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Colorado’s appraiser community plays a vital role in appropriately valuing characteristics residential homes including energy efficient improvements, and in providing information that can enhance home buying decisions to buyers and sellers.  Although energy efficient improvements may have an impact on the comfort of a home, the potential savings involved is currently not reflected in home sales.  In an effort to make  energy features of a home a standard part of every sale, Gov. John Hickenlooper has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Colorado Coalition of Appraisers and the Appraisal Institute.

 

As a result of this agreement, The Colorado Energy Office (CEO) will work with the Colorado Coalition of Appraisers across the state to identify and include various energy efficiency and renewable energy features in home valuations.    Earlier this year the CEO provided state wide technical assistance that resulted in  90% of Multi-List Services (MLS) in the state to include energy upgrade features of their homes listed for sale.  The MLS is an on-line catalog of all homes and properties for sale in a given area used in the real estate business.  Each listing contains detailed specifications of a given home describing its various selling points, but until now there has been no way to include information about energy efficiency upgrades. For the first time Coloradans now have access to this data in a convenient and standardized form, allowing them to make more informed decisions about home-buying.

 

By comparing the sale prices of homes with various energy efficiency or renewable energy features to the sale prices of otherwise comparable homes without those features, appraisers will be able to determine how many home buyers are willing to pay for such features, and so determine their market value.  In the months to come the CEO will work with appraisers in creating statewide forms and protocols for the data, as well as analyzing recent home sales to develop the comparative values, or “comps”, that appraisers use to set home prices.

 

The signing of this MOU increases the awareness regarding residential energy efficiency and provides education about the market value of energy efficiency to all Coloradoans.  

The Colorado Energy Office (CEO) has partnered with Colorado State University (CSU) to test Hydraulic Hybrid Vehicle (HHV) technology.   The CEO will provide funding for CSU to retrofit two medium-duty vehicles and track their fuel economy and  to study the economic viability and vehicle efficiency of hydraulic hybrid technology for future implementation in the Colorado market.  The project will also allow a local, innovative company to bid and contract with CSU on the labor work, helping demonstrate the use of a technology that does not currently have a proven commercial option in the market.  The end result will be significant potential cost savings for CSU in the form of fuel saved, data collection for future analysis and educational benefits for faculty and students.


HHVs use pressurized fluid instead of electric power like hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs) and can achieve up to 40% improvement in fuel economy as compared to conventional vehicles.  The ability to do so comes from the efficient use of the vehicle’s natural kinetic energy.  HHVs reuse up to 75% of the energy used in the braking process to reaccelerate the vehicle. In many cases hydraulic hybrid systems are more cost-effective than electrical hybrid systems because no intricate electrical materials are required.  All forms of gasoline engines can be retrofitted with a hydraulic system, significantly reducing fuel consumption.

 

This technology is currently being used by heavy-duty trucks with success.  There is large untapped potential for use in mid size vehicles that endure a high level of start-stop driving conditions - like shuttles, vans and buses. 

 

On November 9, 2011 Gov. John Hickenlooper signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin, Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead, and Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett that was designed to increase the use of natural gas vehicles in each state’s fleet.  The MOU called for a multi-state Request for Proposal (RFP) designed to encourage auto manufacturers in the U.S. to develop more functional and affordable compressed natural gas (CNG) vehicles.  On By October 5, 2012, a total of 15 Governors has signed the MOU and the multi-state solicitation results were announced. 

 

More than 100 bids were submitted by dealerships in 28 states representing Ford, Chrysler, General Motors and Honda.  Awards in Colorado went to Spradley Barr Ford in Greeley and GO Honda 104th in Westminster.   

 

 In Colorado, awards given through the multi-state RFP will allow the state to:

  • Save up to 19 percent below current CNG vehicle retail or conversion prices.
  • Offer at least four classes of CNG vehicle types to state and local fleets.
  • Extend the same vehicle savings to all local governments through the state’s bid list.
  • Purchase CNG vehicles as required by law if the lifecycle cost is within 10 percent of that of a gasoline vehicle.

