Campaign aims to power Breckenridge on 100 percent renewable energy

Achieving a 100 percent renewable energy goal isn’t some far-flung concept dependent on future technologies that will somehow revolutionize the way Summit County homes and businesses generate and use energy in the coming decades. Rather, it can mean an assortment of many things — most small, but some big — and these are action items that can be put into play right now, today, like changing out florescent light bulbs in favor of LEDs.

Solar panels are great when it comes to generating clean energy, but the best place to start is by seeking out an audit to identify a building’s unnecessary losses and improve efficiency. That’s according to a panel of four experts presented Wednesday night at the South Branch Library in Breckenridge.

The panel discussion was organized by members of the Breckenridge for 100 Percent Renewable Energy Campaign Committee, in conjunction with the High Country Conservation Center, more commonly known as HC3.

Featured on the panel were Cody Jensen with HC3, Eric Westerhoff of Innovative Energy and Global Solar; Mark Truckey, assistant manager for Breckenridge Community Development, and David Axelrod, co-founder of Broken Compass Brewing in Breckenridge. Organizers said their goal is to get Breckenridge to commit to being a 100 percent renewable energy town.

To help accomplish this, the panel featured an assortment of speakers, each with a unique perspective on the oft-discussed topic of sustainability. Together they tried to cover the issue from all angles, offering expertise from the prisms of the environmental group, the town, a solar panel installation specialist and a local business owner who’s been a local leader in efforts to go green.

During their remarks, Jensen tackled some of the many programs being spearheaded by the nonprofit, many of which are free to clients, and covered a few “low-hanging fruit” projects that just about anyone can do to reduce their energy costs.

After Jensen, Westerhoff went into the specifics of installing solar panels, highlighting many of the things people rarely consider upfront, such as south being the best direction to mount panels and how they might feed back into the power grid. Additionally, Truckey covered many of the incentives Breckenridge offers to help businesses pursue these energy initiatives.

Lastly, Axelrod described a few of the many things his brewery has already done, and plans to do, as it builds a new location and closes in on its 100 percent renewable energy goal.

“I mean, we’re in Summit County,” Axelrod said as he discussed one measure to improve efficiency. “I don’t know the exact percentage of the time the temperature is under 38 degrees — which is the temperature we keep our cooler — but I’m going to guess it’s probably at least 50 percent of the time. Now if I can put in fans and ducts, then I don’t have to turn the compressor on.”

The brewery’s also made a decision to put its glycol chiller — a refrigeration system that allows the brewery to quickly crash the temperature of its beer — inside the new building rather than on its roof.

“If we put that outside, first off we would have had to support the roof,” Axelrod said. “So we would have had to spend money on structural supports, engineering, all that. Instead, we simply mounted it to our concrete floor, and guess what, it has four industrial fans that blow the heat that it creates all over our building.”

Most simply put, Axelrod said sustainability just makes sense. Many of the moves begin to pay off almost immediately, and if people keep some of these things in mind, especially when they are beginning to build, they can find energy-saving “bumps” across the board, he said.

For the forum, organizers set out 35 chairs, and all but 10 went unfilled Wednesday. It wasn’t the turnout they had hoped for, but they found progress in the small group, nonetheless.

“The people who did attend are going to help by spreading the word,” said Beth Groundwater, chairwoman of the Breckenridge renewable energy campaign, who added that it underscores one of the biggest hurdles facing their efforts to drive forward sustainable living initiatives — reaching the people who can benefit most from this knowledge.

For someone in Summit County who’s interested in seeing what he or she can do to achieve a more sustainable structure — business or residence — Groundwater suggested looking to HC3 first. She said workers there provide a great resource, have all kinds of information and do much of their work free of charge, including free and low-cost energy audits. The website can be found at, and the organization can be reached via phone at 970-668-5703.

Anyone interested in following what’s going on with the Breckenridge for 100 Percent Renewable Energy Campaign, can email Groundwater at to get on her email list. Additionally, the campaign has a petition page at and a Facebook page at .

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