Celebrating Earth Day

May 8, 2019

Every April, the City of Georgetown offers programs and events to celebrate Earth Day. There are many ways you can help our city continue its leadership in environmental stewardship. They include telling our story of innovation in 100 percent renewable energy, learning about our planet at the Georgetown Public Library, and having fun at the Red Poppy Festival in a sustainable way.

Solar power to start

Three years ago, Georgetown announced that our public utility had signed contracts for energy generated by the wind and the sun that would make us a 100-percent-renewable city. In October of 2015, the Spinning Spur 3 project with 97 wind turbines came online. This wind farm near Amarillo has been supplying most of our contracted power needs since then.

This month, the 150-megawatt Buckthorn solar plant near Fort Stockton owned by NRG Energy is set to begin operations. Our municipal electric utility should begin purchasing power from the solar plant this summer. When that happens, our power sources will be 100 percent renewable, making us one of a handful of cites in the U.S. to be powered by the wind and the sun.

Georgetown’s identity as a 100 percent renewable power city has garnered interest from companies and conferences. As more stories appear about our sun- and wind-powered city—like the recent spread in Smithsonian magazine—look for more companies and events to back their bags and head to the Greatest and Greenest City on Planet Earth.

Mayors Challenge grant

Last month, Georgetown learned that we are one of 35 cities selected as finalists in the 2018 U.S. Mayors Challenge, a nationwide competition encouraging city leaders to develop innovative ideas. The challenge is sponsored by Bloomberg Philanthropies.

Georgetown’s innovative idea is to develop a “virtual power plant” in which the city utility creates a network of leased solar panels on the roofs of homes and businesses. Georgetown now advances to a six-month “test, learn, and adapt” phase of the competition. Cities refine their ideas with up to $100,000, as well as personalized support from innovation experts, to test and begin building support for their innovations. Cities submit a new application in August 2018 for a chance to win $5 million to implement their idea.

Library programs on Monarch butterflies

Earth Day involves learning about the ecosystems of our planet, and this year the Georgetown Public Library along with the Southwestern University Environmental Studies Program and Smith Library Center are co-sponsoring a group of Earth Day events at the Georgetown library, 402 W. Eighth St.

The library will host two stand-alone discussions on Barbara Kingsolver’s novel “Flight Behavior” April 17 and April 23. On April 30, at 7 p.m. David Wolfe, director of conservation strategies at the Environmental Defense Fund, will present “Monarch Butterflies: Threats and What You Can Do to Help.” Southwestern Professor Emily Northrop will also present a talk on Tuesday, May 8, at 7 p.m. titled “Reducing CO2 Pollution for Monarchs and Humans.”

Red Poppy Festival and Zero Waste initiative

It’s April, and that means it is time for the Red Poppy Festival, our signature celebration of spring. The 19th annual Red Poppy Festival on the downtown Square is April 27-29. I’ll be in the Red Poppy Parade on Saturday at 10 a.m. Joe Nichols is the headliner at the Saturday night concert. The festival organizers continue to work toward the becoming a zero waste event, which means 90 percent of the waste from the event is recycled, composted, or otherwise diverted from the landfill. Last year, zero waste efforts resulted in a 69 percent diversion rate. You can help to reach the zero waste goal by bringing reusable shopping bags and personal water containers to the event and using the recycling and composting stations at the festival. For all the details on the festival, go to RedPoppyFestival.com.

As you can see, there are many ways to learn and be involved in environmental stewardship in Georgetown for Earth Day this year. I hope to see you at the Red Poppy Festival!

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