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What do Olympic medalists and the Carbondale Recreation and Community Center have in common? Their standard of performance is the best in their field—athletes for their physical accomplishments and the Rec center for its green environmental design. While the pinnacle of Olympic competitors can win the gold medal, facilities with high performing sustainability and operational solutions like the Carbondale Rec Center can achieve an internationally recognized LEED platinum certification.
LEED Awards for Green Energy
Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) is a “third party validation of green buildings.” LEED measures the sustainable practices from a building’s design through to daily operations “recognizing best-in-class building strategies” on a hierarchical performance system of accreditation: certified, silver, gold, and platinum. This rating system is comprised of a group of requirements that adapt to meet the diverse needs of various projects, ranging from schools to health care facilities to entire residential neighborhoods.
When a building applies for and earns a LEED certification, they also are connected to a global network of assurances, visibility, and lifecycle management that contribute to a return on their investment. The LEED council notes:
LEED-certified buildings cost less to operate, reducing energy and water bills by as much as 40%. Businesses and organizations across the globe use LEED to increase the efficiency of their buildings, freeing up valuable resources that can be used to create new jobs, attract and retain top talent, expand operations and invest in emerging technologies.
LEED-certified buildings give back. LEED certification increases property values and LEED buildings have faster lease-up rates and may qualify for a host of incentives like tax rebates and zoning allowances.
LEED certification levels do not only benefit municipalities and investors—communities win too. A White House Office of Management and Budget report in June 2012 found that energy efficiency investments in the “four preceding years” are expected to save $18 billion during the lifespan of the projects.
In Carbondale, Colorado, we have a hometown LEED champ: The Carbondale Recreation and Community Center has merited a platinum certification.
Carbondale Recreation and Community Center
The town’s medal vision was not one of competition, however. It was one of sustainability. Baker Design Group architect John Baker incorporated “energy conservation strategies” into the building plan, including lighting sensors, skylights, high efficiency irrigation and conservation, a construction waste management plan, along with the use of post-consumer and locally sourced materials. The Town of Carbondale planners liked what they saw and decided to go for a LEED certification.
“The REC center was going for silver, tried to make gold, and got it to platinum” says Sol Energy president Ken Olson, who installed the building’s rooftop 52 kW photovoltaic (PV) system.
Baker attributes the REC center’s platinum certification to Sol Energy’s “crown jewel” PV system. Their Expanded Case Study¹ states that solar energy provides two-thirds of the 14,400 sq. ft. multi-use facility’s needs. They anticipate a 49% reduction in electricity consumption and future energy cost savings of 54% as a result of all of the strategies combined.
Recreation Center Manager Eric Brendlinger credits the building’s design to the “light and airy” feeling indoors (75% of building is lit naturally due skylights) and to the overall energy efficiency.
“Our biggest asset is our 288 solar panels on our roof,” says Brendlinger.
Brendlinger adds that city staff and community members can track the facility’s energy production and usage at a kiosk in the lobby—a public education piece that is key to platinum certification. The kiosk has a touch screen connection to Garfield County’s Energy Navigator. The navigation website provides an ongoing analysis of renewable energy in buildings throughout the county.
“The REC center is a good example of a new breed of buildings which aspire to higher [clean energy] performance,” says Olson.
However, for Sol Energy and organizations like LEED who help communities develop, design, and understand green energy systems, money is not the “just reward.”
CLEAN ENERGY ADVOCACY:
Sol Energy’s vision of “A secure world, a healthy environment, and a prosperous economy with abundant, clean, renewable energies” aligns with the advocacy efforts of LEED. Neither believe that the winner is a single person or building, nor is the reward on a piece of metal dangling from a ribbon—it is a sustainable future that gets the prize.
JUST FOR FUN—MEDAL HISTORY:
A metal standard hierarchy goes back to Plato who classified “souls” into regimes (click here to learn more), including gold, silver, iron, and bronze. The first Olympians were given greenery—a palm branch—along with a decoration of red ribbons for their hair (it wasn’t until the 1896 Olympics that athletes were awarded with medals). Neither was solar energy rewarded during Ancient Greece. It was the norm, not the exception. In fact, they were the first to utilized passive solar in their architecture back in 400BC.
