Alpine Bank donates solar panels for low-cost energy for those most in need
By Judith Sears
Grand National Award Recipient
Alpine Bank – Glenwood Springs, Colo.
Service Program: Community Solar Power Donation
Bank Website: www.alpinebank.com
With many of its 38 retail offices located in Colorado’s Rocky Mountains, Alpine Bank puts a premium on protecting the environment. “Living in the High Country, our environment really matters,” says David Miller, the bank’s senior vice president for customized business solutions and chairperson of its Green Team Leadership Committee.
“We don’t want pollution in our pristine mountains to collect particulates and make it hard to breathe.”
Recently, Alpine Bank, a $2.8 billion-asset, employee-owned community bank with a history of environmental initiatives, completed one of its most innovative environmentally friendly projects to date: the purchase of 82 individual solar photovoltaic panels in a “community solar garden” designed to help financially struggling local families lower their utility bills. The bank subsequently donated its ownership of the panels to the Family and Intercultural Resource Center, a local nonprofit that assists low-income families in a variety of ways.
As intended, the bank’s donation contributes to green energy production and provides free or reduced electric service to lower-income families in the community, Miller says. “This is the first instance that a for-profit business has made a community solar purchase for the sole purpose of a low-income community reinvestment,” he points out.
The bank’s donation of its solar panels—which are operated by the Clean Energy Collective LLC, a company in Boulder, Colo., that builds and operates clean energy facilities—will partially subsidize the utility costs of about 20 families, says Tamara Drangstveit, executive director of the Family and Intercultural Resource Center.
Many families in the communities Alpine Bank serves in Summit County, Colorado, can be significantly helped financially through lower utility bills, Drangstveit says. “Summit County is an extremely high cost of living community,” she explains. “Many of the families we work with really struggle to make ends meet.”
Further, the effects of Alpine Bank’s donation will continue indefinitely, adds Noel Hansen, the bank’s vice president of marketing and business banking. “It’s not a one-time deal,” she states. “These panels will be there to offset energy costs for residents in perpetuity.”
Over the past decade, environmental awareness has become part of Alpine Bank’s culture.
Since 2006, the bank has annually earned an ISO 14001 certification, a designation given to companies that continually reduce their environmental impacts. The bank’s environmental performance is audited annually by KPMG.
“This is the first instance that a for-profit business has made a community solar purchase for the sole purpose of a low-income community reinvestment.”
—David Miller, Alpine Bank
In 2009, the bank’s Green Team Leadership Committee began researching community solar projects, shortly after the bank committed to using 100 percent green energy at all of its locations. Beginning with its first purchase of solar panels in 2014, the bank has to date invested $896,480 in 1,092 solar panels from five different community solar projects. Its Green Team Committee, comprised of 30 employees, meets quarterly to set environmental project priorities.
“Alpine Bank is the epitome of how companies can use clean energy and community solar to benefit the organization, the environment and the communities they serve,” offers Tim Braun, public affairs director for the Clean Energy Collective.
Certainly, Alpine Bank is thrilled with the outcome of donating its solar panels to the Summit County initiative. “We’re able to make an investment in community solar gardens that creates jobs and reduces pollution and protects our lifestyle, and by our actions we’re supporting a whole family of other organizations and individuals who support the county,” Miller summarizes. “It’s a huge win-win-win.”
Judith Sears is a writer in Colorado.