 

Gov. Hickenlooper said the award will help move compressed natural gas vehicles into the marketplace, both in and outside of government.

 

The Colorado Energy Office (CEO) works closely with stakeholders across the state to focus on increasing the adoption alternative fuels vehicles, such as CNG.  The adoption of natural gas, a domestic resource, as a component of the state’s energy portfolio is an important economic measure as Colorado currently imports roughly 2/3 of its oil and exports 3/4 of its natural gas.

 

“This announcement represents a major success for CNG and even more importantly for our economy,” Hickenlooper said. “We believe this is the start of a national movement to add much-needed fuel diversity to our nation’s transportation sector while at the same time creating jobs and helping to grow local economies.”

The Colorado Energy Office, in conjunction with the Colorado Public Utilities Commission and the Colorado Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, has released the Colorado Energy Assurance Emergency Plan (CEAEP), a resource for the State of Colorado in preparing for, responding to and recovering from an energy sector power failure or electric power outage event.  With the growing importance of computerized communication, such outages have become more than an inconvenience; based off a recent Department of Energy study it is estimated that a statewide energy disruption would cost Colorado 19 to 49 million dollars of lost economic activity for every hour of outage.

 

Over the last two years the CEO and its partners convened stakeholders from all levels of government and the energy community to identify the many threats to energy production and delivery in Colorado, both from natural and human actions, and explore the capabilities of all the involved parties to deal with those threats.

 

The group developed a clearer understanding of the vulnerabilities and interdependencies across the energy sector and how they relate to emergency management preparedness, response and recovery.  Special attention was paid to cyber networks, which remain especially vulnerable to outside manipulation, and geomagnetic storms. While these events are exceedingly rare, they are important to address due to the magnitude of their impacts.

 

The project was funded by a grant from the Department of Energy to the Colorado Energy Office, and allowed Colorado to greatly improve the existing 2007 plan.  Specifically, it addressed the rapid growth of distributed generation from wind and solar sources, the development of new technologies such as the smart grid, and changes in infrastructure.

 

The plan, which was completed in May 2012, proved its worth during the several wild fires Colorado experienced during the summer by providing improved communication and situational awareness for responders.

National Plug In Day is Sunday, September 23, 2012, a nationwide event to spotlight the environmental and economic benefits of electric vehicles.  Locally, Denver Metro Clean Cities Coalition is hosting an event at the Forney Museum of Transportation from 11:00am – 3:00pm titled, “Electric Vehicles: Then & Now”, which will showcase EVs both new and old.  There will also be EV charging equipment on display with experts available to answer any EV questions.  

 

This year’s event may be more significant for EV awareness as gas process are increasing when historically they have decreased as summer driving season comes to an end.  Earlier this year gasoline became the biggest U.S. export as well. 
 

Colorado has made significant progress surrounding the mass implementation of electric vehicles since last year’s plug in day.  House bill 1258 which passed in spring, allows third parties to sell electricity to consumers for EV charging without having to be a utility provider.  The Chevy Volt, Nissan Leaf, and plug-in Toyota Prius are now available in Colorado with several additional models expected to be introduced in the coming months from Ford and others. 

 

The Colorado Energy Office (CEO) aims to build on this progress, working to diversify the state’s transportation fuels mix, focus on practical measures that will lead to greater adoption of more efficient alternative fuel vehicles, and utilize the local natural resources we have like natural gas and bio fuels.  Earlier this year CEO’s greening government program introduced the first plug-in hybrid vehicle to the state fleet, continuing its efforts to reduce state petroleum use by 25%.   

    

CEO is exploring further ways the State can work with local governments and the private sector to make it easier to purchase and/or finance EVs and EV infrastructure.

 

Electric Vehicles Facts:

  • According the Department of Energy, there were around 20,000 hybrids sold in their first 18 months on the market.  In the last 18 months, it’s estimated that 35,000 plug-in vehicles have been sold. 

  • Some studies have shown that the cost of ownership of an electric vehicle is lower than a gasoline or hybrid vehicle in the same class.

  • Innovation in batteries and vehicle technologies are continuing, which will have benefits beyond transportation. 

