Derek Franz
dfranz@eaglevalleyenterprise.com

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September 19, 2012
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County's Eco-Build Fund is at record levels

With $285,000 in its account, the Eagle County Eco-Build Fund is on track for a record-breaking year in terms of revenue.

On Tuesday, the Eagle County Commissioners and staff discussed how that money might be used in the remainder of 2012 and beyond.

The Eco-Build Fund was created in 2006 as part of the cash-in-lieu option for builders to meet the Eco-Build Efficient Building Code. The fund is collected from what are essentially penalty fees, primarily from snowmelt systems in patios and driveways. The idea of the program is to help offset environmental impacts caused by new construction through offsite mitigation.

The fund currently functions on a quarterly cash basis with a zero-dollar budget, meaning plans for using the funds are made only as money comes in. So far, 2009 has seen the most income, with $303,000 collected that year.

Eagle County Environmental Policy Planner Adam Palmer told the commissioners that the Eco-Build Fund now has a large enough balance that staff recommends switching to a fiscal budget, using funds collected this year for disbursement the following year. That will allow the committee to better plan and think longer term for distributing the money.

Last year, revenue was down and grants and rebates awarded by the Eco-Build Fund were put on hold indefinitely. Limited rebates for solar thermal projects and the Eco-Build Grant Program will be reinstated with available funding.

Solar thermal is differs from photovoltaic in that solar energy is being converted directly into heat instead of electricity.

"Solar thermal typically has a better pay back than PV," Palmer said.

The Eco-Build solar thermal rebate fund has $50,000 available until at least the end of 2012. Those rebates will be administered by the Eagle Valley Alliance for Sustainability. Rebates can potentially cover 50 percent of a project's cost up to $4,000 while the allocated money lasts.

The Eco-Build Grant Community Program is designed to support energy efficiency and renewable energy projects in Eagle County. Now that it's been reinstated, Palmer and the Eco-Build Committee may once again consider proposals that might be worthy of funding based on the grant criteria.

The other allocation of the Eco-Build Fund approved by commissioners on Tuesday is the final $75,000 payment of a $200,000 grant awarded almost four years ago to the Walking Mountains Science Center in Avon. The grant was to be paid over that amount of time as funds were available. Commissioners gave the nod to award the final $75,000 a few months early, once the center receives its LEED Platinum certification in the next couple months.

LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. As a stringent voluntary green-building certification, the LEED rating system offers four certification levels for new construction - Certified, Silver, Gold and Platinum - that correspond to the number of credits accrued in five green design categories: sustainable sites, water efficiency, energy and atmosphere, materials and resources and indoor environmental quality.

The Walking Mountains Science Center started as the Gore Range Natural Science School in Red Cliff in 1998. The intention of the building and the program has been to educate and set an example of sustainable practices, among other things. The center serves people of all ages and professions in addition to youth programs that served more than 2,600 students last year. To learn more about the center and its programs, visit www.walkingmountains.org.

"We are very grateful for all the county's support and look forward to giving back," said Doug Dusenberry, the capital campaign director for the science center.

Meanwhile, money continues to trickle into the Eco-Build Fund. About $200,000 is anticipated to rollover into next year and Palmer is all ears for worthy projects that can be supported by the program.

"It's our goal to distribute these funds back into the community and target projects that provide education through demonstration," he said. "We welcome input on future disbursements that meet the program's intent."

Palmer may be reached by emailing adam.palmer@eaglecounty.us or calling 970-328-8734.


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The VailDaily Updated Sep 19, 2012 12:48PM Published Sep 19, 2012 12:46PM Copyright 2012 The VailDaily. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.