Monday, January 12, 2009

Energy Conservation: Challenges, Rewards

Imagine a light bulb wearing a sweater. That’s the clever image Time magazine displayed to illustrate its current cover story about energy efficiency. That’s a catchy way to call attention to what the newsweekly describes as “those pigtailed compact fluorescent lightbulbs that use 75% less power than traditional bulbs.”

And that’s the kind of idea sponsors of the Igniting Creative Energy Challenge contest hope to spark among elementary and high school students across the U.S. and Canada. Grand prize winners get a trip to Washington, DC, home to the incoming Obama Administration, which pledged to make energy conservation a major issue—starting with cutting “15 % of all energy use by the Federal Government, the world’s largest consumer,” according to Time.

Meanwhile, college students at Rutgers University in New Jersey are being challenged to devise “creative and innovative solutions in reducing energy wasted” on campus. First prize award is $2,500. Priming the pump with a big feasible idea, the state university is building the largest solar power array in the Garden State. “The 1.4-megawatt (MW) solar energy facility at Rutgers will consist of more than 7,000 solar panels and will generate approximately 10 percent of the electrical demand of the school's Livingston Campus,” saving the university more than $200,000 in its first year of operation, noted Renewable Energy World.

This is just a sampling of programs and projects that are targeting what Time’s cover story calls “Wasting Our Watts.” The newsweekly argues that “A nationwide push to save ‘negawatts’ instead of building more megawatts could help reverse our unsustainable increases in energy-hogging and carbon-spewing while creating a slew of jobs and saving a load of cash.” One energy efficiency expert estimates that “today’s best techniques could save the U.S. half our oil and gas and three-fourths of our electricity.”

Hint: “even our new consumer electronics—the fastest growing segment of power demand—slurp alarming quantities of juice,” Time notes. For instance, “video-game consoles devour two fridges’ worth of electricity when your kids leave them on, which they probably do, because manufacturers ship them with the auto power-down disabled.”

So kids and adults have plenty to think about as to how to save energy that’s just going to waste. Adults can save money on electric bills. Kids with good ideas might win a prize. “The Challenge to students is simple,” state the Igniting Creative Energy Challenge guidelines, developed by Johnson Controls Inc. and the National Energy Foundation.

"Step 1 - Learn how an individual's own wise energy choices and environmental stewardship can help reduce energy consumption and improve the community in which we live.
Step 2 - Ignite your creative energy to explore new and creative ways to make a difference in the way you use energy.
Step 3 - Use your creative talents to communicate your energy ideas and actions to others."

For further information:

(This article was also posted at Opinion-Forum.)