Energy efficient projects good for the bottom line, and environment

New solar panels line the roof of the Palisade Pharmacy, 707 Elberta Ave. The $70,000 investment should pay for itself in less than four years, according to owner Walt Jorgensen.

Palisade Pharmacy’s $70,000-plus investment in a solar-power installation in the fall is “a fair amount of money,” admits owner Walt Jorgensen.

But in no more than four years, the investment will pay for itself, he said.

Xcel Energy and government rebates will pay for about two-thirds of the installation’s cost, and electricity savings will take care of the rest. It was an offer Jorgensen couldn’t deny was worth exploring after he watched his electrical bill inflate over the hot summer.

“After looking over the numbers, it seemed like the reasonable thing to do,” he said.

Energy efficiency became more affordable in 2010 as American Recovery and Reinvestment Act dollars helped fund rebates for solar-energy installations, renewable-energy projects and energy-saving appliances. Many federal tax credits and rebates offered through utility providers and the Governor’s Energy Office have been carried into this year, according to Darin Carei, president of EnergyWise Companies at 533 Bogart Lane, Unit F.

Rebates and a growing need for companies to reduce costs has increased business at EnergyWise, a company that performs energy audits for business owners and homeowners on the Western Slope. Carei said customers that go forward with limited efficiency upgrades usually save 20 to 30 percent on their utility bills.

This time of year, energy savings become especially enticing.

“Wintertime spurs interest for sure,” Carei said. “I think when people see wintertime utility bills, they want to see what you can do to reduce them.”

Grand Junction Chamber of Commerce President and Chief Executive Officer Diane Schwenke hoped the organization’s GreenBack$ program also would generate interest in making small-business buildings more energy-efficient. But Schwenke said companies have shown lukewarm interest in the program since its September launch.

“We did a focus group in December, and we’re looking at revamping it a bit,” she said of the program, which offers companies recognition for completing the majority of a series of checklists designed to reduce energy costs.

Schwenke said she understands some small businesses may not have energy-efficient projects at the top of their priority list, but going “green” was a top priority for GreenBack$ committee member Gwen DeCino when she and her two co-owners at MVM Mortgage decided to remodel in mid-2008. The company has a lease at their 321 Rood Ave. location that doesn’t leave them responsible for energy costs. So DeCino said savings weren’t a big part of the decision to use renewable-resource items such as corn-based carpeting and cork flooring, install energy-efficient windows and use eco-safe paint.

“It wasn’t the least expensive thing to do, but it was the right thing to do. The results have made a really comfortable space, which feels good,” DeCino said.

DeCino said creating a “welcoming environment” often is overlooked as a reason to use environmentally friendly materials, but it’s what sold her. An eco-friendly gallon of paint can cost twice as much as a gallon of regular paint, but the mortgage company saved money by doing much of the renovation themselves and buying everything locally.

Andy’s Liquor Mart, 922 N. First St., was also able to buy the 378 solar panels on its roof locally, as well as new compressors with LED cooler lighting and new, energy-efficient lights for the store. Store Manager Cindy Axelsen said rebates attracted the store to energy-efficient changes during its recent renovation.

“Everything we did was more expensive, but what we get back in the long run should be enormous,” Axelsen said.

The store hasn’t received all of its rebates yet, so the full savings isn’t known, but Axelsen said Andy’s already is experiencing energy savings. Customers can see on a screen inside the store how much gas and how many trees the store is saving by using solar power. The screen also shows a live view of the store’s solar panels.

Alpine Bank set lofty goals for its entire collection of buildings on the Western Slope. The company’s Green Team leadership, which consists of employees at various Alpine Bank locations who discuss ways to make the company more environmentally friendly, set a goal of reducing the bank’s energy consumption and paper use by 20 percent, reducing water use by 10 percent and cutting fuel used by the courier fleet by at least 25 percent, all by 2012.

Ben Van Hoose, vice president and manager of the bank’s Clifton location at 3243 Interstate 70 Business Loop, said the company is focusing in particular on meeting the energy-use goal.

“We’re either on target or have already reached the other goals,” he said.

Since the Green Team formed in 2005, the company has installed solar-energy systems, brought recycling to all of its buildings, upgraded lighting and paid for audits that gave them ideas for reducing water usage and making sure heating and cooling systems were as efficient as possible.


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