Environmentalists save land, energy

Environmentalists save land, energy

By Drs. Robert and Sonia Vogl, President and Vice President Illinois Renewable Energy Association

“Last month’s electric bill? Oh, about $10,” volunteered Keith Blackmore, environmentalist, natural areas restorationist, and energy conservationist. “We use about 90 kilowatt hours a month in winter, and

160 in summer,” his wife, Mary, added. “The extra in summer is for the dehumidifier and the fan for the Clivus Multrum.”

If saving energy first and installing renewable energy sources second is the sequence for effective energy conservation, this couple does it right. They have a composting toilet (which uses a fan in summer), a

refrigerator, and a gas stove. Other than that, they have no high energy use appliances.

The house, which Keith built with timbers recovered from an old elevator and granary, has R-47 insulation in the foot thick walls, R-87 in the ceiling, and R-55 in the floors. Keith calculated how much insulation he wanted to have in the walls by investigating how much energy was used in producing the insulation and how much energy using it would save.

“If you’re trying to save energy, the trick is to use enough insulation so that the energy used to produce the insulation is less than the energy saved by its use; find the break even point and go with that. I

don’t think cost effectiveness has any validity.” (Since prices change over time, selecting the appropriate price is a guess about the future.)

Keith and Mary use the sun and wood to heat their home. All windows are south facing. They have an attached greenhouse that provides heat and a place to grow herbs. With no added heat, spinach and lettuce grow there through late January.

Both Keith and Mary have been active in prairie restoration for years and are officers of the Prairie Preservation Society of Ogle County and the Northwest Audubon Society. The encouraged the two organizations to jointly purchase a 48 acre parcel of natural land now aptly named the Elkhorn Creek Biodiversity Preserve. They are the force behind managing and restoring the area. Mary is a steward for the Clear Creek unit of

Nachusa Grasslands.

They recently placed 40 acres of their land, nearly all of the remaining historic West Grove, into a conservation easement so it would never be destroyed for development. Mary researches the effect of grazing animals on woody plant control. Keith teaches biology at Highland Community College.

Although they prefer to encourage soft, not hard energy technology, they decided this was the year to install a solar electric system. They’d been talking about it for years, and after visiting the last Midwest Renewable Energy Fair, they felt efficiency had improved significantly,they could afford it, and investigated an


When complete, the system will consist of 12 165 watt Sharp polycrystalline panels that simply plug together along with a Sunny Boy intertie inverter. They chose not to use batteries for backup. Once the meter is installed, they expect that the system will provide all of the electricity they need.

“I’ve been teaching about these things for over 40 years, so I thought that it was time to do something,” concluded Keith.

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