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Dillon works to improve energy efficiency

Kathryn Corazzelli
Summit Daily News

Dillon may be a small town, but it’s trying to make a big splash nationally – in energy conservation. After working for three years to reduce non-renewable energy consumption and increase use of renewable energy sources in town buildings, staff has just entered the town hall into the 2011 ENERGY STAR National Building Competition: Battle of the Buildings.

ENERGY STAR is a joint program of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy, aimed at helping businesses and individuals protect the environment through energy efficiency. This is the second year for the contest, in which competitors go head-to-head to see who can reduce their energy consumption the most. There are 245 buildings from all across the country entered in this year’s contest. Finalists will be chosen in July, and a winner will be announced in November.

“The reason we entered is because the town has been doing so much about learning about energy conservation,” Dillon town planner Beverly Kaiser said. “The most amazing thing is all the various improvements we’ve been doing to town hall.”

Kaiser said the town has been working to improve energy consumption since 2008, and has a “green team” to monitor energy usage and create a conservation plan. The team includes town manager Devin Granbery, Kaiser, the public works department, and town treasurer Carri McDonnell.

In the town’s conservation report, mountain weather and the age of town buildings – which were built between 1961 and 1980 – are listed as challenges in the fight to be sustainable. Cooler weather at high altitude means buildings require heating most of the year, and all were built at a time when code requirements for insulation and efficient heating systems weren’t as stringent as they are now.

In 2009, the town had energy assessments performed at the town hall, the public works shop and the water treatment plant. The assessments included an “energy profile,” along with recommendations for energy conservation, renewable energy, and behavioral modification upgrades. After reviewing the assessments, town hall was selected as the most appropriate town building to receive upgrades, and about $100,000 for energy efficiency was included in 2010’s budget, Kaiser said.

Numerous improvements were made last year to the town hall, many to help “seal up” the building. Kaiser said new, efficient windows and blinds were added to the building to help keep heat in. Occupancy sensor light switches were installed in high-traffic areas, and inefficient light bulbs were replaced. Solar panels were installed on the building’s roof in October of last year – at a cost of $83,287 after rebates – and are anticipated to reduce the building’s electrical consumption by 26 percent, and be paid for through reduced energy bills in 11 years.

“Our goal was to make this an exemplary building.” Kaiser said.

Kaiser said the town must submit information regarding energy consumption from the past few years – and any received this year – to compete. She said there’s already been a drop in electricity bills, and she’s expecting an even more significant decrease once any snow is melted from the solar panels.

Kaiser said she entered the town hall in the contest not to win, but in the hopes of attracting attention, and thus more grant money for future projects. She said the town would like to put solar panels on the water plant, a large project which would require grant funding. The plant currently consumes almost three times more electricity than town hall.

“We really need some improvements to our water plant,” she said. ” That’s our biggest consumer of electricity.”

Funds for solar panels on all three town center bus stops, to provide electricity for interior lighting, have already been budgeted. Work will be done this year.

“The Dillon Town Council has established goals and objectives that promote energy efficiency and proactive environmental management,” said Granbery. “These efforts by the town show our commitment to these values of sustainability.”


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