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Cowboys interested in renewables

America's modern day cowboys may rarely ride horse these days, but it appears they are interested in renewable energy. More than 50 people attended the first renewable energy workshop at the National Western Stock Show in Denver in January. Further workshops followed the next day and were sponsored by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). In some cases, solar cells are replacing old windmill water pumpers, especially for remote uses and because of the load match -- cattle need most water when it is most sunny. More efficient wind water pumpers are also being used, with improved blades designed by NREL. Wind is the better resource for ranchers in, say, the wide open plains of North and South Dakota, Mike Marsh of NREL told the Denver Post newspaper. But eastern Colorado, where August days can be stiflingly hot and still as a church, may do better with solar cells. Interest in energy independence was also spurred last year in remote areas of the country by the widespread power blackouts that hit much of the western United States. "It turns out you only have to be a quarter of a mile off an existing [power] line in order for a solar or wind power option to be the most competitive," says Marsh.

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