parachute.

Drew said a small portion of the grant came from a similar settlement with Kinder-Morgan in Rio Blanco County.

Contact Ryan Graff: 945-8515, ext. 535

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