Energy Initiative helps green Colorado’s communities


Putting it to work

Grand Junction, Mesa County, Fruita, Palisade and the Grand Junction Housing Authority jointly received $1.05 million of the $10 million in New Energy Communities Initiative grants distributed in 2008. Here’s a look at where it’s going:

• $300,000 to Grand Junction to help fund a project to convert excess methane gas at the Persigo Wastewater Treatment Plant into compressed natural gas to be used in fleet vehicles such as city trucks.

• $250,000 to Palisade for energy-efficiency upgrades and for solar panels on an old school building being converted to a community center.

• $200,000 to Grand Junction for solar panels that have been installed on the Two Rivers Convention Center and the city’s visitor center.

• $120,000 to Grand Junction to go toward greening downtown by evaluating redevelopment of two blocks, through measures that could include making the area walkable and bikeable, and including housing so people could live near downtown jobs.

• $100,000 to Fruita for energy-efficiency upgrades.

• $30,000 to the Grand Junction Housing Authority for a portion of its energy-efficiency upgrades on facilities.

• $50,000 for sustainability-management programs. The city will use half for an employee-education program on energy efficiency and sustainability. It will partner with Mesa County to use the rest for more community outreach regarding energy efficiency.

— Source: Kathy Portner, neighborhood services manager, city of Grand Junction

When Gov. Bill Ritter launched his New Energy Communities Initiative with $10 million in grants in 2008, the idea was to foster community programs in areas such as energy efficiency and conservation and carbon-emissions reduction.

It also tapped a new energy of another sort. Its focus on regional partnerships helped communities come together to work cooperatively on green energy projects.

That new cooperative energy has been apparent to participants involved in administering the largest of the grants, about $1.6 million given to a consortium of communities and other entities in Garfield County. The funding has been used for everything from helping pay for solar installations on public buildings, to distributing thousands of free energy-efficient light bulbs to residents.

Dave Sturges, an alternate on the Garfield New Energy Communities Initiative board, said the program has been one of the best cooperative efforts he’s seen between entities in Garfield County.

“I would say the GNECI has really been something extraordinary in building the focus on energy efficiency and trying to set up a system in which really all the community partners benefit,” Sturges said.

Karol Sacca, who lives outside Parachute, was thrilled when she was picked as a winner in a contest that offered energy testing of homes, and insulation and sealing.

“The guy was here the whole day to seal all these air leaks you’d never even think about,” she said. “… I was so excited. I was like, yes, let it turn cold now.”

The Governor’s Energy Office provided separate funds for that insulation program, said Alice Laird, director of Clean Energy Economy for the Region, the nonprofit that led the effort to get the Garfield grant. It’s an example of how the Garfield County coalition has pursued matching grants, utility partnerships and other ways of building on the original grant.

The 2008 grants were paid for using energy impact funds generated by traditional energy development. Now the Governor’s Energy Office is making $9.5 million available to small Colorado communities for similar programs by using federal stimulus bill dollars.

A coalition of entities in Mesa County was awarded just over $1 million in the 2008 grant program. Kathy Portner, Grand Junction’s neighborhood services manager, said the city was particularly happy to get $200,000 to install solar panels at Two Rivers Convention Center and the visitors center at Horizon Drive and Interstate 70..

“It likely would have been something that we could not have done without the grant,” she said.

Jack Kirtland of the state Department of Local Affairs said he’s seeing additional regional efforts take shape, such as one involving Delta and Montrose counties.


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