The Roaring Fork School District prides itself on innovation in and out of the classroom. In 2014, the district went through the process of developing a facility master plan, taking in comments from staff, parents, and community members. The outcome was clear: stakeholders wanted to embrace sustainability.
The goals were ambitious, including energy-efficient buildings and solar-ready facilities. The school district took that mandate and put it into action. When district leaders began building a new dual-language preK-8 school in South Glenwood, Riverview School, they had a blank slate on 35 acres of district-owned land to work with. This gave the design team flexibility to incorporate energy efficiency and renewable energy into the DNA of the new building.
They created plans for a 336-kilowatt solar photovoltaic system that would offset 100% of the electrical needs at the new school. The project would meet the district’s sustainability goals, reduce money spent on utility bills, and provide a learning opportunity.
“We have a strong STEM program at Riverview,” said Shannon Pelland Assistant Superintendent and CFO of Roaring Fork School District. “What better project for that curriculum than the design of a solar array and students being able to watch it function in the future?”
While the desire to install a solar array at the Riverview school was there, the economic feasibility still had to be figured out. The project has a $600,000 price tag and the district committed $400,000. That’s where The Randy Udall Energy (TRUE) Pioneer Grant by CORE came into play. CORE awarded the school $100,000 in the 2017 grant cycle to help get the project off the ground. In addition to funding from CORE, the district was accepted into Xcel’s Solar Rewards program and has a pending application into the Garfield County Federal Mineral Lease District.
“The CORE piece is huge. It makes [the project] really attainable,” says Pelland. “There are very few funding sources of that magnitude [in the valley].”
With proposed electrical saving of 488,760 kilowatt hours annually, supporting project was a no-brainer for CORE. “We were excited to accept the Roaring Fork School District’s grant application,” says Marty Treadway, Program Director at CORE. “The project touches upon a lot of the criteria we look for: public visibility, educational opportunities, and environmental benefits to name a few. ”
Riverview was one of 28 valley organizations to receive funding from CORE in the 2017 slate of grants. CORE recently announced $709,000 to local energy pioneers pursuing commercial energy efficiency and renewable energy projects this year. CORE’s investment in the local economy is anticipated to offset 2.2 million pounds of CO2 emissions in 2017.
CORE’s grant program is made possible by the Renewable Energy Mitigation Program, a pioneering building code program that mitigates excessive energy usage with grants and other programs for smart energy initiatives (think snowmelt fees for solar funding, for example). By supporting more sustainable building practices in the valley, CORE’s grant program helps save energy, protect the climate, and strengthen the economy.
When Riverview opened its doors to students for the first time earlier this fall they were on their way to creating the next generation of environmental stewards. With the CORE grant in hand and others on the horizon, the school will plug into solar — and increase energy literacy in the classroom — as the next step in their construction phase.
CORE’s Randy Udall Energy (TRUE) Pioneer Grant program is its largest and most competitive grant program. This annual grant provides funding to public agencies, schools, nonprofits and businesses for projects that employ energy efficiency, renewable energy, and water conservation to reduce carbon emissions. Awards are offered in the range of $20,000 to $200,000. More information on the TRUE Pioneer Grant and other funding programs is available from Marty Treadway.