Oct. 12, 2005 With the cost of electricity and gasoline climbing skyward, Virgin Islands residents have good reason to observe Energy Awareness Month. Gov. Charles W. Turnbull designated all of October as a time to learn more about energy issues.
The governor noted that the V. I. has the potential to use the sun, wind and sea to produce alternative energy.
"The celebration of energy awareness month as a nation-wide event promotes awareness of energy issues, appliance efficiency, environmental protection, and practical sources in renewable energy," the governor said in a release.
Energy saving challenges and offers
As part of the month's activities, the V.I. Energy Office will swap your old conventional bulbs for compact fluorescents while supplies last. Pick up your new light bulb from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday at Sunny Isle Shopping Center on St. Croix, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Friday, Oct. 21 at the V.I. Water and Power Authority office on St. Thomas, and from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 22 at Tutu Park Mall.
"One per household," Energy Office director Bevan Smith said.
And the Energy Office in conjunction with the V.I. Water and Power Authority is holding an Energy Conservation Challenge. Residential customers that use 500 kilowatt hours or more in a billing cycle are invited to try and reduce their consumption.
The Energy Office will pay for up to 1,000 kilowatt hours of electrical bills for the 10 residential customers who save the most electricity from Oct. 21 to Dec. 20. Five winners will be from St. Thomas/St. John and five from St. Croix.
Participants must also come up with 10 energy conservation tips.
Applications are available at WAPA customer relations offices and the Energy Office.
Energy awareness awards and rebates
As part of the Energy Month observance, the Energy Office will award Steffen Larsen and Jan Mitchell of St. Croix, and Doug White of St. John the Vincent D. George Light the Way awards.
The awards are named in honor of an Energy Office employee who died in 2000.
"He was instrumental in energy education projects," Smith said.
The awards will be presented at a 10 a.m., Oct. 28, ceremony to be held at the Frederick D. Dorsch Cultural Activity Center in Frederiksted. The award recognizes organizations and individuals who support energy-efficiency and renewable energy technology.
Larsen and Mitchell are pioneers in developing wind and solar powered homes. White was selected because, after several years of lobbying, he convinced local government officials to register his electric car.
"He never quit," Smith said.
Additionally, White helped lead the way in building a solar electric power station and renewable energy outdoor classroom at the V.I. Environmental Resource Station on St. John.
In addition to handing out Light the Way awards, the Energy Office runs a rebate program that saves residents money on Energy Star-rated appliances, which use less energy than others. The Energy Office is currently gearing up for its next appliance cycle, which is expected to come on line at the end of October.
Smith said that during its last cycle, from April 18 through July 31, the Energy Office paid $35,814 in rebates to 127 people who bought 134 Energy Star appliances. Refrigerators led the way, with residents buying 86 of them. They bought 32 clothes washers, 14 air conditioners and two ceiling fans.
Its rebate program for photovoltaic panels saw 71 people buy 379 photovoltaic panels during its December 2004 to June 2005 program. A total of 48 residents bought solar hot water heater systems in the same time period.
Smith said the office is working on details for the next cycle of rebates for photovoltaic panels and solar hot water systems.
"We're hoping for January," he said.
Energy saving tips
The Energy Office offers lots of tips for saving energy. Start by replacing conventional light bulbs with compact fluorescent bulbs. They'll save about $20 a year on electric bills. Compact fluorescents are available at hardware, home improvement and department stores across the territory.
To save even more money, turn off lights when they're not in use, use motion sensors or timers to control lights, clean light fixtures to increase brightness, and use task lighting rather than illuminating the entire room.
Installing a solar hot water system is best left to a professional except for those who are particularly handy; it can save about $400 a year. If this is too complicated and expensive, a timer on hot water heaters can also save money since the water heats up only at times it is being used. Insulating hot water heaters and pipes also helps save money. And don't set the hot water heater temperature higher than necessary 120 degrees is fine.
Use low-flow showerheads, aerators on sink faucets and toilet dams to save water. A low-flow showerhead saves about 1,600 gallons of water a year, an aerator, 900 gallons per year and a toilet dam, 1,500 gallons a year.
Install drapes, blinds, awnings, or plant trees to shade windows from the sun.
And don't forget to dust refrigerator coils and replace worn rubber refrigerator gaskets.
When it comes to saving money at the gas pump, the Energy Office recommends driving at a moderate speed, tuning up your vehicle every 3,000 miles, replacing air filters, checking tire pressure, planning vehicular trips to reduce the number necessary, and car pooling.
For more energy saving tips, visit www.viwapa.vi or www.vienergy.org.
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