Rifle city buildings reach ‘net zero’ electrical goal | PostIndependent.com

Rifle city buildings reach ‘net zero’ electrical goal

Mike McKibbin
Citizen Telegram Editor

This computer screen shot of Garfield Clean Energy’s Energy Navigator web site shows the City of Rifle’s energy costs from April 2013 through May 2014. The city recently reached a “net zero” status with its electricity needs, due to seven solar arrays supplying power to city facilities.

The City of Rifle produced enough power through its seven solar arrays to reach a net zero status for its electricity needs, an official with Garfield Clean Energy recently told City Council.

"Net zero" means the total amount of energy used by a building on an annual basis is roughly equal to the amount of renewable energy created on the site, according to an online definition. These buildings still produce greenhouse gases because on cloudy or non-windy days, at night and on short winter days, conventional grid power is still the main energy source.

In an annual report to the council, Shelly Kaup said seven city facilities that have solar arrays are monitored by the group's Energy Navigator online system — City Hall, the police station, parks maintenance facility, public works, wastewater treatment, the Art Dague swimming pool and the senior center — allowing Garfield Clean Energy to track energy usage, energy spending and carbon dioxide emissions.

"Although the City of Rifle is still paying bills for grid electric service," Kaup wrote in her report, "the renewable energy produced by the city's solar arrays make its overall operations at these seven facilities net zero for electricity. The additional arrays added in 2013 and 2014 mean the city is also offsetting emissions from its natural gas usage."

Kaup called the net zero goal "very impressive. None of our other partner governments have done that yet."

The city approved a power purchase agreement on April 30, 2013, with Martifer Solar to purchase solar power for 20 years, City Manager Matt Sturgeon said earlier this year. The city does not own and did not have to pay any of the installation cost of the solar arrays, nor does the city have any maintenance obligations, he noted. The city anticipates saving up to $500,000 in electric utility costs over the life of the agreement, Sturgeon added.

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Overall, Rifle's energy use was up by 0.6 percent in 2013 compared to 2012, Kaup noted. Last year's energy use essentially maintained saving gains that started in 2012, she added. Compared to 2011, the energy use in these seven facilities was 4.5 percent lower in 2013, Kaup wrote.

Energy spending at the seven Rifle facilities was up by 0.5 percent in 2013 compared to 2012, a difference of less than $1,400, she added. Compared to 2011, the city's 2013 energy spending was 14 percent lower.

Of the 126 residential energy retrofits the group oversaw last year through May of this year, Rifle had six, Kaup's report noted. Of 68 commercial retrofits, ten were done in Rifle, she added. Those included 6&13 Quick Mart, Bookcliff Car Wash, Bookcliffs Professional Building, Carquest Parts, Church of the Open Door, Eagle Springs Crossing, Meskin Enterprises, Rifle Truck & Trailer, Rocky Mountain Baptist Church and Subway.

Garfield Clean Energy is the state's first intergovernmental authority dedicated to clean energy. Its local government partners first joined together in 2009, under the umbrella of Garfield County, to work with governments, businesses and households to save energy and strengthen the economy. The collaborative formed as an authority in 2012. The City of Rifle is a founding partner in the organization.

CLEER: Clean Energy Economy for the Region is a nonprofit that manages the programs and services of Garfield Clean Energy under an annual contract.