For more info on electric vehicles, check out The Electric Ride website.

Spirae, a Ft. Collins company, specializes in the advancement of electrical power grid systems management.  Spirae’s team of experts’ work to improve the way in which electricity from any source, including renewable energy, can be reliably and efficiency distributed to consumers at a lower cost.

 

In 2010 The Colorado Energy Office (CEO) awarded Spirae a $150,000 grant to upgrade equipment in their InteGrid Lab, one of the most advanced grid simulation laboratories in the world. The InteGrid lab allows power system operators to simulate scenarios to determine best practices in distributing electricity, especially when dealing with large amounts of power coming from variable sources such as wind farms and PV arrays.  Specifically, the funding enabled Spirae to purchase new workstations, monitors, power meters, network and data concentrators and system software.  As a result, Spirae can now provide improved lab experiences for both technicians and engineers, which help facilitate advancement, visualization and simulation of Smart Grid.

 

The $150,000 grant has since been applied to the broader CSGA initiative that represents a $1.32 million effort, leveraging an additional $1.17 million.  As a result of those funds leveraged, a three-course smart grid training program for technicians is now available through Front Range Community College, as well as a three-course smart grid training program for engineers through Colorado State University. More than 75 Colorado-based students will attend these smart grid courses in 2012.

 

Spirae will host Smart Grid Live, in September 25-27, 2012, as a gathering of technology firms and utilities from around the world, governmental officials, university personnel, and other stakeholders in the smart grid industry. This event will include equipment funded by the CEO, as well as current smart grid technologies, designed to further establish Colorado as a smart grid hub.

Companies hoping to introduce emerging technologies into the energy market face a variety of financial barriers.   These technologies are often capitally intensive to develop and frequently must through extensive field testing, even trial installations, to demonstrate their value.  This process can require tens of millions of dollars – an amount that is often more than most venture capitalists are willing to lend.  At the same time, until these emerging technologies are demonstrated and proven, they carry a greater risk than most commercial lenders find acceptable when evaluating a prospective investment.  This creates a funding gap that leaves many promising new products stranded, without the resources required to go to market.  Recognizing that these market barriers can inhibit the rate of innovation, finance barriers in particular, the Colorado Energy Office (CEO) used approximately $16.26million of American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (ARRA) funding to establish a revolving loan fund (RLF).  

 

What is the RLF?

The purpose of the RLF is to provide financing for eligible and extraordinary projects and companies that promote energy efficiency and/or, renewable and conventional technologies, yet have exhausted their equity financing (e.g. venture capital funding) and are unable to obtain traditional debt financing.  The idea is to provide these companies and projects the funding required to deploy and commercialize innovative energy technologies in an effort to create jobs and spur growth and sustainability for the future.

 

How it Works

Borrowers interested in participating in the RLF start by submitting an application to the Colorado Energy Office.  After an extensive application review process (explained below), approved applicants will begin the loan process. Once the loan is closed, the borrower will receive the funds and will use them towards the agreed upon work. Borrowers will be responsible for abiding by the loan terms which include loan default provisions, as well as participating in a post-loan review process that aims to ensure that all funds have been used appropriately per the terms of the loan agreement. As payments from outstanding loans are received, CEO will “revolve” them and lend them to new applicants.  All loans are securitized and paid back in full.

 

The Evaluation Process

In considering loan applications, the CEO first analyzes the financial strength of the applicant. The CEO then considers a number of criteria, including: job creation, consumer savings, energy security, environmental impact, and whether the applicant has exhausted all other funding possibilities.

Since its inception the RLF has made seven loans totaling $10.4 million, committed to lending another $3.6 million for two additional loans, and has two potential loans still in the approval process(for $2.7 million).  Several of the loan recipients have already begun repaying their loans and as payments from outstanding loans are received, CEO will “revolve” them and lend them to new applicants. In doing so, the CEO will maintain a source of funding for new energy technology companies, and foster a creative, innovative energy business environment in Colorado.

