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This power plant builds on positive thinking

Christine Stanley
Sierra Sun

The details have yet to be worked out, but new energy conservation options are continuing to arise within the Truckee Donner Public Utility District.

Just added to the list is the concept of a conservation power plant. It’s not a physical structure, explained planning director Scott Terrell: It’s the absence of one.

Rather than purchasing power from or building a power plant to serve the community’s need, the community can sustain a low level of power consumption through a variety of comprehensive conservation measures that minimize the amount of energy required by users.

“Reducing usage is the equivalent of producing usage,” Terrell said. “I am throwing it out as an option. I think it needs to be studied thoroughly. There are pros and cons, but I think it is going to be in the view of a conservation committee through the [utility district].”

In a presentation to the board, Terrell and local environmental engineer Robert Mowris pitched a plan they said could substantially reduce Truckee’s power consumption and diminish the difficulties of getting so much energy up the summit.

“We are proposing as many conservation programs as necessary,” Mowris said.

The so-called conservation power plant is an umbrella term for the large-scale conservation overhaul Terrell and other green-minded stake holders are pushing.

Programming could include such measures as converting traffic lights to light-emitting diodes (LEDs), bettering refrigeration systems in local supermarkets, auditing the energy use of top consumers and adding passive solar systems to new construction.

Terrell calls the plan “aggressive” and hopes it will draw greater response than the district’s current rebate plans, which have not seen great popularity.

Paying for a slew of new conservation projects shouldn’t be a burden, Mowris said, because the money is already available.

Assembly bills 1890 and 995 require California electricity and natural gas utilities to collect and spend a minimum of 2.85 percent of revenues on conservation measures.

Within the Truckee Donner Public Utility District, that 2.85 percent currently equates to $549,000, but it’s not all being spent where it should be, Mowris said.

“A half million dollars is enough to get going. And I told [the board members] that they could charge more. That’s just the minimum,” Mowris said. “If we can just take on this challenge and make sure that this money gets spent appropriately, we can make this happen, but the community needs to be involved.”

The board will have ultimate discretion over which conservation programs get implemented, but the district’s soon-to-be-established conservation committee will also play a large role.


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