Mountain Village is green country

Green Gondola Project

Words by Nichole Zangara / Environment

What color is Mountain Village? The correct answer is not beige, as one visiting journalist suggested (after an all-too-cursory look-see). Somehow he missed the white. Mountain Village is an embarrassment of snow white this winter, perhaps from some breaking open of its karmic piggybank. And he missed the green, green as in sustainable, energy efficient, and environmentally conscious.

In 2009, Mountain Village adopted the State of Colorado’s Climate Action Plan goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from government operations 20 percent by the year 2020. To reach this ambitious goal, the town implemented a long list of efficiency and conservation projects in all government buildings and facilities, including the gondola, where all lights were upgraded to LEDs. This project alone reduced the electricity used for gondola lighting by 70 percent and carbon emissions by 100 tons annually.

By 2015, Mountain Village achieved a 22 percent reduction in emissions, five years ahead of schedule.

Green Gondola Project
Opened in December 1996, the gondola that operates between “uptown” (Mountain Village) and “downtown” (Telluride) is, as conceived, a green-leaning machine: by hauling roughly 2.5 million passengers each year for free, it keeps cars off the road and prevents an estimated 45,000 tons of carbon dioxide in vehicle emissions from entering the environment annually. (The drive between Mountain Village and Telluride is eight miles.)

What’s more, the gondola’s very existence is in keeping with the vision of the founders that Mountain Village, incorporated in 1995, one day becomes a pedestrian-friendly community where guests can leave their cars behind and access the surrounding mountains by a free and environmentally-friendly public transportation system.

“The gondola is an integral part of the Mountain Village lifestyle,” explained Deanna Drew, Mountain Village’s environmental services director. “It deserves to be as green as possible.”

But the gondola, a solution, also became part of the problem: it takes energy a lot of energy – approximately two million kilowatt hours of electricity a year or nearly half of the Mountain Village government’s total electricity demands – to run the popular people-moving machine.

Enter the Green Gondola Project, which for the past four years has further assisted with the reduction of emissions from the gondola as it allowed the town to raise money through online donations, collection boxes at terminals, and other programs to offset the large amount of electricity that is needed to power the gondola with alternative energy sources.

To date, funds collected through the Green Gondola Project have opened the door for significant solar panel installation on gondola terminals: 160 solar panels at Station St. Sophia and Station Village Parking, bringing the total amount of clean green energy generated annually by the sun to about 60,000 kilowatt hours. Count the zeroes: that’s a significant amount of electricity.

So with the Green Gondola Project’s success, the need for public donations comes to an end; the project has served its environmental purpose well. Mountain Village is now using town funds collected from its green building program and miscellaneous energy rebates and grants to pay for the installation of additional solar panels throughout town. Of course, these efforts will continue to drive Mountain Village’s 22 percent reduction in emissions northward.

And, as Mountain Village has done since 2007, the town continues to offset 100 percent of the gondola’s remaining traditional electricity needs with renewable energy Green Blocks purchased from its electricity provider and partner, San Miguel Power Association.

While no doubt central to the overall plan, the Green Gondola Project is not the whole sustainable story. Other Mountain Village environmental programs include a residential and commercial rooftop solar rebate program; Relight Mountain Village, a highly subsidized program designed to encourage property owners to replace inefficient light bulbs with LEDS; a community noxious weed control incentive program; water conservation incentive program; and a new wildfire mitigation incentive program with the Telluride Mountain Village Owners Association and Telluride Fire Protection District as partners.

“Mountain Village is taking steps to reduce our community’s impact on the environment by leading by example and using carrots rather than sticks. Our current Town Council is very supportive of conservation initiatives, and that is something we can all be proud of,” Drew said.

Mountain Village greens its gondola with energy-efficient LED lighting

Relight Mountain Village

Words by Nichole Zangara / Environment

The Mountain Village gondola to Telluride is already a green machine: its existence keeps cars off the road and prevents an estimated 45,000 tons of carbon dioxide in vehicle emissions from entering the environment annually.

However, this spring the alpine resort community, Mountain Village, took their greening one step further by installing energy-efficient LED lighting throughout all gondola terminals, a project that is expected to reduce the electricity used for lighting by 70 percent and overall carbon emissions by another 100 tons per year.

“Many thanks to the Mountain Village gondola maintenance staff who worked diligently throughout the spring closure to install the new lighting in time for summer. As the region’s number one tourist attraction, the gondola serves 2.5 million riders every year and is an excellent opportunity to promote energy efficiency to our residents and guests alike,” said Deanna Drew, the town’s environmental services director.