Since 1989 Energy Outreach Colorado(EOC) has helped Coloradans in need by providing grants to qualifying affordable housing organizations, multi-family residences and nonprofit facilities to pay for energy efficiency upgrades such as insulation, efficient lighting and Energy Star appliances. 

 

In 2009 EOC was selected by the Colorado Energy Office to administer a weatherization grant program for large, multi-family residences in Colorado, with the goals of saving energy and reducing utility costs.  The grant program was funded by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA).

 

During the 2009-2010 grant cycle EOC weatherized more than 1,000 housing units, with another 1,000 units completed during the 2010-2011 grant cycle.  Among these were two noteworthy projects in Denver; Allied Jewish Apartments and Maltese Cross Manor.  Both buildings are senior citizen community buildings that provide quality, affordable housing for residents on fixed incomes, experiencing increasing energy costs.   

 

The buildings had been built between 1966 and 1983, and containing inefficient and outdated building systems.  Newly developed modeling software was used to calculate the cost-effectiveness for each building and look for opportunities to improve efficiency and address health and safety issues.  This allowed EOC to see the proposed measures working together, and optimize energy performance for each project.

 

The Allied Jewish Apartments contain 3 buildings with 399 units, totaling 297,500 square feet.   Before the energy retrofits the apartments spent on average $292,600 in utility costs a year.  After the upgrades Allied Jewish expects to save $86,359 in utility costs per year, a 33% annual savings.  The upgrades also equate to an avoidance of 1,313,187 lbs of CO2 emissions annually.

 

Maltese Cross Manor also experienced significant savings.  The 132,129 square foot high rise contains 158 units historically spending upwards of $111,600 per year in gas and electric costs.  After the energy retrofit the building looks to save $58,864 in annual utility costs, a 52% annual savings. 

The Colorado State Fairgrounds, located in Pueblo, is home to Colorado’s largest summer event, The Colorado State Fair.  The 11-day expo welcomes over half-a-million guests and features close to 440 commercial and food vendors.  In addition to the State Fair, the fairgrounds, who employ nearly 400 year-round jobs, also host many other events throughout the year such as concerts and carnivals.  Operating on a tight budget and facing increasing utility prices, the fairgrounds needed a way to reduce growing expenses.    

 

In accordance with executive orders D 014 03 & D 011 07, and in partnership with the Colorado Energy Office (CEO), the Colorado Department of Agriculture, who runs the fairgrounds, turned to CEO’s Energy Performance Contracting (EPC) program to save energy and help drive some of these utility costs down. 

 

The EPC program is a financing mechanism used to pay for energy and water efficiency improvements all at once, that are then paid back through annual utility savings. The EPC program helps State entities - like The Colorado State Fairgrounds - contract with an Energy Service Company (ESCO) to complete the retrofits and verify the annual utility savings.  The ESCO performs a technical energy audit of the facility, conducts a cost-benefit and total lifecycle cost analysis on resource-saving and alternative energy options, then presents the estimated savings to the agency. 

 

Partnering with CEO helped the agency decide if an EPC made sense.  After identifying that it did, CEO helped outline the scope of the project and review their technical energy audit.  Recently, the energy efficiency upgrades were completed on the fairgrounds and were applied to over 50 buildings.  The upgrades include:

 

  • Lighting Retrofits and Lighting Controls
  • Water Retrofits
  • Vending Misers (periodically cycles vending machines off during unoccupied times)
  • Programmable Thermostats
  • HVAC upgrades

 

The project cost $1.78 million to complete with an estimated payback time of 11.8 years, which translates to an energy and water savings of more than $150,000 per year for the fairgrounds.  The following savings are guaranteed as a result of the EPC energy efficient upgrades for the Colorado State Fairgrounds facilities: 

 

  • Total Energy Savings: 7,293 MMBTU
  • 1,477, 476 kWh/annually
  • 424 kW demand reduction
  • 23,529 therms reduction
  • 2,583 kgals

 

“The energy performance contract provided the Colorado State Fair with a terrific opportunity to help improve our utility infrastructure, improve visitor experiences, reduce the immediate costs of our water and power demands, and control the impact of long-term increases in utility costs,” said State Fair General Manager, Chris Wiseman.

