Trustees discuss solar energy mandate |

Trustees discuss solar energy mandate

Nelson Harvey
Post Independent Contributor
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado

CARBONDALE, Colorado – How much of their energy usage should building owners in Carbondale be required to offset with solar power?

That was the question that Carbondale trustees considered Tuesday night, in another installment of their ongoing discussion on whether the town should adopt the International Green Construction Code.

The code establishes minimum standards for energy efficiency, waste reduction and renewable energy for new and existing buildings. Previous discussions about it among the trustees have been contentious, in part due to reservations held by some about imposing additional regulations on Carbondale business owners.

“I think it’s real easy for us to make rules for people that aren’t here and buildings that aren’t built,” said Trustee John Foulkrod, who has been the board’s most outspoken critic of the code. “We are just adding costs to people’s buildings because we are morally righteous.”

Trustee John Hoffman said he also wanted to know whether the “green” code would take longer for applicants to wade through than the town’s current rules.

Much of the board’s discussion Tuesday centered on identifying what fraction of a building’s total energy supply should have to come from solar.

“Is there a number that could work on any roof in town?” asked Mayor Stacey Bernot, addressing a group of local solar contractors and architects who were on hand to discuss the economics of solar power.

Bernot voiced concern that some smaller buildings in the downtown area might only be able to handle so much solar power on their roofs, and she suggested that perhaps the code could require the owners of those buildings to invest in additional solar capacity off-site.

Jeff Dickinson, the Sustainability Team Leader for the nonprofit Clean Energy Economy for the Region (CLEER), told the trustees that putting a solar requirement in the building code would essentially require builders to save money, since grid power is projected to increase by about 3.5 percent per year for the foreseeable future, and solar panels would allow building owners to hedge against those increases.

Solar energy is supported by a range of incentives from Colorado utility companies, as well as a 30 percent federal tax credit in place until at least 2016.

However, Bernot and other trustees also raised the possibility that the cost of solar could change as government incentives change.

“Maybe there is an annual evaluation of the code depending on what happens with rebates and tax credits,” Dickinson said, in response.

Dickinson said the code should emphasize energy efficiency before renewable energy, since not using power is better than having to generate it in the first place.

“Eat your efficiency vegetables before you have your renewable dessert,” he said.

The trustees will take up the International Green Construction Code again at their meeting on March 19.

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