Clean Innovative Energy Sources To Power Our Region

Clean Innovative Energy Sources To Power Our Region

Creating Pathways for Reaching Energy Targets and Economic Resilience

Elected officials panel

At the close of a clean energy workshop held March 3, 2017, in Glenwood Springs, elected officials and community leaders responded to the ideas presented for generating energy in the local region. From left, Pitkin County Commissioner George Newman, Eagle County Commissioner Jeanne McQueeney, Garfield County Commissioner Tom Jankovsky, Carbondale Mayor Dan Richardson, Glenwood Caverns owner Steve Beckley, New Castle Trustee Greg Russi, former CMC Dean Nancy Genova, and workshop moderator, Tom Baker.
Photo by Phi Filerman.

Energy experts, elected officials urge action on innovative local energy projects

Heather McGregor
Clean Energy Economy News
March 6, 2017

A clean energy workshop held March 3 put the spotlight on local resources that could be developed to produce electricity for the grid, heat for buildings and fuel for vehicles.

“People talk about a local food supply. Is that a possibility for our power?” asked Garfield County Commissioner Tom Jankovsky to start the workshop, “Clean Innovative Energy Sources to Power Our Region.”

The 15 energy experts speaking at the workshop confirmed that local resources as diverse as abandoned coal mines, landfills, wastewater plants, beetle-killed timber, water pipelines, dams, gas pipeline compressors, sunshine and even the ground beneath our feet contain energy that can be tapped to help communities meet their clean energy targets.

“The takeaway here is ‘Do something.’ Unless you take a project and move it forward, it’s pie in the sky,” said Matthew Hazleton of TRC Companies.

TRC was commissioned by Garfield County to research and produce the Garfield County Energy Atlas, published in 2014. That report evaluated a dozen types of energy resources, identifying which areas of the county offered prime potential for energy development.

Since its publication, there’s been little action to use that information to develop projects. Friday’s workshop, hosted by Garfield Clean Energy, CLEER and CORE, was meant to move the ball forward for Garfield and neighboring counties.

Interest was high, with more than 100 people attending from Garfield, Gunnison, Delta, Mesa, Pitkin, Eagle and Routt counties. The workshop was held at the Glenwood Springs Community Center.

Speakers urged community leaders to get started on energy-producing projects, citing “screamin’ deals” on financing for small hydropower projects, financially attractive renewable energy credits for methane capture, and declining costs for solar energy.

Elected officials in the room said the energy projects deserve close attention.

“I was so impressed with the depth of the presentations,” said Pitkin County Commissioner George Newman. He called for Garfield Clean Energy, CLEER, CORE and others to “look for the big ideas, and pursue a clean energy economy for the Roaring Fork, Colorado and Eagle valleys.”

Eagle County Commissioner Jeanne McQueeney said, “My biggest takeaway is the role of a county commissioner on these issues. Climate action and clean energy are important.”

New Castle Trustee Greg Russi suggested a regional energy district to develop major clean energy resources.

The workshop’s energy experts said clean energy projects help the climate and environment by either generating energy while producing no carbon emissions, or by capturing methane, a highly potent greenhouse gas, and converting it to less-potent carbon dioxide.

“If we can do something with it, methane is a great energy source, and we might actually see something change from its capture,” said Michael Coté, president of Ruby Canyon Engineering, a Grand Junction company that certifies carbon emissions from innovative energy projects.

Coté used the Elk Creek Mine methane capture project as an example. Methane emissions from the coal mine near Somerset, in Delta County, are captured in the underground mine, piped to the surface and used to fuel a generator that produces 3 megawatts of electricity.

Vessels Coal Gas Inc. runs the project, which was funded in large part by the Aspen Skiing Co. The electricity is wheeled through other utilities to Holy Cross Energy, which then provides the power to Aspen Skiing Co., the lead project investor.

A similar project is under way at the Golden Eagle Mine near Trinidad. Together, the two projects capture more than 1 billion cubic feet of methane per year that would otherwise have been vented directly into the atmosphere, Coté said.

