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Alternative Energy Festival Lights Up Boise


September 12 through 18 is Alternative Energy Week in the City of Trees, but with myriad ecologically minded activities presented by local government, businesses and organizations, you might think you're in the City of Roses (that's Portland, for those of you who haven't left the farm in a while).

The week's second half of events starts off scorching with a tour of Idaho Power's solar energy system, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at 1221 W. Idaho St. in Downtown Boise. On Thursday and Friday, the University of Idaho will present a pair of 12-hour sessions concerning biodiesel utilization production. Late registration is still available for this event; visit for more info. Also on Friday, the energy efficiency features of the new Ada County Courthouse will be on display from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Simply stop by for this free tour of one our local government's most surprisingly progressive structures.

The cadre of public events at Discovery Center of Idaho kicks off on Friday, at 7 p.m., with the discussion "Science or Fiction? How Realistic is Ethanol?" Michael McGown, regional administrator at the Boise's Department of Environmental Quality office, will moderate the discussion, whose panel includes Robert White, project director of the Naitonal Ethanol Vehicle Coalition, and Burton E. Vaughan, Ph.D., adjunct professor of biological sciences at Washington State University-Tricities.

On Saturday, look for a full day of workshops and lectures about the past and future of sustainability:

•10 a.m.: An explanation of ground source heat pumps, led by Clint Richins of Renewable Energy Sources.

•11 a.m.: Barbara Perry-Bauer of the Arrowrock Group leads a lecture on the history of geothermal heat and energy, and Scott Gates of Idaho Power heads a workshop on solar energy.

•Noon: Hear about "Shaping the Future of Public Transportation in the Treasure Valley," led by Mark Carnopis of Valley Regional Transit, as well as a beginner-level workshop on incorporating sustainability practices into our homes and communities.

•1 p.m.: Come see Boise's only solar-powered car in action, learn about hybrid and electric vehicles, and hear Bruce Poe of Cole Poe Architects talk about finding a balance between preservation and sustainability.

•2 p.m.: Idaho Rivers United gives tips on water-thrifty gardening, and representatives from the engineering firm HDR lead a lecture about the latest water conservation technologies being incorporated in Idaho.

•3 p.m.: Jay Witt from the Community Planning Association of Southwest Idaho (COMPASS) speaks on air quality and transportation planning, and representatives from the Idaho National Laboratory lecture on a variety of energy-related topics, including "Whole Crop Utilization" in fuel production, and the recent successes attained by hydrogen-powered fuel plants and internal combustion engines.

•4 p.m.: Boise Public Works presents an all-ages workshop on sustainability and waste reduction, and Dr. Leonard Bond, director of the INL's Center for Advanced Energy Studies, talks about the global energy challenges that will arise in the next 30-50 years.

On Sunday, the festivities launch at noon with a discussion of the new phenomenon of "Zero Energy Homes," followed by repeat performances of some of Saturday's lectures. And of course, the Discovery Center will feature numerous sustainability-related exhibits, workshops and activities for green Boiseans of all ages, all weekend long. For a complete guide to the events and admission prices, visit