Watt by Watt

Arcata, CaliforniaOn Campus, Off the Grid

Students at Humboldt State University in northern California have
devised a system for powering their dorm with a blend of solar,
wind, and pedal power. The Campus Center for Appropriate Technology
has been off the grid since 1991, reports Earth Island
(Summer 2001). The residential center not only taps the
power of sun and wind but also uses a ‘human energy converter’ to
link a fleet of stationary bikes to small 12-volt generators, which
in turn power laptops, TVs, washing machines, and other home
appliances. When they want to hold a rock concert or political
rally, students hop on the bikes and power the sound system.

Sacramento, CaliforniaMade in the Shade

Sacramento has an old-fashioned way of helping people beat the
summer heat. According to OrionAfield (Summer 2002),
the municipally owned power utility furnishes residents with shade
trees planted in strategic locations. Since 1991, they’ve delivered
312,000 trees to more than 100,000 Sacramento County residents.
About three years after being planted, the trees fill out and
residents can turn down their air conditioners, lowering their
energy bills and taking the edge off peak summer electricity

Port Angeles, WashingtonMagnet Power

Superpowerful magnets could dramatically increase the nation’s
energy efficiency. That’s the vision of Jerry Lamb, who has
invented a way to cut the power needed to run industrial pumps and
other devices driven by electric motors. The trick is to ‘soft
start’ the pump shafts with magnet power, slowly whirring them up
to speed, rather than wasting the electricity it takes to get
standard machinery running full blast all at once. As reported in
Orion Afield (Summer 2002), the 50 installations where
Lamb’s MagnaDrive devices are already at work have showed energy
savings of 20 to 66 percent. Lamb, based in Port Angeles,
Washington, got start-up help from the Northwest Energy Efficiency
Alliance, a regional consortium dedicated to lowering energy use.

Spirit Lake, IowaLearning from Wind
The Spirit Lake, Iowa, school district installed, at a cost of $1
million, two wind turbines that provide all the electricity it
needs. They’ve already paid off the first turbine, erected in 1993,
and they’ll own the newer, bigger one within five years. Seeing
their last electricity bill won’t be the only benefit. They’ll also
begin selling about $120,000 worth of surplus power back to the
local utility. What’s more, according to Orion Afield
(Summer 2002), the turbines are a great tool for teaching math and
science, giving kids a hands-on demonstration of clean energy at

Maria Opitz

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