The Town of Mountain Village was incorporated in 1996 to compliment the historic community of Telluride and to host the world-class Telluride Ski and Golf Resort. Moreover, it was always a vision of the original founders that the town be a pedestrian-friendly community where guests can leave their car behind and access the surrounding mountains by a free and environmentally-friendly public transportation system.

“The gondola is an integral part of the Mountain Village/Telluride lifestyle,” explained Drew. “It deserves to be as green as possible.”

Mountain Village hired longtime resident and energy-efficient lighting design expert Chris Myers from enLIGHTen of Telluride for the project. In total, 338 fixtures and bulbs were upgraded, which are estimated to reduce the gondola’s overall electricity by five percent and save over 100,000 kilowatt hours per year.

”The newer more inviting LED lighting not only saves electricity and reduces carbon emissions, it also improves the gondola appearance and experience,” said Myers. “It is really heartening to see our local governments take such strides in making intelligent decisions for saving energy and protecting our environment.”

The project cost approximately $30,000, with $12,000 reimbursed from San Miguel County through the Green Projects Grant Program, administered by EcoAction Partners, and another $10,000 in estimated rebates from San Miguel Power Association.

“The EcoAction Partners Green Projects Grant Program was funded by San Miguel County through a one-time energy use fee. All awarded projects measurably reduce greenhouse gas emissions through energy efficiency and other innovative means. Once all projects are complete, over one billion pounds of carbon will be reduced for the lifespan of the projects, which is typically 20-plus years,” said Drew.

In 2014 the Mountain Village government reduced its overall energy use and greenhouse gas emissions 22 percent below 2010 levels, including a five percent reduction in gondola emissions. Before the grant and rebate are applied, the project has a simple payback period of 2.2 years and a 46 percent return on investment.

Second and final 2015 LED bulbs sale begins Monday; over 3,700 bulbs sold in March and April

Relight Mountain Village

Words by Nichole Zangara / Environment

Mountain Village announced today that it is offering its residents and business owners a second opportunity in 2015 to save money and energy by switching from inefficient light bulbs to new light-emitting diode technology (LEDs). In partnership with San Miguel Power Association (SMPA) and Cooperative Business Lighting Partners, the program Relight Mountain Village provides instant rebates and exclusive offers to those who purchase LEDs at greenlivingtown.com. The online order period begins June 15 and will run until midnight July 31. Program participants can expect to save up to 75 percent for each LED bulb they purchase.

“With many new community members participating in the program this year, we are confident that the pool of rebate money will run out before the end of the last order period,” observed Environmental Services Director Deanna Drew. “And it is not clear if SMPA will continue to offer their LED rebates in 2016, so now is the time to take advantage of this energy and cost-saving program.”

In an effort to reduce waste, bulbs will be delivered in bulk and available for pickup at Town Hall Plaza. Customers will be contacted via email regarding the specific date and time for this pickup event.

As for program rules, participants can order up to 50 common LEDs 300 lumens or greater per meter per year. This limitation ensures that everyone has the opportunity to change the environmental landscape and their monthly electricity bill for the better. Other types of bulbs such as tube lighting and bulbs less than 300 lumens have different rebate guidelines and amounts, which will be automatically calculated during the online ordering process.

Once LED bulbs are installed Drew suggests placing any unwanted incandescent light bulbs in the trash, but warns that fluorescent tubes and compact florescent bulbs contain mercury, a hazardous material that must be properly recycled or disposed of according to San Miguel County guidelines. For more details, visit lamptracker.com. One can also sell or donate their old bulbs and fixtures that still work.


2015 Relight Mountain Village Results

Once again, Relight Mountain Village has proven that the Mountain Village community cares about using energy wisely and is committed to reducing its overall energy demand. Following are the results from the 2015 winter LED bulb sale.

• Total town rebate amount: $11,258
• Total SMPA rebate amount: $22,561
• Total number of LED bulbs purchased: 3,761
• Total number of Mountain Village/SMPA customers: 63
• Total number of residential customers: 56
• Total number of commercial customers: 7
• Top three most popular LED bulbs: standard bulb (1), can lights (2), track lighting (3)
• Total amount of annual greenhouse gas emissions avoided: 107 metric tons of carbon dioxide
• Total number of trees saved: 21,786
• Total acres of trees planted: 52
• Total number of cars off the road: 16
• Total annual energy cost savings: $33,599
• Total annual energy usage reduction: 84% or 244,360 kilowatt hours
• Average pay back period after rebate: 5 months
Bight Lights, Big Profits in 2014

In 2014, all told, 94 residents and 27 business owners purchased over 4,800 LED bulbs through the Relight Mountain Village program. This translated to a four-month average pay back period and total annual energy cost savings of $71,362. The most popular LEDs purchased were can lights, standard bulbs, and dimmable table lamps and track lighting. Moreover, of the town’s $20,000 Relight Mountain Village rebate fund, $18,214 was applied at time of bulb purchase in addition to about $35,000 from the San Miguel Power Association rebate program.


