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A Talk on the Wild Side.

New Mexico: Getting Off the Electric Grid

A wind turbine near mountains

San Andres National Wildlife Refuge launched its energy independence in 2005 with installation of a 6,000-watt hybrid solar cell and wind energy system. That met approximately 80 percent of the refuge’s electrical needs. The 3,600-watt expansion in 2010 was installed to cover the higher electric usage during the sweltering months of June-September. (Photo by Coby Bartram/USFWS)

What did San Andres National Wildlife Refuge in southern New Mexico -- winner of a 2008 Department of the Interior Environmental Achievement Award and a Department of Energy award -- pay for electricity in mid-February to mid-March this year?

Nothing.

In fact, right now, the refuge has a $176 credit for returning electricity to the grid for two billing cycles. In years past, the refuge would have averaged about $300 per month.

San Andres Refuge is hardly alone in its quest for energy efficiency. As part of its climate change strategy, the Service has set a goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2020, reflecting the broad understanding that use of fossil fuels --- including in the production of electricity --- is a major contributor to climate change.

The Service is reducing its carbon footprint by cutting usage during peak hours, where possible; switching to alternative fuels; and installing ENERGY STAR® appliances, among other moves. Service employees are driving more alternative fuel and hybrid vehicles and using more biodiesel fuels. At least 2.5 percent of the Service’s electricity use comes from renewable energy sources; that number is expected to climb dramatically over the next several months as projects funded by the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act of 2009 are completed.

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