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Customers finance education on solar

John Seelmeyer

Customers of Sierra Pacific Power Co.

the number is approaching 100 are volunteering to pay higher utility bills each month.

The reason? They’re contributing to a project co-sponsored by the Reno-based utility and DRI Research Foundation to get kids thinking about renewable energy in Nevada.

The first results of their contributions will come on line this autumn, when photovoltaic panels and a wind generator come on line at Traner Middle School in north Reno.

The solar panels and wind generator will produce enough electricity to power the school’s science room, saving about $500 a year in energy costs.

But Karen Foster, SPPC manager of public relations, says program has more ambitious goals than modest cost savings.

“This program is intended to stimulate the hearts and minds of kids,” Foster said a few days ago.

Solar power, she explained, isn’t yet cost-competitive with traditional generation sources.

Sierra Pacific Power and DRI Research Foundation officials hope a young science student may be inspired by the demonstration project to find ways to bring wider application of the technology.

James Kropid, a DRI Foundation trustee who chairs its GreenPower Committee said, “We believe these students are the generation that will see the wide-scale adoption of renewable energy as a substantial source of power, and we think it’s important for them to become familiar with the technology as early as possible,” said Hane The installation at Traner Middle School a $30,000 project will be underwritten by Sierra Pacific customers who opt to contribute each month with their utility payment.

The contributions, which are entirely tax-deductible, are collected by Sierra Pacific and forwarded in their entirety to the DRI Research Foundation.

(The foundation is the fundraising arm of the Desert Research Institute.) In addition, Sierra Pacific will match customers’ contributions this year dollarfor- dollar up to $10,000.

So far, Foster said, Sierra Pacific Power has solicited contributions through an insert in customer bills.

Because energy conservation and the need to develop sources of green power is one of the utility’s priority messages this year, it’s likely the campaign will get wider advertising exposure.

The Traner School project is a virtual duplicate of an installation at Las Vegas’ Hyde Park School that came on line last September.

Two more installations are planned at southern Nevada Schools.

A curriculum developed around the Las Vegas installation will be made available to Traner teachers.

Nevada’s renewable energy rates an ANevada was one of only two states to receive a top grade when it comes to renewable energy efforts.

The Union of Concerned Scientists last week released a report titled “Plugging in Renewable Energy: Grading the States.” Each state was graded based on projected results of renewable electricity standards for electric companies and dedicated renewable electricity funds.

Only California and Nevada received A- grades for enacting standards that increase renewable electricity sales by one percentage point per year for at least 10 years, while covering most state utilities.

Thirty-four states received failing grades of D or F.


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