Renewables gathering steam in valley
August 18, 2006
Alternative energy isnt just for greenies anymore.People who promote power from wind, water and solar sources as well as biofuels say the interest in those alternatives has skyrocketed over the past year. They arent just preaching to the choir anymore at events like Aspen Renewable Energy Day which will take place Aug. 26.A growing number of ordinary folks want to know how they can limit their contribution to global warming and be more energy efficient, said Sally Ranny, an Aspenite who has made a career in environmental policy and is a member of the advisory board for Aspen Renewable Energy Day, also known as AREDAY.Kids are learning more about issues like global warming in school, she said. Adults regularly read or hear about it in the media. Its a topic at dinner tables, Ranny said. People are asking questions.For a group called the 25-by-25 Initiative, the growing interest couldnt come at a better time. The organization launched an effort 21⁄2 years ago to have alternative energy sources provide 25 percent of the countrys total demand by the year 2025.Michael Bowman, a farmer from the eastern Colorado plains town of Rye and a member of 25-by-25s national steering committee, said the public didnt immediately grasp or embrace the concept.It was still a tough gig just a year ago, he said.That changed after Hurricane Katrina hit and people watched gas pumps suck away more of their money. Suddenly, energy efficiency and alternative fuels and energy sources struck a cord with people. (Even so, Bowman noted, national gas consumption is 1.2 percent higher this year than last.)Bowman labeled the 2025 goal of having 25 percent of energy from alternative sources the nations new moon mission. President Kennedy didnt know in 1961 how the country would achieve his goal of sending a man to the moon by the end of the decade, Bowman noted, but in 1969 the nation accomplished that feat.Similarly, he believes the country already possesses the technology and know-how to achieve the goal of 25 percent renewable resources. Its an aggressive but attainable goal, he said. We hope that 25-by-25 can be the goal that we rally around.It will take a big rally. Currently about 6 percent of energy comes from alternative sources, including wind, solar, geothermal, biofuels, and large and small hydro projects. More information about the initiative is available online at http://www.25×25.org.Bowman, a speaker at AREDAY, doesnt believe that power brokers in Washington, D.C., will be much help in achieving the goal. Instead it must come at the state and local levels with mayors, activists and people such as farmers leading the way. Thats why he believes events like Aspen Renewable Energy Day are valuable. They provide an opportunity to spark interest and inform people who arent otherwise plugged into the network.The third annual AREDAY will feature booths and demonstrations by some of the leading organizations in renewable energy. Lots of the information will be on practical steps that individuals and families can take to reduce their carbon footprint, said event founder and organizer Chip Comins. A carbon footprint is the amount of energy a family consumes and the CO2 it produces from its lifestyle from the foods they eat to the size of their house and the vehicles they drive.AREDAY is designed to build awareness and promote bipartisan cooperation to address a problem, Ranny said. I think its important because its solution-oriented, she said. Its not pointing fingers.Some displays will demonstrate the possibilities in energy efficiency. There will be a retrofitted Hydrogen Hummer. The National Renewable Energy Lab will bring its RnEEW Bus, a renewable energy museum on wheels.AREDAY will be held from noon to 4:30 p.m. on the Cooper Avenue Mall and at Wagner Park. Its not just heavy-duty studying. There will be free Ben & Jerrys ice cream and music by the Flying Dog Bluegrass Band. Kids can turn their attention to a bungee trampoline.Former U.S. Sen. Gary Hart, a professor of the Wirth Chair in Environmental and Community Development Policy, will deliver the keynote address at 5:30 p.m. at Paepcke Auditorium.The entire schedule of events and more about AREDAY is available at http://www.areday.net.Scott Condons e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.