CMC kicks off district-wide energy-efficiency upgrades
September 6, 2010
Newly arriving students at Colorado Mountain College in Glenwood Springs-Spring Valley may wonder why there’s large piles of dirt on campus. Well, construction started recently on new geoexchange heating and cooling systems for the library and residence hall there. It’s the first of many major projects on a year-long list of energy-efficiency upgrades planned across the 11-site college.”I am very excited about these projects,” said Nancy Genova, executive vice president for initiatives and innovations at the college. Genova is also CEO of the campus in Rifle. “For the past two years we have been looking at renewable energy sources that could help the college become more efficient in its energy usage.”The projects, at the residential campus south of Glenwood Springs, kick off $3.7 million in college-wide upgrades. The upgrades will save money or generate funds, are energy-saving measures that replace obsolete systems up for replacement, or are adaptations required to meet revised building codes. This year, a large part of the funding for these measures was generated by college administrators postponing less-urgent physical plant improvements and repairs, said Sam Skramstad, college-wide director of facilities. In addition to introducing geoexchange to replace aging boilers, across the college employees and contractors will be installing more efficient lighting and lighting occupancy sensors, adding gas and electric meters for each building, and putting in place water conservation measures. The goal of the combined measures is to save 15 percent in annual energy bills, Skramstad said. Lynne Cassidy, the college’s sustainability coordinator, said, “I’m proud to be working with such a resourceful facilities staff. They are really driving our college-wide sustainability efforts forward.”
The work supports the college’s pledge to meet the guidelines of the American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment. That pledge was signed by the president, Dr. Stan Jensen, last fall. This nationally recognized commitment requires the college to develop a comprehensive plan that sets a target date for achieving climate neutrality. In his speech at the signing of the commitment, Jensen stressed that measures the college takes to save energy and resources will also save money. “In these economic times, it’s important that we wisely invest every tax and tuition dollar,” he said. “We believe frugality and being green can, and should, go hand in hand.” The energy-efficiency steps were recommended through a college partnership with Aurora-based Ennovate Corp., which is one of 13 energy service companies qualified through the Colorado Governor’s Energy Office. During the past year Ennovate has been working with the college to complete comprehensive energy audits and then issue recommendations at each campus. “In signing the Presidents’ Climate Commitment, we have committed we’d get 15 percent of our energy from renewables within three years,” said Skramstad. “Once we have solar farms in place, we will have met that commitment.”
In June, at the same time the college’s board of trustees approved the budget that included energy-efficiency measures, the trustees also agreed to support the creation of three solar farms at CMC’s locations in Rifle, Leadville and Breckenridge. A request for proposals has been issued for the 100-kilowatt solar farms, which would be funded by third-party investors with a goal of lowering long-term energy costs at those sites. Under what’s known as a power purchase agreement, the investors pay all costs up front. The energy user pays the investors a flat rate for energy use, even as energy costs rise. Once the investors recoup their investment, the energy user – in this case, Colorado Mountain College – owns the solar farm and gets that electricity without having to pay a monthly bill. The ground-mounted solar farms will be built in Xcel Energy service territory to take advantage of that utility company’s current financial incentives. “Not only will the solar farms be a source of energy savings, but they also would be used as an educational tool for students studying solar technology,” Genova said. The college has been developing new academic courses that focus on preparing workers for jobs in the 21st century green market. Last year the Rifle campus started offering three solar energy certificate programs: Basic solar photovoltaic, solar thermal installation and photovoltaic installation. Several campuses are also offering courses to prepare contractors for certification as National Home Builders Association Certified Green Professionals, North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners and Building Performance Institute Energy Analysts.
On the east side of Quigley Library, workers are installing horizontal loops for geoexchange heating and cooling, Skramstad said. This ground source heat pump system circulates an antifreeze-type solution in plastic pipes buried below ground in order to take advantage of the relatively constant temperatures under the Earth’s surface. The new system at the library will replace a failing, 30-year-old boiler, he said. The project, which should be completed before November, is under construction by R & H Mechanical of Eagle and Rocky Mountain Geothermal of Centennial. Also underway at Spring Valley is a geoexchange system for Sopris Hall. To convert the residential hall to a more efficient heating and cooling system, workers are laying 88,000 linear feet of “slinky pipes,” or coils, on the west side of Sopris Hall between the parking lot and County Road 114. If stretched out to their full extension, the coils would be the equivalent of 293 football fields long.