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Patagonia Plugging Into Renewables

Patagonia - Outdoor Clothing, Apparel and gear for climbing, hiking, running, travel
Patagonia - Plugging Into Solar Energy

by Jim Little

Fall 2006

Abandoned by our electricity provider, baffled by the electric utilities, yet still bent on doing the right thing, last year we built our own power plant in the parking lot at our headquarters in Ventura, California.

It’s not like the ones that generate most of the electricity for Southern California – coal-fired, oil-fired, gas-fired, nuclear – but instead derives its electrons from a clean, renewable and seemingly inexhaustible source – the sun.

We first headed down the renewable energy path back in 1998 when we signed up to buy wind power from Enron. But when the company went bust, we were back to brown (nonrenewable) power.

We had to wait until 2004 to catch the green breeze again, this time from another company. Presently, wind power supplies 50% of our needs and we plan to buy more when we can.

Building our own solar electric array was not cheap, even with government rebates totaling close to $250,000. But it’s ours. And there’s no straighter line in the energy business than an electrical conduit running from one’s own solar panels to the very building they power. At 66 kW, our 360-panel system is designed to provide 12% of our current needs.

Renewables make sense on so many levels. Over the 30-year life of our solar electric system, for example, we’ll save an estimated 5,669 barrels of oil, reduce acid rain emissions by 20,945 lbs., reduce smog emissions by 10,053 lbs. and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by almost 4 million lbs. In addition, we trim our dependence on fossil fuels and the foreign governments that control them, we don’t produce any radioactive waste, and now we even have covered parking.

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