Truckee resident calls for renewable energy

Scott Hess

With California’s 2000-2001 energy crisis well behind, Californians should feel free to use energy as they please, right?

Rolf Godon and a few hundred other people in Truckee don’t think so.

Godon, a Truckee resident and psychologist, thinks traditional methods of creating electricity are limited and we should rely on nature’s renewable power – the sun, wind and water – for our renewable energy source.

And he has done more than just talk. He has created a petition that will go to the Truckee-Donner Public Utilities District and has already received approximately 200-300 signatures from other concerned citizens.

“I want to let [the PUD] know there’s a significant interest in this,” Godon said. “We should invest in something we have local control over.”

TDPUD General Manager Peter Holzmeister said he agrees with the idea of renewable energy and the PUD is looking into it, but the technology isn’t quite there yet. “Renewable energy is something we as a nation should look at,” he said. However, he added, “In many ways renewable energy is not cost effective. If the Truckee PUD goes for renewable energy, like wind power, rates will go up.”

According to the California Energy Commission’s Consumer Energy Center, there are several forms of renewable energy currently available. Biomass (using vegetation), fuel cell (a chemical process, instead of “burning fuel”), geothermal (heat escaping from the earth), hydroelectric (water power), solar cells or photovoltaics (utilizing energy from the sun, basically solar panels), solar thermal (using heat from the sun) and wind technologies (basically windmills) are currently being used throughout the state.

Photovoltaics is perhaps the most widely recognized renewable energy source, and can be found on rooftops, in calculators, highway emergency telephones and several other applications. Hydroelectric power and wind technologies have been utilized around the world for a variety of uses as well.

California is urging its counties and cities to move towards renewable energy and is offering rebates to individual residents for using renewable energy. Included in California’s renewable energy rebate program are PVs, small wind turbines, fuel cells and solar thermal electrical systems.

According to the Consumer Energy Center Web site, depending on the size, technology used and installation method, “Affordable housing projects may qualify for an extra 25 percent rebate above the standard rebate, not to exceed 75 percent of the system cost based on meeting additional eligibility criteria.”

Holzmeister said California’s push for renewable energy is a good idea, but he feels it might be too expensive, and some forms could be harmful to the environment.

For example, Holzmeister said that to utilize wind power, the town would have to clear “a couple hundred acres” of trees to install a large enough system. Also, he said a source like solar power needs to be developed more to be able to be used on a larger scale. “We think there’s a tremendous future for photovoltaics, but it’s not there yet,” he said.

Scott Terrell, TDPUD’s planning director, said the PUD is looking into biomass technology, which could have several benefits. He said the district could use biomass technology “mainly using dead wood…basically, garbage wood. We could reduce the fire hazard in the area and make use of that wood.”

Terrell also mentioned, “It is time to start looking at opportunities for [renewable energy sources].” They are in the early stages, he said, but moving forward. In fact, the TDPUD is meeting with a biomass group on Monday and Tuesday.

The TDPUD and several other public utility districts are involved in a $6 million grant to investigate the use of renewable energy, Terrell said. With the grant, there are looking into “the feasibility of renewable energy,” Terrell said.

Also, the PUD holds public workshops, called the Energy Smart Home Tour, annually to educate the public about how renewable energy can be applied individually. The PUD takes all those who are interested around Truckee and shows off mainly homes that are using renewable energy. The next scheduled Home Tour, Terrell said, is Oct. 18.

More information about renewable energy can be found on the California Energy Commission’s Consumer Energy Center Web site at

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