From: Tom Sharpe, Santa Fe New Mexican
Published September 8, 2005 12:00 AM

Officials Unveil Plans for Sustainability Center

A new center at Santa Fe Community College aims to foster clean, beneficial, self-sustaining water and energy projects to shape Santa Fe's social, economic and environmental future.

Officials from Santa Fe city and county governments, the community college, the Santa Fe Business Incubator and a nonprofit called Local Energy on Tuesday announced plans for the Center for Community Sustainability.

The center grew out of last year's recommendation by a city-hired consultant that Santa Fe become "the water-conservation and clean-energy capital of the United States," said Kris Swedin, director of the economicdevelopment division of the city Community Services Department.

College executive vice president Sheila Ortego said the center is similar to other advanced-technology centers at community colleges across the country, although it will focus not so much on research, but on developing partnerships with private industry and training students to work in related fields.

Mark Sardella of Local Energy, which is studying the idea of heating downtown Santa Fe with biomass from cut trees and limbs, said one possible project will involve using biomass to heat buildings in the community-college district south of Santa Fe.

The college already uses a hot-water system fired by natural gas to heat the buildings on its campus, Sardella said. But, he said, the center could open up the network to test out new types of heat sources.

"Let's say somebody had a small solar thermal technology that they wanted to test out," he said. "We could deploy it on that network and see the way that technology interfaces with other devices and other heat loads and sources on the network."

The college has agreed to invest $25,000 in the center, while the city and the county have agreed to kick in $20,000 and $10,000, respectively, said Ortego. The next step, she said, would be to hire a consultant to help with planning the center.

"We're hoping to get some external funding to support a request for a proposal that we'll put out to consultants to come in and do a feasibility study for an actual center," Ortego said. "We're not really waiting for a building and all kinds of resources."

Swedin said initial projects might concern biomass, gray-water systems or "something even more efficient than any of us have dreamed of yet." But, she said, the hope is that new businesses will be able to use the center to see how their ideas work in a realworld application.

It "affords the opportunity for people to really put these applications into effect in real buildings so you can see if they really work, that they have the intended results," Swedin said.

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Source: Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News

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