Routt County Jail works toward solar water heater
Commissioners waiting for written approval on federal grant
October 28, 2010
Steamboat Springs — Work to install new heating, ventilation and air-conditioning equipment at the Routt County Jail is well under way, but a federal grant that would subsidize a solar domestic hot water system is temporarily on hold.
County Purchasing Director Tim Winter told the Routt County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday that new boilers are in place at the jail and have been tested. If the weather improves this week, as forecast, work will resume on installing the final three of five new heating and cooling units on the roof of the jail.
The commissioners were scheduled to vote to accept a $175,000 federal grant for the solar hot water system this week. It was arranged through the state of Colorado, but commissioners decided to wait for written approval from the federal government before moving forward.
The larger $1.6 million energy conservation project at the jail is being undertaken by the county with the expectation that it will pay for itself in about 14 years. The county's consultants project that more energy-efficient heating and cooling equipment will save $101,092 in energy costs annually. That's the equivalent of a 21 percent reduction in the county's usage of gas and electricity.
Winter said the project would remove more than 800 tons of carbon dioxide emissions from the atmosphere annually.
"As energy costs continue to rise over the coming years, we are protecting our organization from escalating budgets by reducing our total energy consumption," Winter wrote in a memo to the commissioners.
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An additional benefit is correcting inadequate ventilation in the jail cells.
A federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act New Energy Economic Development grant is expected to cover the cost of the solar water heating system. It was applied for through the Governor's Energy Office, but federal approval was delayed earlier this year, Winter said, and the county moved ahead with the balance of the project.
The federal government views the solar grant in the context of Routt County's larger energy conservation grant, Winter explained, and there's ongoing discussion about its eligibility as a stand-alone project.
"The people at the state are reassuring me it's OK," Winter said, "but I want confirmation from the federal government."
Commissioner Doug Monger told Winter he'd just as soon wait on a vote to approve the grant offer from the state.
"We want to do it right," Monger said.
One requirement of the grant is that the solar panels be manufactured in the United States.