Dan Tonello, Grand Junction wastewater services manager, explained how Grand Junction and Mesa County are capturing methane that was being flared from the Persigo wastewater plant. The waste gas is now scrubbed, pushed through a five-mile pipeline and used as compressed biogas to fuel the city’s garbage trucks, dump trucks and transit buses.

Tonello said the EPA’s program to track ethanol also works for his biogas project, generating income from a national renewable energy trading program for every gallon of fuel pumped to the city’s truck fleet.

Evan Vessels, of Vessels Coal Gas, said state and federal policies add to the financial viability of coal mine methane projects too. Coal mine methane qualifies for Colorado’s Renewable Energy Standard, producing valuable renewable energy credits. And the project sells carbon offsets on California’s carbon cap-and-trade market.

Vessels called for a cap-and-trade system to be established in Colorado, to create new capital for clean energy and methane capture projects.

Other speakers explained the potential for small hydropower projects, ground source geothermal heating for buildings and greenhouses, biogas from landfills and wastewater treatment plants, recycled energy from industrial operations, and solar electric projects.

Kurt Johnson, a Telluride hydropower consultant and president of the Colorado Small Hydro Association, said small hydropower projects can be developed almost anywhere water is flowing through a pipeline or canal. Colorado agencies offer grant programs that help with project planning, low-interest loans for construction, and free technical assistance to get projects moving.

Johnson said cities, towns and water providers can install small hydropower turbines wherever a pressure relief valve (PRV) is needed in a pipeline system.

“There are hundreds of thousands of PRVs in water systems in the U.S., and thousands could become small hydro projects, but people don’t know it’s possible,” Johnson said. “We have a huge amount of work to just get the word out.”

Presented by Garfield Clean Energy, CLEER and CORE


Friday, March 3, 2017

Glenwood Springs Community Center, 100 Wulfsohn Road

to speaker presentations

Facilitator: Tom Baker, Town Administrator, Town of New Castle

Michael Gamba, Mayor, City of Glenwood Springs

Tom Jankovsky, Commissioner, Garfield County

George Newman, Commissioner, Pitkin County

Energy Innovation for a Strong, Diverse Economy
Christopher Worley, PhD, Director of Policy and Research, Colorado Energy Office
Presentation (3.2 MB)

Our Region: Rich with Clean Energy Opportunities
Matthew Hazleton, Colorado Office Lead, Planning, Permitting and Licensing, TRC Companies
Presentation (1.9 MB)


Michael Coté, President, Ruby Canyon Engineering
Presentation (1.6 MB)

Elk Creek Methane Capture Case Study
Evan Vessels, Vessels Coal Gas Inc.
Presentation (2.9 MB)
Del Worley, CEO, Holy Cross Energy
Presentation (1 MB)


Mark Hall, Vice President, Power Development, TRC Companies
Presentation (1.3 MB)

Grand Junction Wastewater Treatment Plant Case Study
Dan Tonello, Wastewater Services Manager, City of Grand Junction
Presentation (3.8 MB)


Kurt Johnson, President, Colorado Small Hydro Association
Presentation (3.3 MB)


Matt Sares, Manager, Hydrogeologic Services Branch, Colorado Division of Water Resources
Presentation (8.5 MB)


Susan Brodie, Executive Director, Heat is Power Association
Presentation (1 MB)


Moderator: Katharine Rushton, Sunsense Solar

Megan Day, AICP, Project Leader and Renewable Energy Planner, NREL
Presentation (4.1 MB)

Barry Mather, Ph.D., Senior Electrical Engineer, Power Systems Engineering Center, NREL
Presentation (1.3 MB)

Kevin Brehm, Senior Associate, Rocky Mountain Institute
Presentation (1.4 MB)

James Williams, Director, RES America
Presentation (4 MB)


Regional Leaders Panel: Next Steps for Moving Forward

Tom Jankovsky, Garfield County Commissioner 

Jeanne McQueeney, Eagle County Commissioner 

George Newman, Pitkin County Commissioner 

Dan Richardson, Mayor, Town of Carbondale

Greg Russi, Trustee, Town of New Castle