Press Release: Yampa Valley Housing Authority Chooses Community Geothermal for the Brown Ranch Energy Master Plan

Published On: February 21st, 2023Categories: Press Releases

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS, CO – The Yampa Valley Housing Authority (YVHA) Board of Directors approved the Brown Ranch Energy Master Plan that recommends a community geothermal system at their Board of Directors meeting on Thursday, February 9th. The Energy Master Plan will guide YVHA’s infrastructure development strategy at Brown Ranch, with a focus on utilizing technologies for energy efficiency, affordability, reliability, and low carbon emissions. The Energy consultants updated the Plan based on the Board meeting and the full plan and a power point presentation can be found on the Brown Ranch website.

“We have said from the beginning that the Brown Ranch will be built for and by the community.  Our community engagement process told us that energy efficiency, long-term energy security, low carbon emissions and affordability long-term is a priority.  Using geothermal also gives us an opportunity to secure federal, state, and private grant funding focusing on alternative energy sources that will help the long-term health of our country,” said Jason Peasley, executive director, Yampa Valley Housing Authority.

The decision was made after thorough research and discussion. For the past several months, YVHA and a group of community stakeholders have worked with Page, a multidisciplinary engineering and design firm, to evaluate energy system options for the Brown Ranch and to develop the Energy Master Plan. This process was recommended by the Brown Ranch Steering Committee and consultants at the Yampa Valley Sustainability Council (YVSC) for the following reasons:

  1. Cost: Energy infrastructure will be one of the most significant upfront investments YVHA must make prior to building housing at Brown Ranch.
  2. Sustainability: Sustainability was the #2 priority of identified by the Brown Ranch Steering Committee. Mechanical systems, building performance, and fuel type, will all have major implications for carbon emissions and overall sustainability.
  3. Subject Matter Expertise: Determining fuel type, mechanical systems, and building performance standards at Brown Ranch is complicated, with many competing factors, particularly upfront cost vs. lifecycle cost. YVHA is not an expert in this space and brought in experts to help analyze options.
  4. Affordability: YVHA’s main priority for the Brown Ranch and all the properties it develops is to create affordability for residents.

The result of the process was a concept-level Energy Master Plan for Brown Ranch based on a thorough economic analysis of both horizontal (infrastructure) and vertical (housing and above-ground building) energy-related systems and infrastructure, including estimated first and lifecycle costs, carbon intensity, on and offsite energy delivery system costs and load modeling to support grid interaction opportunities. The model also anticipates increased demand for electric power to power electric vehicles at residences and community locations. The purpose of this analysis and master plan is to provide future residents of the Brown Ranch the best possible energy value with respect to upfront cost, lifecycle cost, resilience, and carbon emissions.

 

UPFRONT COSTS ANALYSIS

The analysis included a comparison of the upfront costs of three systems: traditional, all-electric and geothermal.  The upfront costs of geothermal are higher.

  • Traditional: $29.660,648
  • All electric: $22,130,714
  • Geo=thermal: $57,834,932

UTILITY COST ANAYLSIS

However, installation costs are not the only costs associated with an energy system. The consultants estimated that all-electric had the highest utility costs and geothermal the lowest.  The baseline traditional has modest energy cost savings, however the inclusion of natural gas introduces future cost variability risk.

 

LIFE CYCLE COSTS ANALYSIS

Another analysis was life cycle cost which includes installation costs, energy costs, ongoing maintenance costs and replacement costs. According to the report:

  • “All Electric has the lowest first cost but the highest total cost of ownership.
  • The baseline (Traditional) has a higher first cost but results in a lower cost of ownership as compared to Option 3 (All Electric)
  • The Community Geothermal System has the lowest total cost of ownership:
    • Less expensive replacement and maintenance costs are estimated over the life cycle of the community.
    • Becomes more cost effective than the other two options by 2035.
    • Even if only analyzing Phase 1 of the Brown Ranch, the return on energy savings pays back the relatively high initial investment cost within 8-10 years.”

 

YVHA TO USE GEOTHERMAL AT BROWN RANCH

Based on the analysis, YVHA will pursue a community-scale geothermal (water source heat pump) system for Brown Ranch and not deliver natural gas to the site, resulting in a 100% electrified community. Compared to the baseline dual fuel community with air source heat pumps in each building, the community geothermal system will result in a 52% reduction in the community’s annual energy use.

 

COMMUNITY PRIORITIES

In addition to the economic analysis, a 12-month community engagement effort outlined these energy specific principles:

  • Minimizing heat islands
  • Providing energy security for residents
  • Delivering the lowest life cycle costs, not just the initial cost
  • Maximizing energy efficiency
  • Utilizing solar energy
  • Using the most economically viable energy source

 

There is also a social cost to any energy that is used including air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. Reducing carbon emissions is a priority for both Brown Ranch residents and residents of Routt County as outlined in the Climate Action Plan endorsed by the City of Steamboat Springs and Routt County.

 

FUNDING POTENTIAL

The upfront cost of a community-scale geothermal system is higher than the baseline and will require support from grant funding to offset the increase.  However, alternative energy systems like geothermal have a likelihood for qualifying for federal, state, and private grant opportunities. 

 

The federal Inflation Reduction Act has alternative energy tax credits for several areas including:

  • Ground source heat pumps (6% base credit)
  • Up to 30% credit with projects less than 1 MW (approx. 284 tons)
  • Domestic content bonus (additional 2-10% credit) – American steel, iron, etc.
  • Energy community (additional 2-10% credit) – census tract with closed coal mine or coal-fired plant

The final full Energy Master Plan can be found on the Brown Ranch website here: It will be on this page. For more information go to www.brownranchsteamboat.org.

 

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