Changing Landscape

Over the past few years the cost of LEDs has been steadily dropping while making immense gains in energy efficiency. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, lighting accounts for about 10 percent of a home’s electricity use. Since LEDs typically use 75- to 80-percent less energy than the traditional varieties, upgrading one’s lighting source is a step in the right direction, and most of the newer bulbs sold in the U.S. have longer life spans – more than 20 years – so a continual savings is realized well into the future. Moreover, the Environmental Protection Agency estimates that there are three billion incandescent bulbs currently in use. In other words, American households could collectively save $6 billion on energy costs in 2015 alone by making the switch to more energy-efficient lighting.

According to SMPA, results of switching to an energy-efficient light source like an LED are promising. For instance, if one were to replace 50 60-watt bulbs in their home that run an average of three hours each day, they would save about $30 each month on their electricity bill, making Relight Mountain Village truly a win-win for those who participate.

Mountain Village Mayor Dan Jansen couldn’t agree more.

“Earmarking funds for the energy reduction program Relight Mountain Village show not only the local government’s long-term commitment to being part of the solution, but also the commitment of our residents, business owners and electric power cooperative.”

Relight Mountain Village, a $20,000 funded program, is part of the town’s energy reduction strategy.

Solar rebates available to Mountain Village residents and business owners who invest in renewable energy

Words by Nichole Zangara / Environment

In line with Mountain Village’s environmental ethos, the town is offering significant savings to those who install solar on their home or business. First launched in 2014, the Solar Energy Rebate Program awards those by offering a rebate of $0.40 per watt of power generated by solar. This is in addition to San Miguel Power Association (SMPA) current rebate of $0.75 per watt.

“Mountain Village wants to encourage its property owners to utilize renewable energy, and the town’s $0.40 per watt rebate along with the current federal tax credits and SMPA’s rebate of $0.75 per watt really improves the payback period for solar investments,” said Environmental Services Director Deanna Drew.

As for program rules, the town rebate applies to solar installations up to five kilowatts for residential properties and 10 kilowatts for commercial meters, which translates to a maximum rebate of $2,000 per meter for residents and $4,000 maximum rebate per meter for business owners. Residential and commercial owners may also receive a 30 percent federal tax credit. To get started, the town recommends contacting a Colorado solar professional or electrician to obtain a competitive bid.

“With the federal tax credit and SMPA rebates set to expire in 2016 and the recent sellout of the SMPA community solar array, now is the time in invest in solar on your home,” explained Drew.

In 2009, Mountain Village pledged to support Colorado Governor Ritter’s Climate Action Plan goal of reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions 20 percent by 2020. In 2014, the town government reduced its own GHG emissions 22 percent from 2010 levels. The town government measures greenhouse gases using the amount of fuel, electricity and natural gas consumed by government operations annually.

“This solar rebate program is another creative way that our government is encouraging the responsible use of natural resources throughout the community,” said Drew. “Once a home or business becomes as energy efficient as possible, we hope that folks will take the next step and offset their electricity from coal with cleaner, renewable sources of electricity.”

The Mountain Village Solar Energy Rebate Program, a $20,000 funded program, is part of the town’s overall energy reduction strategy.

Mountain Village hosts a regional, educational noxious weeds seminar; launches community weed control rebate program

Noxious Weeds

Words by Nichole Zangara / Environment

Controlling noxious weeds in the alpine environment of San Miguel County takes the entire community’s support and due diligence. To educate the populous on this issue, the Town of Mountain Village is hosting the San Juan Green Living Noxious Weeds Seminar June 5 beginning at 10 a.m. in Mountain Village Town Hall. This informative and educational event will provide San Miguel County property owners and landscaping professionals the opportunity to learn how to identify weeds, why to control weeds, best practices for treating weeds, and how Mountain Village is incentivizing its residents to manage weeds on their property.

“Last Fall Town Council asked staff to step up the enforcement of noxious weed control in the community,” said Environmental Services Director Deanna Drew. “Our 2015 program will include education and incentives for our property owners to control noxious weeds effectively, efficiently and according to the State of Colorado, San Miguel County and Town of Mountain Village regulations.”

