The power of Earth

Is harnessing Mother Nature key to future of energy?

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The power of Mother Nature.

With rising gas prices, fear of too much dependence on foreign products, and the view of better protecting the environment, natural resources and renewable energy are being looked at more and more.

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And it is a subject likely to be touched on at the Fueling Thought: Trends in Energy forum, held today and Friday at the Holiday Inn of Craig.

The forum is meant to be an educational opportunity for people in the area to learn about current energy trends, so informed decisions can be made about the Yampa Valley's future.

And part of that future could involve Mother Nature.

George Douglas, spokesman for the Natural Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, said the organization's two biggest programs are solar winds and bio energy.

NREL is part of the U.S. Department of Energy laboratory.

Douglas said bio energy consists mainly of corn stalks as the U.S. currently grows more corn than anything else.

"One of our focuses is on beetle kills, and how to turn non-edible plants into ethanol -- a substitute for gasoline," Douglas said. "Right now, all gas in Colorado is 10 percent ethanol, because it burns cleaner. But what we are talking about is how to use a lot more ethanol in our gas. In order to try and reduce the amount of gas ---- in other words, replace gas with ethanol."

The NREL has an ongoing relationship with Excel Energy, which will soon begin constructing an energy plant in the San Luis Valley near Alamosa.

Ethnie Groves, Excel spokeswoman, said the plant was formally announced Sept. 25, 2006, and the groundbreaking will be in a few weeks.

"We currently get our power from lots of different sources," Groves said. "Excel Energy is the No. 1 wind power provider in the country. We are investing in clean energy technologies."

One of the difficulties in using wind as an energy source is that Mother Nature does not consistently power it.

"The problem with wind is that it is usually not during peak times," Groves said.

For example, Groves cited windy off-peak times as 10 p.m. to 7 a.m. Excel would use the energy to power busier periods.

"What we are demonstrating is that you can harness the wind and use it at a later time."

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