Fresh Ideas

Is there a hint of spring in the air? It seems that way with renewable energy in


Last weekend more than 60 people took part in a "Green Living Field Trip" organized by Carson Valley's Renewable Energy and Sustainable Resources Roundup. The first stop was Kit Carson Village, where project manager Pete Coates led a tour of LEED-certified homes in this Gardnerville development.

LEED, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, is a rating system designed by the U.S. Green Building Council. Green construction methods and materials, recycling and waste reduction, efficient irrigation and native landscaping, energy-efficient lighting, appliances and ventilation make these homes about 50 percent more energy efficient than similar homes built with conventional methods. They can save homeowners about $1,500 a year in energy costs, and almost halve the home's carbon footprint.

The next stop was Comstock Seed for a ribbon-cutting for a solar panel array that will produce much of the energy used by this business that harvests native seeds. A "localvore" lunch was organized and prepared by Dan Kaffer of Western Nevada Resource Conservation and Development and friends. We picnicked on locally grown food served on compostable plates.

The Renewable Energy and Sustainable Resources Roundup organization promises two more field trips this spring. For more, visit

I called up Bob Tregilius, founding co-president of the Alternative Transportation and Electric Auto Club of Northern Nevada, to get his take on the progress of renewable energy development. Bob, who rides a 1976 Kawasaki motorcycle that he converted to plug-in electric, is excited about two ideas: vehicle-to-grid technology and renewable energy payments.

Vehicle to grid, also called "smart garage," is based on the idea that when enough people use electric vehicles, there will be a huge reservoir of distributed energy storage " all those car batteries " that can potentially be used by utilities to supplement power produced from renewables such as wind and solar.

Renewable energy payments is a system in which small renewable energy producers can enter into contracts with utilities to be paid for all kilowatt-hours of energy produced. Bob is building a coalition to support the concept, and hopes to find a sponsor for a bill in the 2011 Nevada Legislature.

My next stop was the Nevada Legislature, where I found 19 bill draft requests on renewable energy and energy efficiency, including Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford's "green jobs" initiative to use federal stimulus funds to train workers to weatherize houses.

Which led me to the granddaddy of them all " the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, signed last week by President Obama. The range of clean energy funding, tax credits and other incentives in this act is mind-boggling: an almost tenfold increase in funding for programs including research and development in biomass and geothermal energy, grants for manufacturing advanced battery systems; $4 billion toward weatherization assistance; loan guarantees for renewable energy; $4.5 billion to modernize the nation's electrical grid and much more.

Of interest to homeowners: $300 million to support rebates for energy efficient appliances; increasing the existing 10 percent tax credit for energy efficiency improvements to a 30 percent tax credit; removing all caps on the tax credits for solar energy systems, geothermal heat pumps, small wind turbines and fuel cell systems and more.

Watching this tumult of ideas, activity and dollars in renewable energy is like watching ice break up in a long-frozen river. As Victor Hugo wrote, "There is no more powerful force in the world than an idea whose time has come."

- Anne Macquarie, a private-sector urban planner, is a long-time resident of Carson City.


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