GREEN HOME AND BUSINESS TOURS -
LOCAL EXAMPLES OF GREEN INITIATIVES
November 2011 has been a great month for Green Tours - both home and business! TNCC hosted two Green Home and Green Business tours to showcase local green initiatives. On a snowy Sunday Nov. 13, Tim Erdman and John and Ronda Gacek welcomed guests into their homes to demonstrate residential green initiatives taken to build their homes and harness renewable energy to power them. Later that week on Nov. 16, TNCC also took a trip down valley to visit Wagner Custom Skis where we were treated to a unique tour of this local ski factory.
First stop on the Home Tour, was The Erdman residence in Last Dollar subdivision, just below the Telluride airport. A self-proclaimed 'laboratory' and work in progress, he experiments with harnessing renewable energy and his place runs the gamut of renewable energy collecting systems. He has a 3.5 kw tracking Solar PV system with moving parts that enable the panel to follow the sun to maximize exposure throughout the day. He also showed a wood gasification stove that vaporizes wood at 1700 degrees farenheight, burning more cleanly and efficiently than traditional wood stoves. The high temperatures also cut carbon emissions and generate less ash residue. He also has 48 solar evacuated tubes - a solar water heating system that heats hot water for the house as well as radiant heat in the floors. Evacuated tubes are the most efficient method of harnessing heat from the sun using a principle similar to that in your everyday thermos.
Erdman also shared some of his renewable energy business projects. He is involved with Virent, Inc., a company catalytically creating fuels - by breaking down feedstock from organic plant material with the intention of replacing the fossil fuels sources. These carbon sources are more renewable and already present in the environment. Virent is a leader in developing new ways to access energy sources for fuels of the future. They recently received a 14m. grant to make jet fuel out of wood chips and Shell is an investor in making 102 octaine jet fuel out of beet sugar. Erdman is also involved with a new Solar "Wedge" technology that will significantly improve the solar gain and efficiency of PV by using a wedge prism - capable of spreading and separating PV frequencies. He has hopes of a prototype at the airport. Come hear an update at the Dec. GBR Dec. 2nd @ WPL to hear more.
The next stop on TNCC's Green Home Tour took us down valley to the home of John and Ronda Gacek, where they have developed renewable infrastructure not just based on values, but financial incentive. When building their home located on Fall Creek, the Gacek's realized it could cost nearly $100,000 dollars to run power to the house by tying to the grid. They soon recognized the potential of a micro hydro system on site, using the nearby creek to provide electricity for their home. In addition to building the hydro system to provide electricity during winter months, the Gacek's installed a Solar PV system for summer. They also used various recycled materials including doors from a Peaks Penthouse, and designing their home in the most efficient way possible.
Later in the week, a Green Business Tour of Wagner Custom Ski factory located in Placerville opened its doors to the public. There, Pete Wagner explained the challenges and opportunities a local ski manufacturer can have. Wagner showed us his solar hot water heating system on the roof and the many green initiatives incorporated by his staff in building quality, long lasting snowsports products, while recycling materials and saving energy. He explained the ski manufacturing process and how scraps produced early in the process can serve as holds, and other purposes later on. Some left over materials may be sent to a company to make ski bindings, while leftover wood can also be used for kindling.
Wagner and his employees are a testament to resourcefulness. The Solar Hot Water system is not only recycled, it is over 30 years old - a remnant from the former Tomboy Inn - put back to work. He found the solar panels behind his current shop and realizing the concrete floor of the building was already equipped for radiant heat; it was a no-brainer to install the panels on the roof and use them to heat the factory during the winter. The solar hot water heating system works incredibly well and keeps the factory at a comfortable 60-65 degrees. The system is astonishingly simple with tubes filled with ethylene glycol on top of a metal background, which is heated by the sun. When there is a temperature differential between the water on the roof and the tubes wired through the concrete floor, a pump turns on and transfers hot water through the concrete floor (also acting as a thermal mass) to heat during the winter. To keep things cool in the summer he simply covers the panels, and the natural passive solar building design and thermal mass keep things cooler.
Keeping the temperature constant in the factory is important because of the number of plastics and resins used to make skis, which expand and contract with extreme temperature change. Using the sun to heat the building, taking efforts to reduce waste, and being conscious about electrical usage keeps utility bills low. Not only do these energy saving initiatives save money and reduce overhead, these eco-conscious initiatives have been core values of the company since it's inception in 2006.
TNCC can't thank the owners of these green homes and businesses enough for opening their doors! Thank you for sharing the messages and measures taken to reduce carbon footprints and inspire others to do the same.
Microhydro System at Gacek Residence
Pete Wagner demonstrates how to assemble a pair of skis
Evacuated Tubes at Erdman Residence - Used for heating water with solar energy