CONNECTIONS

CONNECTIONS

SOLVING THE WORLD’S ENERGY ISSUES is a big job – so big that no single entity can solve them. That’s why Colorado State University’s industry connections are so critical.

CSU researchers are tied to every aspect of the energy puzzle, working with industry leaders to create solutions to problems associated with production, financing, sustainability, and environmental impact. Those ties are helping close the gap between the needs of the public and the desire to minimize environmental impact, both locally and around the globe.

As John Phelan, resource conservation manager for Fort Collins Utilities says, “It’s not why should we do it – but how?’ Alumnus Rebecca Johnson, a project completion engineer advisor for Anadarko Petroleum Company, works to make oil and gas wells safe and efficient while also collaborating with local communities to explain the fracking process. Jon Goldin-Dubois, president of Western Resources Advocates, is working to ip the Western electricity grid from 80 percent coal-based to one that uses 80 percent renewable energy sources.

Tonie Miyamoto helps lead CSU’s on-campus efforts that have made it the highest rated school in the world for energy savings and sustainability. Judy Dorsey, an alum who founded the Brendle Group, is working with the nation’s ski areas to help them reduce their carbon footprint.

Maury Dobbie, the assistant director of Center for the New Energy Economy, oversees CSU’s annual Natural Gas Symposium, which brings together experts from all sides of the natural gas conversation to share their views.

These leaders, and may others, are working with CSU to find solutions. Read their stories here.

TONIE MIYAMOTO

Director of Communications and Sustainability
Colorado State University Housing & Dining Services

If there is one word that describes the future of natural resources, it’s sustainability. And Tonie Miyamoto has embraced the future enthusiastically, combining her communications skills and passion for social and climate justice to help guide Colorado State to the pinnacle of sustainability – the first-ever Platinum rating from the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System, which compares energy usage and sustainability-related curriculum, research, and engagement at colleges and universities around the world.

“I started as an office of one as the communications coordinator for Housing & Dining Services,” she recalls. “It’s the largest department in the largest division (Student A airs) on campus and includes not only the dining centers and residence halls, but also our Mountain Campus and Conference Services. The staff has grown to nine professionals and several student workers, and we are all dedicated to telling CSU’s story.”

Many of those stories are about the environmental impact of the University. In 2003, CSU was focused on the campus-wide recycling initiative. Recycling was followed naturally by composting food waste from the dining centers. In 2005, Housing & Dining Services first purchased Renewable Energy Credits from Fort Collins Utilities to power its public spaces. The Green Power Program also allowed students to purchase credits to o set energy usage in their residence hall rooms.

Aspen Hall opened in 2009 as not only CSU’s first LEED Gold project but also the first on-site renewable energy installation within Housing & Dining Services with a small solar array on the thermal plant. Today, among the 13 arrays on campus that generate 10.4 million kW hours of electricity each year, three are on residence hall roofs, and campus has 22 LEED certified buildings, with several more under construction.

“It’s a good investment because efficient and renewable energy use ultimately saves
the University money. But the important thing for me is that we are responding to the 86 percent of CSU students who say sustainability is important to them,” Miyamoto says. “It’s not just about what’s behind the walls, but engaging students so they understand the systems and the impact their behavior has on the world around them.”

Thanks to Miyamoto, the next generation can take an active role in sustainability leadership among their peers through the Eco Leaders Peer Education Program, which helps engage and encourage residential students, particularly students of color, LGBT students, and international students, who have historically not been represented in the environmental movement, to get involved and share their passion.

JOHN PHELAN

Resource Conservation Man
Fort Collins Utilities

WHEN IT COMES TO ENERGY EFFICIENCY, Fort Collins is a good place to live. The City has been recognized regionally and nationally for its leadership and aggressive goal-setting in energy savings. Particularly notable is the partnership between the City of Fort Collins and Colorado State University, its largest single utilities customer. In the middle of that harmony is John Phelan, resource conservation manager for Fort Collins Utilities.

“There are so many different types of buildings on campus, with so many different needs, that the University is very creative in coming up with concepts for saving energy,” he explains. The City helps out with incentives when it can.

In one recent example, CSU received a $429,387 rebate check for replacing approximately 12,000 light fixtures in 30 of its existing buildings. The Integrated Design Assistance Program provides similar incentives for new construction or major renovations. Along with its own rebate check reflecting projected energy savings of $40,000 per year, the 65,000-square-foot LEED platinum-certified Powerhouse Energy Campus received a plaque crafted from its own high- performance window material.

Then there’s solar energy. Currently the main campus sports 11 different solar systems (and not the planetary kind).

“CSU has been a great partner in our solar programs as well,” Phelan says. “I know they have an appetite for more if we can come up with more funding.”

The City and the University are joining forces with Platte River Power Authority to study the feasibility of a new campus-wide heating system that would generate electricity at the same time. More detailed study is needed for this large-scale project, but “the preliminary work is promising,” says Phelan. “It’s the type of thing that will take years, but it would have an enormous impact on CSU and the City’s energy profile.”

