Green light From city hall to CSU, it’s all systems go in Fort Collins …

… the state’s northern star in renewable energy, efficiency.

The “greenest” city in Colorado? Don’t be so quick to cast your vote for Boulder.

Fort Collins is pushing to make renewable energy, conservation and efficiency daily tenets of business and civic operations. The effort shows at city hall, at municipal utilities, in the classrooms and research labs at Colorado State University, in local public schools and at dozens of local businesses.

Innovations range from simple replacement of light bulbs to electric lawn mowers to research that one day could replace imported oil with fuel-making algae.

“Fort Collins is a leader in both residential and commercial green building and attracts clean-energy businesses to promote economic development,” said Drew Bolin, director of the Governor’s Office of Energy Management and Conservation.

Bolin said the initiatives will not only save energy but help protect consumers and businesses from soaring energy costs. Colorado gasoline prices are near record highs, while coal and natural gas – fuels for generating electricity – also have soared in recent years.

Last fall, the Sierra Club identified the city as one of the top four in the nation – along with Austin, Texas; Chicago; and Portland, Ore. – in promoting renewable energy and energy efficiency.

Fort Collins brewer New Belgium has attained national renown for its efforts, including a system that captures methane from brewing waste and uses it to generate electricity.

Other companies’ innovations have generated less publicity but collectively amount to millions of dollars in savings. Among them:

The Fort Collins Marriott, using the city’s “Climate Wise” energy consulting services, converted its conventional laundry system to one that uses anti-bacterial ozone, reducing the need for hot water and bleach.

The hotel has cut natural-gas use by 12 percent annually and electric consumption by 4 percent, even while occupancy rates have risen.

Value Plastics has invested $30,000 in energy efficiency since 1995, including more windows to reduce electric-light use and better ventilation equipment at its manufacturing plant.

Annual energy savings are $4,400, giving the improvements a seven-year payback period.

Patty Kenny, office manager of Patio and Dining Lifestyles, found an unexpected benefit from converting the furniture store to compact fluorescent bulbs and high-efficiency fixtures.

The store didn’t feel nearly as hot after the conversion. The $7,000 in annual savings comes from diminished electric use for lighting and less demand on air conditioners.

In starting Clean Air Lawn Care this year, owner Kelly Giard bought all electric equipment – riding mowers, push mowers, trimmers and blowers. The equipment was only slightly more expensive than gas- powered machines, Giard said.

Yet the startup firm – with 30 to 40 customers so far – will save $1,500 in gasoline this summer and prevent 2,500 pounds of carbon emissions from entering the atmosphere.

Fort Collins customers love the ultra-quiet machinery.

“People are chasing us down to find out what we’re doing,” Giard said.

Until last year, the water that Anheuser-Busch used to cool heated beer from its pasteurization process was sent down the sewer.

Now, the brewer captures the water, sends it through a heat exchanger and reuses it in a continuous loop.

Savings: 100 million gallons a year, or 10 percent of the plant’s total consumption.

Colorado State University has been a leader in pairing academic research with private capital to bring new efficiencies to market.

Commercial production could start as early as 2008 for solar-electric panels that use breakthrough technology to lower generating costs to levels competitive with conventional power sources.

CSU also is testing a technology to convert algae to biodiesel fuel.

“Everywhere you go, there are innovations happening,” said Hunt Lambert, associate vice president of economic development at CSU. “We think northern Colorado can become the clean- energy capital of the nation.”

Staff writer Steve Raabe can be reached at 303-820-1948 or

Copyright 2012 The Denver Post. All rights reserved.

by Steve Raabe, Staff Writer, Denver Post
Original Story: Green light From city hall to CSU, it’s all systems go in Fort Collins, the state’s northern star in renewable energy, efficiency
Source: Denver Post, Thursday, August 10, 2006

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