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BY RICH PATTERSON
Alliant Energy recently declared the Indian Creek Nature Center a photovoltaic power generating station. It will invest in a solar electric system that will produce more energy than the center’s new building consumes.
For years the utility and nature center shared power from a smaller, net-metered, photovoltaic system, meaning the meter ran backward or forward depending on renewable production and building demand. The customer pays the “net” at the end of the month.
The small system on the nature center’s existing building reduced consumption and cost by about 41 percent. The new system will drop utility costs to zero while producing surplus electricity for others to use.
It is not pie-in-the sky technology. Nearly every business and home can install readily available equipment and better manage energy use to reduce, or eliminate, energy cost.
Technology offers immense opportunity to reduce energy consumption beyond buildings. Our Prius, for example, comfortably moves us along at 50 miles per gallon. It’s closer to 60 when driving around town in summer. Every gallon we don’t burn frees family cash for other things, while reducing emissions and the need to extract and move oil. We save money whether gas prices are high or low.
Business, industry, government and homeowners can embrace efficiency and renewables to reap cost and climate benefits, or we can continue to extract, move and burn fossil fuel until it’s gone.
Construction of the proposed Bakken and Keystone pipelines will require condemnation of private property, tear up land and create potential for toxic spills. There is much oil deep in Canadian, Texan and Dakota rocks, but it remains a nonrenewable resource that will deplete. As it grows scarcer and harder to extract it will become more expensive.
If everyone embraced efficiency, the need for fossil fuels and pipelines will diminish along with the environmental impacts associated with energy production. Efficient consumption saves consumers money while extending oil and coal reserves for the manufacture of plastics, cosmetics, medications and thousands of other products. Our national priority should encourage maximizing efficiency, not building pipelines. ♦
—Rich Patterson is a past OWAA president and member of the Circle of Conservation Chiefs. He and his wife Marion own Winding Pathways LLC and live in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. For 36 years he served as executive director of the Indian Creek Nature Center.