When a student group launched Project Porchlight, where volunteers replace neighborhood porch lights with high-efficiency bulbs, Phelan provided the bulbs and helped organize the effort.

To Phelan, a California-raised engineer who has been with the City of Fort Collins for 13 years, what’s notable is that this sense of collaboration between the City and the University is simply understood. When it comes to new projects or ideas related to sustainability or energy conservation, no one has to make a case for the “why” because “we’ve already covered that,” says Phelan. “It’s not why should we do it—but how?”

JON GOLDIN-DUBOIS

President
Western Resources Advocates

Jon Goldin-Dubois grew up in Colorado and he’s raising his own kids here now. Hiking, biking, skiing, and snowshoeing keep his family enjoying the state’s natural beauty in every season.

It’s his passion for the nature all around him that drives his work to protect it. As president of Western Resources Advocates, he leads a team of economists, attorneys, engineers, advocates, and scientists in creating strategies to address sustainability issues.

Together, they work on three key program areas — clean power, healthy rivers, and land preservation — across seven states in the West. “It’s about putting the right team together to figure out how we can accomplish goals like moving from a Western electricity grid that’s 80 percent coal to one that’s 80 percent renewable, or even 100 percent renewable,” he says.

What led him here? “Climate change,” he says. “I believe it’s the biggest challenge of our generation. We’re faced with figuring out how to power our homes, our cars, and our businesses while also taking aggressive action to protect our climate… And WRA is at the forefront.”

Their clean power program, for example, helps advance renewable energy to eventually create a cleaner transportation sector. “We’ve also worked to help pass clean energy standards,” Goldin-Dubois says, “which require that a percentage of all power generated comes from renewable energy.”

WRA is focused, in part, on assisting states in executing federal guidelines. The team recently helped design an agreement to phase out two coal-fired units at a Navajo generating system in New Mexico. They also worked with the Colorado Water Conservation board, among others, to win instream flow protection for the Dolores River — guaranteeing appropriate water ow year-round to protect wildlife and to protect the river for recreational use.

“On occasion throughout my life, I’ve moved away from Colorado, but this place is home. It’s Colorado, but it’s also the West,” he says. “It gets into your blood. There’s no feeling in the world like standing on the rim of the Grand Canyon or on a peak in Colorado, or rafting through Desolation Canyon in Utah. I don’t think there’s anything that renews the soul like those kinds of things. That’s part of what makes me a Westerner.”

JUDY DORSEY

Founding President & Principal Engineer
Brendle Group

JUDY DORSEY DETERMINED during her undergraduate studies at Northwestern University that she wanted to use her engineering degree to improve the human condition. And while completing graduate school at Colorado State, she furthered her interest in addressing environmental sustainability issues.

When her son was born in 1996, Dorsey founded Brendle Group in an effort to improve her work-life balance, after working with the U.S. Department of Energy in Washington State.

She and her team have been committed to finding transformative systems for the way we use energy ever since.

“We don’t need just energy conversion, we need to look at urban form and land use,” she says. “It’s about transportation and building science, too. So we approach our energy practice from a combined view of engineering and land use planning.”

Dorsey heads projects ranging from single-building energy audits all the way to community-wide planning programs. Currently, she’s particularly excited about work being done for the ski industry. Among other projects, Brendle Group recently helped the National Ski Areas Association create a voluntary program to help ski areas quantify their energy use and commit to doing one project each year to reduce their carbon footprint.

“The reason we think [the work in this industry] is important,” she says, “is that ski areas are highly vulnerable to climate change, and they have a strong voice through their customer base to … educate and advocate for sustainability.”

“Our first 10 years were about proving the business case,” she says. “We had to do a lot of explaining and persuasion. Then the second decade has been about building out some of those ideas. It’s more about implementation now. And today, we’re on a clear growth pattern heading into our third decade.”

Dorsey is one of the clean energy innovators included in the “Places of Invention” at the Smithsonian Institution’s Lemeslon Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation, alongside Amy Prieto, Bryan Willson, and three others from Fort Collins.

She says her emphasis is on doing work that is impact-driven, people-centered, and designed for smart growth. To date, that mission has helped her team effect change through 300 projects across 30 states.

REBECCA JOHNSON

Project Completion Engineer Advisor
Anadarko

“I really didn’t have any intentions of working in this industry,” Rebecca
Johnson says in describing her early career. But en route to her master’s degree in chemical engineering at Colorado State University, she received an internship with Amoco.

There, she had the opportunity to work at a new compressor facility. “I got to work on completion, and I fell in love with it,” Johnson says. And she’s since spent nearly 24 years working in the industry.

As a completion engineer for Anadarko, Rebecca’s work is focused on hydraulic fracturing. “We start with a well that’s just been drilled,” she explains. “But it doesn’t produce because the rock is so dense. There’s not much porosity or permeability. So I get to design the hydraulic fracture treatment that creates cracks in the rock formation, 7,000 feet underground, so it will produce the oil and gas.”

