How Boulder is Becoming a Resilient City Model

This wall at Boulder Creek was flooded until Sept. 18, 2013 when this picture was taken.
Image: Flickr

Boulder is becoming a resilient city through a sustainable energy P3 that will make critical facilities operational during extended power loss.

A public-private partnership (P3) between the city of Boulder, Colo., and the firm Pos-En is designing sustainable energy systems at vital sites to improve the city’s resilience during emergencies. Disasters like the 2013 eight-day, 1000-year rain and 100-year flood event led to a series of emergency evacuations requiring airlifts, shutdown of a city wastewater treatment plant and more.

Learning from that experience and leveraging resources is spawning the kind of innovative civic thinking that is making Boulder a resilient city model others can learn from.

Boulder selected its Emergency Operations Center, North Boulder Recreation Center, Fire Training Center, 63rd Street water treatment facility and Via Mobility Services’ dispatch facility for the sustainable energy upgrades because of their critical roles during emergencies, according to the Daily Camera.

While the systems will be relied on to power public transportation, emergency shelters and the city’’s wildfire command and evacuation center during the city’s darkest hours, according to the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) website, they will also provide power for day-to-day operations.

We want to ensure these facilities stay operational when our community needs them most. They’re also great test sites for ways we can leverage technology to make our day-to-day use of energy cleaner and more efficient,” said Boulder Mayor Suzanne Jones.

Resilience is Energy Independence

A delegation including Mayor Jones presented the innovative P3 at CGI’s 2016 annual meeting in New York in September. While the main goal of the project is to make Boulder a more resilient city, officials and staff believe all cities can pioneer ways to make their energy systems more grid-independent and sustainable.

Boulder’s sustainable energy systems will incorporate solar panels, battery storage, back-up generation, controls and other efficiency upgrades. They can be relied on to maintain operations for extended periods during times when grid power is not available. They will also be tested to help the city meet its energy efficiency goals.

Boulder is hopeful that its participation will lead to even more interest in partnerships like this one and inspire other cities to consider ways to make their energy systems more independent and sustainable,” said Sarah Huntley, Boulder spokeswoman.

According to the city’s website, Boulder is also on a path to transition to 100 percent clean energy by 2030.

Draft Resiliency Strategy & Outreach

As part of its road to becoming a resilient city, Boulder is part of the 100 Resilient Cities global program–one of the first 32 cities selected.

Through this initiative, the city was the first in Colorado to release a draft resiliency strategy.

Boulder has also been engaging the community in its resilient city efforts through its Mobile Resilience Lab with activities like creating disaster communication plans, and is launching a community resiliency course to be rolled out in 2017.

Read the original story about Boulder’s CGI Summit presentation on the Daily Camera’s website.

About the author

Andrea Fox

Andrea Fox

Andrea Fox is Editor of EfficientGov.com and Senior Editor at Praetorian Digital. She is based in Massachusetts.