 

In addition to these audits, the fairgrounds received utility rebates of $51,630 from Xcel and Black Hills that helped their total cost for the upgrades.

Recently, iCAST, a Colorado-based nonprofit, partnered with The Gates Family Foundationand Funding Partners, a Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI), to develop ResourceSmart for Nonprofits - an energy efficiency improvement program that provides a simple way to achieve energy savings. 

 

ResourceSmart for Nonprofits is a one-stop shop for energy efficiency improvements that aim to remove barriers for nonprofits across the State by offering a unique combination of energy assessments, contractor recruitment and management, incentives, rebates, financing, and inspections and final quality checks.

 

The financing component of the program will be supported by the Colorado Energy Office (CEO), through its Green Colorado Credit Reserve (GCCR), a loan loss reserve that serves as a risk-sharing mechanism to lenders that make loans towards energy efficiency improvements. 

 

The GCCR will share the risk of the loan default by setting aside a certain percentage of each loan that Funding Partners make in case the loan defaults, thereby limiting Funding Partners’ losses and allowing the organization to offer more attractive financing terms to nonprofits.  This is a critical component to the program considering nonprofits typically operate on a very constrained budget, making this a very attractive financing package for qualifying organizations.

 

Joe Rowan, Director of Funding Partners, recognizes the added value the GCCR brings to the program;

“Provided the impetus to explore new partnerships, in particular the charitable foundation community, under a program that would deliver numerous and mutually beneficial impacts. The offered terms of the program are priced well below that which we would otherwise consider (3.5%) because of the GCCR. Additionally, Funding Partners would normally seek to offer shorter loan terms to help limit long term risk exposure and pricing would need to be much closer to market rates (6%+), both of which would drastically alter the cost-benefit calculus to the borrowing entity.”

 

The benefits of this program not only affect individual non-profits, but the non-profit community as a whole by shaving costs that will allow them to continue vital community services while remaining financially sustainable. This sustainability is expected to open new markets and build confidence in lending institutions to make more loans to local organizations.  

In April 2012, the City of Lakewood held its annual Sustainability awards recognizing Jefferson County Public Library’s energy efficiency upgrades at the Belmar and Lakewood libraries. An audit conducted in 2011 resulted in upgrades that support the City of Lakewood’s Community Sustainability goals and policies towards conserving water supplies, promoting increased energy efficiencies, and reducing overall energy demands. The goals for Jefferson County Libraries are to conserve resources, reduce carbon emissions, and increase the environmental and financial sustainability their buildings.

 

Working with 10 buildings that serve almost 300,000 members and a tight budget, the library system turned to the Governor’s Energy Office (GEO) for assistance. The GEO’s Energy Performance Contracting (EPC) program offered the most cost effective option for the libraries to complete their upgrades. The EPC program is a financing mechanism used to pay for energy and water efficiency improvements all at once, that are then paid back through annual utility savings. The EPC program helps public entities - like Jefferson County - contract with an Energy Service Company (ESCO) to complete the retrofits and verify the annual utility savings. The ESCO performs a technical energy audit of the facility, conducts a cost-benefit and total lifecycle cost analysis on resource-saving and alternative energy options, then presents the estimated savings to the agency. The GEO also provided technical assistance to the libraries, helping them navigate the process and ensuring that the service providers maintain the highest levels of quality. More information on GEO’s EPC program can be found HERE.

 

The actual savings per building will be calculated over time, however, the library system expects to save 1,851,069 kWh in electricity, 26,959 therms in gas, and 438 kGal in water each year. This is an estimated $145,265 annual savings in utility costs (at current utility rates). These one-time energy upgrades will help minimize environmental impacts, and will continue to save the libraries money well into the future.

On April 25th, 2012, Colorado’s Wind for Schools (WFS) program was given a Wirth Chair award for its successes incorporating wind energy into schools statewide.  This year marked the 13th anniversary of the Wirth Chair Sustainability awards ceremony that celebrates and recognizes those who create and ensure a sustainable future.   

