Garfield Clean Energy building off strong 2017 |

Garfield Clean Energy building off strong 2017

Margaret McGhee of Battlement Mesa signed up for a CARE home energy visit after learning about the program. “It sounded like a good plan,” she said. “I’m a big one for saving energy and helping the environment.”
Kelley Cox for Garfield Clean Energy |

From residential homes to its government buildings, and with 11 megawatts of solar to be put in between Carbondale and the Mesa County line within the next two years, clean energy remains a priority for the future in Garfield County.

Members of the Garfield Clean Energy Collaboration Board updated the county commissioners earlier this week on the program’s efforts to make the county more energy efficient.

“We are a leader in the state in how we do things with clean energy,” Commissioner Tom Jankovsky said in praise of the program’s work over the past few years.

With partnerships between the local schools, energy companies and clean energy groups, the collaboration has helped get 32 government buildings, facilities, schools and libraries powered by solar energy since 2010, according to information presented to the commissioners on Tuesday.

“One of the key aspects of affordable housing is having affordable utility bills and that’s where we feel our program helps in that affordable housing discussion across the whole county.”— Erica SparhawkProgram manager for Clean Energy Economy for the Region

“Nothing is off the table where we can add solar and cut our costs down,” Garfield County Facilities Manager Frank Coberly explained. “We are looking at everything out there. I’m a huge solar proponent, and we are looking at what we can do in the next five years to step it up.”

Clean Energy Economy for the Region Program Manager Erica Sparhawk explained that GCE is looking to put community solar gardens in Xcel Energy territory for the first time in the county, with 10 megawatts for government entities.

She said that GCE continues to work with its partners and other government entities to evaluate solar garden proposals.

“We’re expanding energy diversity here in Garfield County,” she added.

In addition to the solar projects, GCE works with Energy Outreach Colorado and other partners on the Colorado’s Affordable Residential Energy (CARE) program to provide direct funding to individual homes.

Through CARE, 127​ income-qualified households in Garfield County have received weatherization, lighting and heating system upgrades valued at $439,955 with an annual energy savings estimated at $89,521.87, according to information presented to the commissioners.

Since 2010, GCE’s residential services across Garfield County have helped 938 families upgrade their homes.

“One of the key aspects of affordable housing is having affordable utility bills and that’s where we feel our program helps in that affordable housing discussion across the whole county,” Sparhawk explained.

Jankovsky said the CARE program is important to seniors and low-income families.

“Besides having a warm house, they are spending less dollars on their energy bill, which is dollars for other necessities,” he added.

GCE continues to provide upgrades to senior housing across the county.

While projects were completed at senior housing facilities in every Garfield County community between 2010 and 2012, in 2017 GCE staff continued to work with Valley Senior Housing and received funding from Energy Outreach Colorado to cover 100 percent of the $11,000 to add insulation, air sealing, new refrigerators, exterior lighting and hot water pipe insulation, according to GCE.

Sparhawk added that Valley Senior Housing and Silt Senior Housing will receive additional upgrades in 2018.

In addition to residential and senior housing upgrades, Garfield County buildings have become more and more green, saving the county millions.

Since 2010, 34 government facilities (90 buildings) have received energy efficiency upgrades, totaling $1.9 million, but saving the county $798,326 annually.

“Frank, I appreciate your willingness to look at energy efficiency in our buildings because we were really missing that prior to you coming on board,” Jankovsky said of Coberly’s work.

Coberly said the county is always looking at where it can save money and where it can make a big difference for residents, with LED upgrades at the top of the list.

“We are looking at additional upgrades at the fairgrounds,” he added. “New lights will save us a lot of money as far as utility bills go. We will be spending money to make those replacements, but we will also be saving money in getting the most energy efficient equipment we can.”

He added that upcoming projects may include HVAC upgrades for the County Administration Building and the Glenwood Springs Courthouse. He is also looking at solar opportunities at the fairgrounds.

Among its goals for the future, GCE hopes to achieve a 20 percent increase in energy efficiency over the 2015 baseline by 2030, obtain 25 to 50 percent of energy from renewable sources by 2030, and reduce petroleum consumption by 25 percent from the 2009 baseline by 2020.

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