Bringing Energy Efficiency to Rural Arizona—and Beyond
Faced with the possibility of a large new electric power line marching across their landscape, residents in the rural area around Patagonia, Arizona, decided they’d prefer an alternative: more efficient energy use and locally-produced renewable energy. To achieve their goal, the Sonoita Crossroads Community Forum partnered with the Research Ranch of the National Audubon Society to create a model for rural communities to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. They received a 2009 Innovation Grant to support their efforts.
Recognizing that this was a multi-year effort, they set specific goals for the project’s first year, and accomplished them all. Amongst other highlights, they:
• Held a successful Energy Expo – vendors demonstrated renewable energy and energy conservation products and speakers discussed personal energy conservation, retrofitting with energy saving devices, and construction of renewable energy systems
• Developed a resource website
• Developed and distributed educational literature and handouts about renewable energy installation and related topics
• Held a ‘Greening Your Home’ tour
• Participated in local fairs/events
• Presented multiple times on energy conservation and funding for individuals and businesses
• Began working with the local building department to implement a county-wide Green Building Program
• Completed a case study of their project for other rural communities to use
During the grant period, 12 solar or wind renewable energy systems were installed in the area, totaling 82,800 watts, and 18 systems are pending, which will cover an additional 115,520 watts. Two solar water heating systems were installed and another is pending, for a total of 11,169 kWh. These were significant successes given the economic conditions and the small population size.
Project leaders were a little disappointed with lower than expected turnout to their Energy Exposition, but when a resident told them, “I already learned what I needed to know from your workshops and brochures and didn’t need to come to the Expo - I’m installing a solar water heater,” they realized that their efforts were having an impact!