1 Baker Design Group, Expanded Case Study.
approached the in 2012 to propose installing solar energy systems on a variety of municipal facilities. Accompanied by a financial partner, Sol Energy President Ken Olson presented a plan to install solar electric “Photovoltaic (PV)” systems to supply 100% of the electricity consumed at eight municipal facilities.
Olson says: “The City of Rifle will pay nothing for the PV systems.”
That’s right $0.
How? Private investors finance the project. They pay for the systems and they own, operate and maintain the PV systems. The City will pay less for solar power generated on-site than it would otherwise pay for the coal-fired electricity it currently consumes.
Over the next twenty years the City of Rifle will realize a savings of over $400,000.
“The private investors win too,” Olson adds. “They benefit from Federal Tax Credits and other financial incentives. They earn a modest (~8%) return on a low-risk investment. It’s a Public-Private partnership with a ‘Win-Win’ strategy.”
This is not happening everywhere—so why is it happening in Rifle?
The City of Rifle has a broad vision with values for sustainable energy.
In 2006 the City of Rifle commissioned a for the purpose of assessing economic opportunities. The study recommended the City create “highly visible” centers of “alternative and renewable energy technologies.” They also found that Rifle possessed “great resources when looking at solar maps for both flat panel and concentrated solar heat technologies.”
The result was the draft of an “Energy Village” strategic plan: “Vision – Rifle shall strive to be a community that bridges the gap between the traditional fossil-fuel economy and the evolving renewable energy economy.”
The plan’s four primary objectives are:
-to lead by example,
-to create community partnerships in efficient and sustainable energy,
-to develop jobs and businesses in “renewable energy and sustainable industries,”
-to increase energy efficiency and sustainability.
The Rifle City Council moved forward with the plan in February of 2013 when they entered into a partnership with Sol Energy. Project construction is 50% complete. Systems include ground mounts, rooftop systems, an awning, and two carport canopies. The systems are currently under construction.
Once complete, March 2014, the Police Station, City Hall, Public Works, and five other facilities will derive 100% of their electricity from the sun. The City’s parks are home to PV systems for the Ballpark, Parks Maintenance office and shop, and irrigation pumping systems for the Parks and the Cemetery. Another PV system generates solar power for a Waste Treatment pumping facility.
Olson says citizens of the City of Rifle will see savings from solar energy immediately.
SEI administers the (SPAA) program with funding from the U.S. State Department’s (ECPA) at . The partnership is one with a mutual goal of fostering a future of sustainable energy. And Latin American is poised for a growth spurt in clean, sustainable energy due to newly established solar energy financial incentives.
Earth University in Costa Rica hosted two SEI workshops in November—a follow-up to two online learning courses earlier in the year—each with twenty-five students. The trainees from Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, and Panama converged at Earth University for practical experience in solar energy system design and installation. The students who varied in age and solar energy experience are independent business owners or employees, as well as government or government utility company employees.
One thing they all had in common was a passion to learn.
SEI Instructors Brad Burkhartzmeyer, Chris Brooks, Mike Sullivan, Karolina Fernandez, and Ken Olson taught the six day curriculum. Matthew Harris facilitated preparation and organization of the course.
SPAA’s comprised of: “a fundamental understanding of the basic concepts necessary to work with all PV systems, including: system components, site analysis, PV module criteria, mounting solutions, safety and commissioning.”
In the lab classes students learned how to install PV Systems with three different types of inverters:
Students were also introduced to a small PV lighting system which is gaining great popularity in the un-electrified world: The Barefoot Connect 600. The Barefoot Connect 600 is a plug-and play type of packaged PV system. A 6 Watt PV panel charges a small 12 Volt battery to power 4 LED light fixtures and a USB receptacle for charging cell phones. This type of PV system offers affordable and reliable solar powered lighting to the 2+ billion people on the planet who currently live without electricity.
“It’s exciting to connect with people who are hungry for knowledge and experience in the solar energy field,” Olson said. “They all went away with a working knowledge of current PV technologies and an incredible level of enthusiasm.”