The two-hour seminar will stream live at townofmountainvillage.com/video.

Community Weed Control Rebate Program

For 2015, the Town of Mountain Village was awarded a $10,000 grant from Colorado Department of Agriculture’s Noxious Weed Management Fund to implement a rebate program incentivizing Mountain Village residential property owners to manage noxious weeds on their properties. Residents who hire a certified and licensed applicator to treat noxious weeds on their property may be reimbursed 25 percent of their total bill, up to a maximum rebate amount of $250 per property. Funds are limited, so rebates will be given on a first-come, first-served basis. To receive a rebate, one must complete and submit a rebate application form that verifies the applicator’s license number and proof of payment.

In addition, for the 2015 weed season Mountain Village has hired Kenny Smith of Premier Weed Management, a qualified and licensed noxious weed control specialist, to assist with the treatment of weeds on residential properties in June and September. If a resident would like Smith’s assistance, they will need to complete and submit a consent form to the town. For added convenience, the town will apply the Community Weed Control Rebate to the cost of Smith’s services and invoice the resident directly.

“All property owners should know that commercial weed control applicators must be trained and licensed by the State of Colorado so that they are applying herbicide in a way that is both effective and least harmful to the environment,” explained Drew. “Our contractor is licensed and very experienced in high altitude weed management throughout the region.”

For more information about the San Juan Green Living Noxious Weeds Seminar and the Community Weed Control Rebate Program, contact Environmental Services Director Deanna Drew at [email protected] or 970.369.8236.

Overall energy consumption down in Mountain Village

Solar Energy Rebate Program

Words by Nichole Zangara / Environment

The Town of Mountain Village took a no-holds-barred approach to reducing its energy use in 2014, and it paid off. This same approach continues into 2015.

“Mountain Village made significant capital investments for energy efficiency projects in 2014, and staff intends to continue to monitor energy consumption throughout 2015 to get a more thorough understanding of the effects of our efforts,” said the town’s Environmental Services Director Deanna Drew. “When efficiency projects are complete, next we will consider implementing more renewable energy projects to further reduce our emissions.”

In 2009 the Town of Mountain Village with the Town of Telluride and San Miguel County adopted a resolution to mirror the State of Colorado’s Climate Action Plan of reducing greenhouse gas emissions 20 percent by the year 2020. Using 2010 as the baseline year for achieving this goal, Mountain Village calculates greenhouse gas emissions by converting total electricity, natural gas, and fuel consumed by government operations to carbon dioxide, a primary greenhouse gas.

“Overall, we are experiencing a downward trend in electricity, natural gas and fuel consumption through most Mountain Village departments. We can attribute this to employee awareness, capital investment and a focus on energy efficiency projects during 2014,” explained Drew.

Energy Reduction Highlights

Following is a list of 2014 and 2015 energy reduction statistics, projects and programs lead by Mountain Village in order to reduce energy consumption.

  • In 2014 carbon dioxide emissions were reduced eight percent from 2013 levels, 13 percent from a six-year average, and 22 percent from 2010 baseline emission levels.
  • Mountain Village community’s electricity use was down five percent in 2014 based on 2010 energy use totals and down four percent based on a five-year average.
  • The Gondola Parking Garage LED project is showing the greatest energy savings of all facilities, with a 45 percent reduction from 2013 totals and 33 percent reduction over a five-year average.
  • Every inefficient light bulb in the gondola terminals will be replaced with LEDs this spring thanks in part to a San Miguel County grant that will cover nearly half of the cost of the project.
  • Solar panels purchased through Green Gondola Project donations and installed on gondola terminals have offset approximately two percent of the gondola’s total electricity use. The town intends to install more solar panels on gondola terminals in 2015.
  • In 2014, the town earmarked $300,000 for energy efficiency projects on town facilities based on energy audits and recommendations provided by energy consultants. Of the $300,000, $200,000 was rolled over into 2015, primarily to complete the efficiency projects at Village Court Apartments (VCA), Telluride Conference Center, and Heritage Parking Garage.
  • VCA staff has engaged an energy consultant to provide analysis to prove if conversion of the apartment complex to natural gas is economically feasible. If not, further analysis will include recommendations for efficiency measures to reduce electricity consumption in the units, such as programmable thermostats with thresholds for electricity use.
  • The town’s maintenance staff is working with an energy consultant to analyze potential efficiencies in plaza snowmelt systems and make recommendations for improvements in 2015.
  • The town is considering a new renewable energy project which entails installing solar panels on the town’s maintenance shop. Doing so may offset 100 percent of the energy used in this facility.
  • The town offered its community members three energy reduction incentive programs in 2014: Relight Mountain Village, community solar panel discounts, and rebates for on-site solar. These three programs are available to the community again in 2015.
  • The Mountain Village community is currently generating approximately 77,647 kilowatts per hour of rooftop solar energy (about 216 panels); purchased 193,058 kilowatts per hour (505 panels) of renewable energy at the community solar array in Paradox Valley; and purchased 22,316 Green Blocks (100 kilowatts per hour per block) of renewable energy from San Miguel Power Association in 2014.

