Parker County Today June 2016 - Page 31

Decreasing Our Family’s Ecological Footprint By Allison Stamatis, Ph.D. Faculty, Department of Life Sciences Weatherford College We are all responsible for our local environment. I am incredibly proud to live in Parker County, and I take immense pride in our beautiful trees, prairies, and pastures. I have to remind myself not to take these things for granted, and I try to serve as a positive role model for my three daughters and the numerous students that I have taught at Weatherford College. As a biology professor and environmental scientist, taking small steps to decrease my environmental impact is often at the forefront of my mind. We should all strive to take small steps each day to reduce our impact on the environment, which is termed our ecological footprint. The earth’s most sustainable and renewable source of energy is the energy from the sun. The addition of solar panels to our family’s home last summer was one step towards decreasing our ecological footprint, saving money on our utility bill, and becoming more energy independent. We decided to initially install 10 solar panels on our rooftop, but the addition of a micro-inverter to each panel will allow us to easily add panels to our system in subsequent JUNE 2016 PA R K E R C O U N T Y T O D AY years. With only these 10 panels, we easily save at least 30% on our electric bill each month! The technological innovations of solar photovoltaic cells and panels are increasing at a rapid pace. As the demand for solar panel installation goes up each year at an exponential rate, the prices for consumers will continue to go down. Our family was also able to take advantage of the 30% residential renewable energy federal tax credit, which remarkably reduced our overall costs. This federal tax credit is set to expire at the end of 2016, so take advantage of it now if this is something that yo u have been planning for! If the installation of solar panels on your home (or business!) is something that you see as cost-prohibitive in the immediate future, there are other aspects of the energy from the sun that you can take advantage of. Solar photovoltaic cells work on the premise of “active” solar energy collection, but “passive” solar takes advantage of the sun’s rays without the need of technology. In the winter, there is more sunlight on the south side of buildings for everyone that lives north of the Equator. When considering new construction projects or remodeling, large windows on the south side of buildings maximizes this heat from the sun in the winter; awnings, overhangs, or blinds may be utilized in the summer to reduce this heat when you’re trying to keep your home cooler. There are also smaller solar installations that can be used to power your home’s water heater, a swimming pool heater, automatic gate openers, and outdoor lighting. The advantages of solar technology are numerous: they are quiet, safe, contain no moving parts, use no fuels, and require little maintenance. Once solar panels have been installed, there is no production of greenhouse gases or air pollution, which is something that is important to our entire global community. When each of us takes small steps to reduce our ecological footprint, there is more of our native Parker County ecosystem left for each of us to enjoy and take pride in. 29