Johnson also enjoys sharing information about her role, particularly with residents of the communities in which Anadarko is working. “There’s been a misunderstanding about hydraulic fracturing,” she says. “We’re trying to communicate the truth about what we’ve been doing.”

For instance, Johnson notes that 90 percent of Colorado’s energy comes from the more than 23,000 wells in Weld County alone — and fracking has been taking place there since 1970. “It’s not a new thing, but a lot of people think it is,” she says.

She’s found that once she describes the fracking process and the many protections that go along with it — for the safety of both the community and the workers — many people don’t find it controversial.

Anadarko, Johnson says, is always on the leading edge of improvements. “I’ve been very blessed to be a part of implementing the horizontal
completions in the Rockies,” she says.

Additionally, she’s served on Anadarko’s Stim Center team. The Stim method, she explains, allows for fracking multiple wells from a single, more distant location. The result is to pull crews away from houses and communities, “to reduce light, noise, and traffic — and also to reduce surface disturbance.”

“I love what I do for a living, and I love to share it,” Johnson says, adding that she and her colleagues are committed to continually improving the process.

MAURY DOBBIE

Assistant Director, Center for the New Energy Economy
Colorado State University

FROM OWNING HER OWN BUSINESSES to serving as part of a local economic development corporation, Maury Dobbie has experienced firsthand the interconnectedness of people, communities, education, and the environment over the course of a 35-year career.

Her interest in sustainability has its roots in her upbringing on a Wyoming ranch. “Back then, you didn’t want to be called an ‘environmentalist’ — people would think you were crazy,” she laughs. “But ‘conservationism’ was normal. Everyone cared about clean air and clean water.”

This ingrained appreciation for natural resources later grew into an advocacy for restoration and preservation of the land.

Today, Dobbie is the assistant director of the Center for the New Energy Economy at Colorado State University, headed up by former Colorado Governor Bill Ritter.

Dobbie oversees operations for CNEE with diverse responsibilities ranging from budget planning and monitoring to management of multiple websites and overseeing all events.

Her management style is also influenced by her personal history. “I’m a middle child,” she says, “so I’ve learned to see both sides of any issue. And our Center is very good at bringing together both sides of many issues to have a civil discourse.”

She wants to ensure that everyone has a voice in these discussions, and she leverages this talent in overseeing the non-partisan Natural Gas Symposium, which has taken place for the past five years.

It’s an event, Dobbie says, where “we bring people together who don’t agree, but who have an eye toward solutions… I’m most proud that [with the Symposium] we’re part of those actual on-the-ground solutions.”

Dobbie prides herself on navigating a predominantly male industry and leveraging innate business skills to do so.

Her primary goal is always to make a difference in the world. “I get up every morning believing that we’re doing something that’s important for the nation,” Dobbie says with pride. “I believe we will affect future generations in a positive way when it comes to energy, because of the work we’re doing.”

ASHLEY GROSH

VP & Environmental A airs Business Initiatives Manager
Wells Fargo

Ashley Grosh knows a bit about passion. As an investment manager for Wells Fargo, when her research sent her deep into the mechanisms of wind power, “a light bulb went off,” she says. She’d found her passion, and she even left the company to follow it.

But six months later she returned as employee number three of the newly formed sustainability group. Now Grosh had things to do — and money to do it with.

Her first task: develop an environmental philanthropy strategy.

The budget she manages today aims to provide $100 million toward environmental causes by 2020. Part of that is $15 million for Environmental Solutions for Communities grants. Partnering with the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, the five-year program offers grants earmarked for conservation efforts — waterway restoration, environmental education, tree planting, beach cleanup.

As part of this program, Grosh established systems to measure everything from jobs created to community members trained, hours volunteered to water conserved through the grants.

“Putting some hard numbers into it let us tell our story better on how we’re making a difference in the communities we serve,” Grosh says.

She created the $10 million Wells Fargo Innovation Incubator, an invitation-only partnership with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and with clean technology startups — true “disruptors in the market” — in their earliest stages, mentoring, providing lab space, and other resources to help the technology on its path to market.

“The secret sauce is that we are opening up our doors at Wells Fargo, where we have 100 million square feet to play with and further validate technologies, a critical step needed and rarely available for startups,” Grosh says.

The White House has already taken note and wants to see other companies o er similar programs. “They’ve actually changed the tax code because of what we’re doing,” Grosh points out.

The bank sources all of its promising technologies through local Colorado channels like the Innosphere in Fort Collins, and Grosh expects to formally add CSU as a channel partner in the Incubator’s next round. Dedicated to supporting the evolving technologies in the energy sector, Wells Fargo is also a four-year supporter of the Natural Gas Symposium, and is looking for other ways to partner with CSU’s leading Center for the New Energy Economy.

Series Navigation<< THE ARCHITECTS OF OUR FUTURENATURAL GAS: ALREADY ON THE ROAD TO A BETTER PRESENT >>