 

The WFS program was launched in 2005 as a collaborative effort between the Governors’s Energy Office (GEO), Colorado State University (CSU), the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL).  The initial pilot project was located in Walsenburg Colorado.  Since then, the Colorado Wind Application Center at CSU and the GEO has selected nine K-12 schools across the State to participate in this program.  Three more schools will have the program implemented later this year.

 

The Governor’s Energy Office facilitated the WFS program statewide by providing technical, financial, and managerial support.  Each school received a $5000 grant from GEO to help purchase and install the turbines.

 

The Program is designed to engage school teachers and students in wind energy education.  A wind turbine located at the school provides a physical hands-on example of wind energy and its applications. Students and community members learn about operating costs and maintenance while initiating discussion of its benefits and potentials for the economy and environment. This experience provides students with a background in wind energy as they move into college and higher education.  Each school operates a Southwest Windpower Skystream 1.8 kW machine.

 

To date, 11 states have implemented the Wind for Schools program resulting in over 95 systems installed throughout the country.  A full list of school wind projects can be found HERE.  The program has continued its successes at the University level aiming to develop a strong workforce for the future.

If you’re a city manager, you know that street lights are expensive to maintain, and because they use a lot of energy, expensive to keep on.  As a result, more and more communities are changing their street and traffic lights to LED lighting.

 

LED stands for Light-Emitting Diode(a diode is the simplest form of semiconductor).  An LED does not contain a filament, as an incandescent bulb does, and they don’t get nearly as hot.  An LED by itself is small, about the size of a pencil eraser, but a street light may contain hundreds of them.  The more LEDs in a given fixture, the brighter the light.  LEDs used in other devices, such as flat-screen TVs, are smaller.  
 
 

Through its Street Lighting Demonstration Grant Program, the Governor’s Energy Office made funds available to qualifying communities to pay for the installation of LED street lights, effectively cutting their energy costs in half. Communities are measuring their energy and dollar savings to track the return on investment.In the northeast corner of Colorado the town of Sedgwick (pop. 191) replaced all 53 of their street lights with LEDs.  The local energy supplier, Highline Electric Association, saw this as an opportunity to promote their existing energy efficiency efforts, demonstrate a new technology, and save the town over $3,300 a year in energy costs. The City of Fountain, south of Colorado Springs, elected to put LED lights in two very prominent areas, the space around the Fountain City Hall, and the intersection of Highways 85 & 16 in Fountain. A total of 24 energy inefficient mercury vapor lights were replaced with LED fixtures, leading to a measured reduction in energy use of 57%.   

 

The advantages of LEDs are many.  They use much less energy than the standard street light, leading to a sharp reduction in energy costs.  They can last 12-15 years longer, which is three times the lifespan of a standard street light.  That can save a city a lot of money in replacement costs.   Further cost savings can be achieved by dimming the lights at dawn and dusk when less street light is needed (conventional street lights cannot be dimmed). In contrast to the standard mercury-vapor street light, LED lights don’t contain harmful compounds, they turn on instantly, they don’t attract insects, and because virtually all the light they emit goes toward the street, they don’t create any annoying light pollution.

 

With all these things going for them, you might wonder why more cities have not made the switch.  The answer is money; LEDs are more expensive than standard lights.  With the initial investment being higher than the standards lights, communities have put off installing this energy-saving technology. 

 

Still, the benefits of LED street lights are many, and their cost is dropping each year.  The GEO hopes that these projects will provide communities with information and data to help them plan for their own installations in the future. 

The Roaring Fork Transit Authority (RFTA) recently announced their plans to purchase 22 fleet buses operating on compressed natural gas, opposed to traditional diesel fuel.  Continuing their work on diversifying the State’s transportation fuels portfolio, the Governor’s Energy Office (GEO) met with RFTA’s CEO Dan Blankenship to evaluate the feasibility of operating the fleet with CNG fueled buses.  This conversation began at a local level including partners Aspen Strategy Center and Clean Energy Economy for the Region (CLEER), eventually leading RFTA to GEO, helping them decide to purchase a new CNG fleet.

