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Collaboration advances green building locally

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Spearheaded by the Paris Climate Agreement’s goal to keep global warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius, the Roaring Fork Valley is sprinting in the race to zero emissions with the help of international, federal, state, local and individual participation. Global emissions need to be cut in half by 2030 and be at net zero by 2050 to reach the science-based target. Therefore, governments and businesses are collaborating to implement, innovate and incentivize green building practices.

Amanda Poindexter is a green energy consultant for the town of Basalt. She said buildings are huge emitters, contributing up to 60% of greenhouse gas emissions in Basalt — residential at 28% and commercial at 32%. Building ordinances now require new developments and remodels to prepare for an all-electric future.

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Poindexter said Basalt’s ordinance “includes having electrical receptacles where your stove is or where your dryer is, to be able to switch the units if you would like to go electric in the future. Conduits and an EV charger must also be available in your garage, enabling this all-electric switch to be seamless.”

With increasingly warmer summers predicted, Roaring Fork Valley residences are installing heat pumps, an alternative to air conditioning units, and assuring buildings have tight air-sealing and are not leaking heat or coolness. Heat pumps can be retrofitted to work with existing ducts for forced air furnaces or can be a ductless addition to boiler systems, using the boiler as a backup.

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“We are really promoting using heat pumps because that one system can provide both heating and cooling, and they are super efficient,” Poindexter said. Heat pumps harness the temperature of the ground. “If you get a certain distance down, it pretty much stays the same temperature,” she explained. “Most animals live underground for a reason: because it’s a nice temperature.”

Federal, state and local governments are offering tax credits to Coloradans to help offset costs for installing heat pumps in the coming year. Heat pump rebates make the product competitively priced when considering replacing a furnace or boiler and adding central air conditioning. The savings will continue into the future with lower utility bills thanks to dynamic, renewable energy.

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Holy Cross Electric (HCE) has committed to getting 100% of its energy from renewables by 2030 and is well on the way. Along with solar, they have a Power Plus Program that leases Tesla Power Walls to members for battery storage.

“You can get up to five of those [batteries],” explained Mary Wiener, the energy efficiency program administrator for HCE. “It’s a lease program where you would pay for those over the next 10 years on your Holy Cross bill. We also give you credit for being able to use those batteries when we have a high peak occurrence.” HCE’s peak hours for energy usage are currently between 4 to 9 p.m. every day.

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Discharging the stored energy from the batteries during peak times allows HCE to avoid buying power from its wholesaler, Xcel Energy, at the highest rates.

Weiner encourages customers to precool, preheat and use their appliances during non-peak times. These batteries are also a helpful power storage backup for renewable energy, Weiner said, “We all know the wind doesn’t blow all the time, and the sun doesn’t shine all the time. We are investing in battery storage so that we have flexibility with the grid.”

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HCE is pushing electrification by incentivizing green alternatives. They offer rebates on solar, air sealing, insulation, heat pumps, LED lighting, evaporative coolers and more. Go to www.holycross.com for more information about their Power Plus program and to apply for rebates.

Three years ago, HCE, Colorado Mountain College (CMC), Sunsense Solar and a developer called Ameresco teamed up to install a 4.5-megawatt solar array near CMC’s Spring Valley campus between Carbondale and Glenwood Springs. Consisting of over 13,500 fixed and tracking solar panels and 68 battery stacks on 22 acres, it is Sunsense’s most extensive project to date. The storage capacity can send electricity directly to HCE’s distribution system, increasing resilience and reliability. Scott Ely, the owner of Sunsense Solar, said, “We are essentially building a solar power plant up there.”

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On Sept. 14, from 1 to 2 p.m., there will be a ribbon-cutting event for the new solar and battery storage project. It is free and open to the public.

To RSVP, visit coloradmtn.me/3PCNpzs

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Tags: #energy #green building #Holy Cross Energy #Sunsense Solar
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