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Wednesday, April 28 2021
Earth-Care x Technology

Be Healthy. Be Green. Committee Earth Month Blog Series
By Stephanie Heifner

We have a tendency to think that solutions to our problems will be found in new technologies. In some ways, that’s probably true, but there are challenges. Adopting new technologies requires money and access that not everyone has. Additionally, “green” technologies are not without their own environmental impact, as they are also made from mined and manufactured materials. Ultimately, we know that our planet can’t sustain our consumption at the rate that we’re going (we’d need 1.6 planets to support humanity’s demands--check out Earth Overshoot Day). It’s time for change.

Some St. Paul’s members have found themselves in the position to invest in newer “green” technologies in their Earth-care journey:

Photo: the Oakland’s unobtrusive solar panels

Barb and Jerry Oakland - Solar Panels

Jerry writes:

In June, 2020, we had Eagle Point Solar of Dubuque install an array of 23 solar panels on the east and south slopes of our home. I had attended a presentation by Grow Solar Linn County and became part of the group buy, so purchase costs were reduced as more consumers made commitments.

I always have had an interest in conservation methods, beginning with gardening, recycling and composting. I have built a rain garden and installed a rain barrel. Solar energy is clean and requires no maintenance or energy on our part. It seemed the next logical and ‘right’ thing to do.

The most electricity the system generated on any one day was 46.88 kWh on June 16th. In ten months it has generated 5.67 MWh. The system generates electricity which goes to the electric company. So, even though the sun was shining brightly after the derecho, we had no power at our house for several days.

My bill for electric services from March 11 – April 13 last year was $168.05. This year for the same period is $12.47. In addition to the sale of the electricity generated, which reduces monthly electric bills, the federal and state governments provide tax credits to partially offset the purchase price. And the solar panels should increase the value of our house.

Visit the Grow Solar website to sign up for one of the upcoming “Solar Power Hours” on Zoom to learn more about solar and group buys.

If you’re not in a position to go solar yourself, you might consider helping make it easier for other Iowans by contacting your representatives about House File 221. Read about it on the Iowa Interfaith Power & Light website.

Photo: the Twedt-Ball’s hybrid car charging in their driveway

Karla and Clint Twedt-Ball -- Hybrid Car

Karla writes:

Four summers ago, Isaac was getting ready to turn 16 and Clint and I were ready to turn in our chauffeur’s license and let Isaac drive himself to his multitude of activities, including 5:30 a.m. swim practices. Ending our chauffeur days meant adding a third car to our fleet, something we were loath to do. But practicality was clearly winning us over. [...]

That was the summer of 2017, and electric cars were emerging on the used-car market. We decided that if we were going to add a third car, we should focus on fuel efficiency. Clint did some research. Teslas were out of our price range, and we were also concerned about the availability of charging stations with an all-electric car. We decided to look for a gas-electric hybrid, so that the gas would provide backup when the electric charge was used up. We found a low-mileage 3-year old Chevy Volt that had mostly sat in a California garage. We named it Franklin (double homage to Benjamin, namesake of Annika’s middle school and the founder of electricity!)

Depending on temperature, it gets 20-45 miles per charge, enough to cover all our miles in a typical day of driving to work, meetings, and activities. Every night, we plug it in. We live in a 1940 house with a tiny garage (better for storing bikes than cars), so we keep the cord outside and it works just fine! We could invest in a higher-voltage charging station to speed the recharging time, but overnight is sufficient to fully charge the car. We can go weeks at a time without using much of the gas, depending on our driving patterns.

Advantages? Depends on who you ask! Isaac loves that the 0-60 time on an electric car is crazy fast because it doesn’t shift gears like a gas engine. I love the fuel efficiency (and the fact that it’s the first car I’ve ever had with heated seats). Clint loves all of the above!

Disadvantages? There are a few, but I think all of these are either solved with current models or will be solved very soon. Ours is an early-model electric hybrid, and if the temperature is above 40, it is hard to get the heat to turn on for some reason! (Thank heavens for heated seats…) I assume that this is not a problem for newer hybrids. Also, it’s not intended as an electric vehicle for long distances (yet again… older model). And the last disadvantage is that as we discovered recently, maintenance can be expensive because the technology is new and the labor costs are high – and the Chevy dealer is clearly not used to working on electric vehicles.

That said, the technology has improved by leaps and bounds since 2014, and it is our hope to buy a 100% electric vehicle the next time. A oft-heard concern is the scarcity of electric charging stations, but this investment in infrastructure has already started, and I imagine it will resolve quickly. I’m looking forward to a future cross-country, all-electric trip!

See a map of electric vehicle charging stations in Cedar Rapids:

Thank you Jerry and Karla for sharing your experiences! Have you adopted any “green” technologies? 

Posted by: Stephanie Heifner AT 12:18 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email

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    Cedar Rapids, IA 52403


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