Mountain Village relaunches its LED instant rebate program after much success in 2014

Words by Nichole Zangara / Environment

It’s lights out on the traditional light bulb for the Rocky Mountain town of Mountain Village. Mountain Village announced today that it is offering its residents and business owners yet another opportunity to save money and energy by switching from inefficient light bulbs to new light-emitting diode technology (LEDs). In partnership with San Miguel Power Association (SMPA) and Cooperative Business Lighting Partners, the program Relight Mountain Village provides instant rebates and exclusive offers to those who purchase LEDs at greenlivingtown.com. The online order period begins March 1 and will run until midnight April 5. Program participants can expect to save up to 75 percent for each LED bulb they purchase.

“Based on the excellent response from the community in 2014 we are launching the program again in 2015 with even more opportunity for the large commercial sector,” stated Environmental Services Director Deanna Drew. “More importantly, this effort is engaging the community while making more people conscious about their energy use. As a bonus, the success of this program has encouraged other communities to follow suit and create their own LED incentive program, including Telluride and San Miguel County.”

In an effort to reduce waste, bulbs will be delivered in bulk and available for pickup at Town Hall Plaza. Customers will be contacted via email regarding the specific date and time for this pickup event.

As for program rules, participants are limited to 50 common LEDs 300 lumens or greater. This limitation ensures that everyone has the opportunity to change the environmental landscape and their monthly electricity bill for the better. Other types of bulbs such as tube lighting and bulbs less than 300 lumens have different rebate guidelines and amounts, which will be automatically calculated during the online ordering process.

Once LED bulbs are installed Drew suggests placing any unwanted incandescent light bulbs in the trash, but warns that fluorescent tubes and compact florescent bulbs contain mercury, a hazardous material that must be properly recycled or disposed of according to San Miguel County guidelines. For more details, visit lamptracker.com. One can also sell or donate their old bulbs and fixtures that still work.

Bight Lights, Big Profits

In 2014, all told, 94 residents and 27 business owners purchased over 4,800 LED bulbs through the Relight Mountain Village program. This translated to a four-month average pay back period and total annual energy cost savings of $71,362. The most popular LEDs purchased were can lights, standard bulbs, and dimmable table lamps and track lighting. Moreover, of the town’s $20,000 Relight Mountain Village rebate fund, $18,214 was applied at time of bulb purchase in addition to about $35,000 from the San Miguel Power Association rebate program.

Changing Landscape

Over the past few years the cost of LEDs has been steadily dropping while making immense gains in energy efficiency. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, lighting accounts for about 10 percent of a home’s electricity use. Since LEDs typically use 75- to 80-percent less energy than the traditional varieties, upgrading one’s lighting source is a step in the right direction, and most of the newer bulbs sold in the U.S. have longer life spans – more than 20 years – so a continual savings is realized well into the future. Moreover, the Environmental Protection Agency estimates that there are three billion incandescent bulbs currently in use. In other words, American households could collectively save $6 billion on energy costs in 2015 alone by making the switch to more energy-efficient lighting.

“Results of switching to an energy-efficient light source like an LED are promising,” said SMPA Accounts Executive Ken Haynes. “For instance, if you were to replace 50 60-watt bulbs in your home that run an average of three hours each day, you have the opportunity to save about $30 each month on your electricity bill. It is because of this that we decided to expand our relationship with Mountain Village and collaborate with them. With our shared commitment to developing programs that work for our members, Relight Mountain Village truly is a win-win for those who participate.”

Mountain Village Mayor Dan Jansen couldn’t agree more.

“Earmarking funds for the energy reduction program Relight Mountain Village show not only the local government’s long-term commitment to being part of the solution, but also the commitment of our residents, business owners and electric power cooperative.”

Relight Mountain Village, a $20,000 funded program, is part of the town’s energy reduction strategy.

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