Businesses think big for abundant energy savings |

Businesses think big for abundant energy savings

Heather McGregor
Special to the Daily
People would never know that the town of Vail’s old-fashioned style street lights are using the newest, most energy efficient LED bulbs, which blend right in to the classic design. The town replaced 905 bulbs in street lights with LEDs, with help from a Think Big grant from Holy Cross Energy.
Mary Wiener | Holy Cross Energy |

Holy Cross Energy Think Big projects

Four Seasons Resort: 5,550 LED light bulbs

Project cost: $93,000

Think Big grant: $39,400

Annual electric savings: 375,000 kilowatt-hours worth $30,000

Town of Vail: 7,030 LED light bulbs

Project cost: $577,000

Think Big grant: $147,600

Annual electric savings: 936,200 kilowatt-hours worth $75,000

Vail Valley Medical Center: new chiller, heating and cooling recommissioning

Project cost: $766,500

Think Big grant: $311,200

Annual electric savings: 2.2 megawatt-hours worth $176,200

(1 kilowatt is 1,000 watts, 1 megawatt is 1 million watts. A kilowatt-hour is 1 kilowatt of usage for 1 hour.)

EAGLE COUNTY —Two years ago, Holy Cross Energy asked its large commercial customers to think big about ways to save energy. The electric co-op offered Think Big grants to members that were willing to take on epic-scale projects.

The Vail Valley Medical Center, the town of Vail and the Four Seasons Resort Vail all jumped on the opportunity. They completed ambitious lighting, heating and cooling projects by May, and the numbers are now in to prove that thinking big pays off.

Together, the projects at VVMC, town of Vail and Four Seasons are saving 3.7 megawatt-hours of electricity every year. That’s comparable to the energy used in a year by 500 typical American homes. It also represents savings of $281,200 per year in lower electric bills — savings that will continue for years to come.

“We were looking at getting our larger users to literally think big,” said Mary Wiener, energy efficiency program administrator for Holy Cross Energy. “The grant really propelled projects that had been sitting on the back burner for years.”

Chilly savings

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Vail Valley Medical Center used its grant to buy a highly efficient Motivair chiller. The new chiller replaced the aging cooling system that served the original clinic, and is powerful enough to provide cooling for the entire expanded medical facility.

“Without the grant, I doubt we would have been able to purchase the tricked-out chiller system that will save us many dollars in the long run,” said Roberto Morales, environmental health specialist for VVMC. “It was an incredible opportunity that Holy Cross provided for us, and we are very grateful.”

The Motivair chiller uses advanced sensors and multi-step compressors and fans to respond to the clinic’s cooling settings. Rather than producing big temperature fluctuations, the multi-step system makes precise adjustments that use far less energy and keep indoor temperatures consistent.

The system also automatically taps cool outdoor air for free chilling whenever outdoor temperatures drop below the return-water setting.

VVMC also used part of its $311,200 grant for a thorough recommissioning of the clinic’s entire heating, cooling and ventilation systems. The work, done by Bath Commissioning Corp., tuned up the systems, helped Morales and his team better understand the mechanical systems and gave them a clear plan for scheduled maintenance and needed upgrades.

“Once your building is commissioned, you have a bunch of opportunities to repair items that can have an immediate impact on energy and comfort,” Morales said.

Turning the lights on

While VVMC focused on its mechanical system, Four Seasons Resort and the town of Vail went all-out on LED light replacements. Between the two, more than 12,000 new LED bulbs are illuminating indoor and outdoor spaces in Vail, and they’re saving 1.3 megawatt-hours of electricity per year.

Four Seasons Resort purchased 5,550 LED bulbs from Regency Lighting, and the resort’s staff installed all the bulbs themselves, said Adrian Barton, director of engineering for Four Seasons. Barton’s team installed 4,050 bulbs in guest rooms, and another 1,500 LED lamps in resort common areas, such as parking garages and stairwells.

The bulbs deliver significant energy savings and last much longer, cutting maintenance costs over time.

“Our garage replacements are dramatically brighter,” said Barton, “as are the exit stairways.”

In the guest rooms, Barton particularly appreciates the way LED bulbs in recessed fixtures light up sinks, and lamps quality lighting for reading in bed, he said.

As with VVMC, Four Seasons found the Think Big grant to be essential for moving forward with the lighting project. Of the $93,000 project cost, the Think Big grant covered $39,400, about 42 percent.

“We would not have done this retrofit without the grant,” Barton said.

The project is already making Barton look at another round of lighting upgrades in 2016 for the lobby and common areas, restaurant, bar and spa.

The town of Vail, meanwhile, carried out a widespread LED bulb replacement project, replacing 905 outdoor streetlights and 6,125 indoor lights in town buildings.

Vail Facility Manager Greg Hall coordinated the project, which replaced bulbs in town hall, the library, museum, visitor center, maintenance shops and employee housing.

“Indoor lighting is more consistent and brighter, and in some cases less lighting could be used when replacing fluorescents with LED tubes. The parking garages are much brighter and visibility has improved dramatically,” Hall said.

Closer to 2020 Goals

The grant project provided another 6 percent toward the town of Vail’s overall energy and carbon emissions reduction goals of 20 percent by 2020. Since 2006, with the help of Holy Cross Energy, Vail’s town government has reduced its electricity consumption by 43 percent.

“Think Big turned out to be an innovative way for Holy Cross Energy to work with our larger-usage members,” Wiener said, after tallying the energy savings from the three Vail grant recipients.

Funding for the grants came from the 2 percent We Care fee that’s added on to the monthly utility bills for all Holy Cross customers.

While Think Big was a one-time program, Holy Cross continues to offer rebates to its residential and commercial members for a variety of projects that reduce electric demand and help the co-op reach its efficiency goals. For information, visit

Heather McGregor is communications director for Clean Energy Economy for the region.

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