Carbondale’s Third Street Center recently became a net electricity generator, getting more than 100 percent of its operating electricity from the sun and using no natural gas for the first time in the building’s history — in short, it ran entirely on renewables and energy efficiency.
Building manager Mark Taylor and the staff of CLEER observed the milestone for the entire week of June 3–9, while reviewing Third Street energy use on the Energy Navigator, a system that records data about energy use in public buildings throughout Garfield County.
The achievement is considerable given the hundreds of community members who use the building on a weekly basis and the more than three-dozen tenants.
The building was renovated in 2010 with a deliberate focus on being as energy-, water- and resource efficient as possible to keep rents low for tenants and be a model of sustainability. Designed to maximize daylighting and retrofitted with energy efficient lighting, the building also has a limit on the amount of electricity per square foot that tenants can use. Another feature is the 52 kilowatts of rooftop solar panels, available through a solar lease arranged by Sol Energy, a tenant in the Third Street Center.
In recent months, the building also had a digital control system added to its boilers to keep them from running when not necessary. Taylor worked with CLEER and Chris Allen of Climate Control Co. to get the controls working properly. The result was that during June 3–9, the building also used no gas.
“Mark Taylor’s actions in paying careful attention to the building’s daily performance was key to getting to the 100 percent renewable mark for that week,” said Jeff Dickinson, the architect for the building’s green retrofit and who is helping buildings across the county save energy through CLEER’s energy management program.
“The revised tenant electrical policy along with the efficiency upgrades is where we’re getting the big electrical savings,” Taylor said. “The tenants’ awareness has been the difference, and I thank them.”
Taylor hopes to engage building users in ongoing efforts to keep the 100-plus percent use of renewables and efficiency going throughout the summer and into the shorter days of fall and winter. “Continuing to make green improvements to the building helps keep operating costs down, and Third Street tenants, visitors and community partners are a key part of making this possible,” Taylor said.
An additional 50.1 kilowatts of solar panels will be added in the coming months, allowing even more clean energy production.
Energy efficiency upgrades done in 2012 were made possible by grants from Garfield County ($26,000 for high efficiency heaters), the town of Carbondale (also $26,000 for high efficiency heaters), CORE ($10,000 for the thermostat wiring project), Aspen Ski Co. Environment Foundation ($9,447 for weatherization/air sealing), Xcel (a $13,000 rebate obtained by CLEER) and donors to Third Street.
The reduced energy usage can be seen in the Energy Navigator kiosk near the front entrance to the Third Street Center.