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Renewable Energy Options in the Ozarks

KSMU's series on what people in the Ozarks can do to be more "eco-friendly" continues. Michele Skalicky looks at renewable energy options in the area.

Renewable energy is a hot topic these days as people try to deal with soaring energy prices.

Outside the City Utilities Tech House near Battlefield and 65, two forms of alternative energy sources are on display: wind and solar.

There's a 10 kilowatt wind turbine that's clearly visible to drivers on 65 and likely attracts a lot of attention, which is fine with CU since the main reason it's there is for education.

Scott Miller, associate general manager for electric supply at CU, says the public can see how it works and how much electricity it generates. There's information about the wind turbine at CU's website as well as when the low and peak periods for wind are.

A monopole design was chosen for the turbine rather than a lattice structure to minimize the harmful effects on birds. The turbine's total cost? $70,000, which Miller says is rather costly for the average homeowner.

According to Cara Schaefer, director of energy management and conservation at CU, the wind turbine at the Tech House produces energy only about 4% of the time.

There are 2 solar panels outside the Tech House. One is fixed and the other tracks the sun. Those have proven to be much more effective than the wind turbine. Schaefer says if CU customers install solar panels on their homes and those panels produce energy, it can certainly save them money on their utility bill.

Schaefer says, currently, they don't have anyone on a net metering system.

According to Scott Miller, the educational projects at the Tech House are designed to help people avoid confusion when it comes to renewable energy options.

Another source of renewable energy is the Springfield Municipal Landfill just northwest of the city. A 2-year-old project there that's operated by both the city and CU uses methane produced by decomposing trash to generate power.

If that energy was for household use only, it would generate enough power for around 3 thousand homes. Miller says studies show that there will be methane available to generate power for another 20 to 25 years.

He says CU will continue to keep its eye on renewable energy sources and plans to purchase wind energy from other states. But it's not without difficulties.

According to Cara Schaefer, renewable energy sources can be effective, but she says efficiency has to come first.

She says people should look into low-cost and no-cost options for making their homes more energy efficient. For tips, go to cuenergywise.com.

A site just west of Marshfield offers the public renewable energy ideas. The Southwest MO Renewable Energy Center is one of two renewable energy centers run by the New Life Evangelistic Center. The other is in New Bloomfield. Hank Zeniewicz says one of the things they demonstrate on the 26 acres, is how to make biodiesel out of used vegetable oil.

He says they get their used vegetable oil from restaurants who would otherwise have to pay to have it hauled away. There's also a solar tractor on the site.

You can also see solar panels installed on houses. Free Renewable Energy Fairs are held each year in April, June, August and October. To learn more, go to www.moreenergy.org.

For KSMU News, I'm Michele Skalicky.