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educating the public on environmental issues

A Message of Hope

By Janet Bridgers
Daughter of a Solar Pioneer

I was five years old and a pupil at Mrs. Scott's nursery school across the street, when the solar building was being built at 213 Truman N.E. in Albuquerque. Even then, I had a tremendous sense of pride in it.

While I can't say exactly when I understood that the building was to be heated by the sun, I remember it being talked about at the dinner table. As children, we frequently visited the job site, and eventually, the completed structure. Then came the wave of publicity for the building, including a three-page spread in Life magazine's December 16, 1956 issue.

It was the world's first commercial solar building. My father, Frank Bridgers, and his partner Don Paxton had staked their reputations on the building, and succeeded when the bold experiment worked.

That was 50 years ago. Now, I bring a message of hope to all New Mexicans. We have a leg-up on the future because of our tremendous legacy from the past.

New Mexico is a state where solar panels are now a common sight. It is a state where generous state tax credits facilitate the purchase of solar systems by businesses and homeowners. We see news appearing regularly of new solar facilities to be built in New Mexico. We have dozens of internationally-known solar and "green" building pioneers and hundreds of strong individuals and organizations, from the governor's office in Santa Fe, down to grassroots organizations and small businesses. They're all working energetically to show New Mexicans exactly how they can harness the energy of the sun to heat their homes and to generate electricity.

The New Mexico Solar Energy Association (NMSEA) established in 1973 and one of the energetic organizations promoting alternative energy here is holding its annual Solar Fiesta on September 23 and 24 at the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center in Albuquerque. The event is open to the public, inexpensive for adults and free for students and teachers with IDs. Dozens of workshops will teach the nitty-gritty details of going solar. The workshops are inexpensive (especially with the PNM discount coupon included in recent statements.) Exhibits will present fun activities for kids of all ages. Visit www.nmsea.org for more details and call the NMSEA office to make reservations for the Fiesta workshops (505/246-0400). This is an excellent, affordable way for individuals to begin mapping their own road to an energy independent future.

On the day before the Fiesta, the public is also invited to join the Friends of the Historic Solar Building at the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center between 11 a.m. and noon for a simple celebration to mark the 50th anniversary of solar achievement in New Mexico. To commemorate the occasion, we'll present the first Equinox Award, honoring achievement toward an environmentally sustainable economy. Our recipient this year is Santa Fe architect Ed Mazria, internationally known for his book on passive solar design, written in the 70s, and currently for his work with the architectural community to reduce energy consumption in all new buildings and major renovations. Knowing that lighting, heating and air-conditioning of buildings uses half the energy consumed in this country, Mazria challenges his professional colleagues to reduce that figure with a myriad of reliable building techniques and technologies. These "green" technologies have now proven to dramatically reduce energy usage without impinging on comfort and livability.

New Mexico entered the solar age 50 years ago. While it's regrettable that widespread acceptance of solar power has taken so long to gain momentum, there's no point in looking back. We're the state that's proceeding boldly to the future with energy leadership that's critical to the survival of life as we know it on the small planet we call Earth.