 

GEO’s transportation program realizes transportation fuels are a major component of Colorado’s energy portfolio, focusing its efforts on finding solutions to barriers that prevent the adoption of alternative fuels in the State. 
 

The decision to go with CNG rather than diesel was driven by economics and the volatility of the price of diesel. For RFTA, the cost of diesel has risen 15% since January 1, 2012, while CNG averages about $2 dollars per gallon equivalent nationally.

 

RFTA received a grant to purchase buses from Encana, and an offer for a long-term fuel contract from Chesapeake Energy. $6,706,000 in Qualified Energy Conservation Bonds (QECBs) awarded through a competitive application process managed in Colorado by the GEO.

 

QECBs provide a federally subsidized, low-cost financing option that was authorized by the US Congress in 2008, and was expanded in 2009 by the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (ARRA).  More on QECBs and project eligibility requirements can be found HERE (LINK).

 In 2004 the Governor’s Energy Office (GEO) provided funding to the Road Department of Costilla County in south-central Colorado for a facility to turn canola or sunflower seeds into diesel fuel (biodiesel), a project designed to promote the economic development of the entire San Luis Valley.  Farmers in the area would grow the canola and sell it to the county. The county would create the biodiesel for use in county vehicles, avoiding the cost of buying petroleum diesel and having it trucked in.   Air pollution in the San Luis Valley would be reduced by replacing the petroleum diesel with clean-burning biodiesel, and the project would create three full-time (and three part-time) jobs. 

 

It was working well until energy costs started to climb.  Although the biodiesel process is not complicated, it does require the oil to be heated to 180 degrees, and heating by electricity was proving to be expensive.  Costilla County has no infrastructure for natural gas delivery, so they turned to solar. 
 

Once again the GEO was able to help, using funds from the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (ARRA) to provide 80% of the necessary capital for the purchase and installation of nine SunEarth solar collectors.  Since January 2011 the solar array has allowed capacity to grow by 25%, and both production and jobs are expected to grow as more customers are found for the fuel.

 

All the fuel produced now goes to the Costilla County Road Department for their trucks and graders.  It’s cheaper than petroleum-based diesel, emits far fewer emissions, and all the money spent is kept right in the county.  In addition, the solar array produces excess heat that can be used to heat the 10,000 sq. ft. building, saving even more money for the county, and further increasing the project’s value with estimated annual savings exceeding 23,500 kWh, or $3,400, and 17 tons of carbon emissions avoided.

 

“GEO support for the Costilla County Biodiesel Solar Thermal Project was critical in that it allowed the county to leverage its own funds to develop an innovate solar thermal system that has increased savings and efficiency at the biodiesel facility, which helps to support the long-term economic and environmental benefits of local biodiesel production and helps to preserve the three full time jobs created by the facility.”    Ben Doon, Chief Administrative Officer to the Board of County Commissioners, Costilla County

The Colorado Energy Office’s (CEO) Greening Government program works closely with state agencies to help them reduce their energy use by identifying energy efficient technology that will help lower energy costs and lessen the environmental impact of state government operations.

 

Recent research by the state’s Office of Information Technology (OIT) and the CEO found that many state desktop computers are left on full power, even when they are not in use.  To resolve this issue the OIT installed the Big Fix Power Management Software on 11,000 state-owned computers This tool will put a desktop monitor into sleep mode after fifteen minutes of inactivity, and put an entire computer (CPU) into sleep mode after 45 minutes.  The computer will awake when the mouse is moved, or when any key is tapped.  Information will not be lost; the software automatically saves all user data before beginning any sleep or shut-down procedure.  And users never notice it; it runs silently and invisibly.

 

This investment will allow the OIT to establish consistent settings for all desktops within each department and achieve state mandated energy savings goals. In addition, OIT will be able to more efficiently manage and update department software.

 

While purchase and installation of the Big Fix Management Software will cost around $100,000, the state expects to save from $15-$45 a year for each of the 11,000 computers using it, with total savings in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, and a payback time of less than a year. If the results from the first group of users are as positive as expected, the software will be installed on the remaining 22,000 state computers, and energy savings will increase accordingly.