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Illinois Country Living

December 2007 Issue: FeatureCommentaryCurrents SafetyGardenEnergy SolutionsFinest Cooking More


Kids Just Want to Have Fun -- Parents and Schools Want to Save MoneyBuilding Rural Libraries and CommunitiesWinter Expected to Begin Cooler Than NormalGeothermal Heat Pump Grants Available

Kids Just Want to Have Fun -- Parents and Schools Want to Save Money

The Touchstone Energy® co-ops are trying to help teach kids how to use energy more efficiently, have fun, and who knows, maybe learn to turn off lights and close the refrigerator without being yelled at. The new Touchstone Energy Kids' Zone ( has games and activities that were pre-tested with youngsters.

Eastern Illini Electric Cooperative and many other Illinois electric co-ops already have a link to the Touchstone Energy Kids Zone Web site. Eastern Illini also gives schoolchildren magnets with the co-op's Web address, encouraging them to visit.

"I can go into any school that has Internet access, log on and make a presentation," says Bob Dickey, Manager of Marketing and Economic Development for Eastern Illini Electric. "If we pique their interest, they can sit down in the comfort of their own home, pull up the Internet and access this information anytime they want," Dickey said. Touchstone Energy Savers is open to anyone with Internet access.

Illinois' Touchstone Energy Co-ops have also provided the comprehensive Discovery Education Get Charged! kits to schools across the state. The kits are filled with high-quality educational materials that help teachers educate students about electricity and fulfill a requirement of the National Science Education Standards. To date, more than 6,000 kits have been distributed in classrooms (grades 5-9) nationwide.

The Department of Energy in October launched a new educational Web site that provides more than 350 lesson plans and activities on energy efficiency and renewable energy for grades K-12.

The new Web site is part of DOE's EnergySmart Schools Program, which also promotes energy efficient schools. K-12 schools spend more than $8 billion annually on energy, making energy the second highest operating expenditure for these schools after personnel costs. To help lower those costs, the EnergySmart Schools program promotes the building of new schools that exceed code by 50 percent or more, as well as retrofits to existing schools that improve energy efficiency by 30 percent or more. Go to -

Building Rural Libraries and Communities

With significant changes in the demographics, economy and declining tax base in rural Illinois, many rural libraries may be at risk.

To address concerns surrounding the future of rural libraries, the Western Illinois University Libraries, along with the Illinois Institute for Rural Affairs (IIRA) at WIU, Alliance Library System and the Western Illinois Entrepreneurship Center (WIEC), are collaborating to find solutions to keep these institutions viable and productive.

WIU Libraries Dean Phyllis Self and the cooperating agencies recently received a $37,248 grant for their project, "Building Rural Libraries and Communities," from the Illinois State Library's Innovate, Create, Collaborative program.

According to Self, the global information age offers rural libraries the chance to take the lead in assisting citizens, business leaders and public officials build their communities. The "Building Rural Libraries and Communities" pilot program will create a sustainable virtual network of resource providers.

"The program's mission is to help rural public librarians learn about successful best practices used elsewhere, and provide tools and train rural librarians to become more knowledgeable about resources to facilitate community and economic development," she explained.

Ten selected libraries will participate in the pilot program, which will focus on entrepreneurship as one aspect of economic development. A virtual network of materials and resources will be developed and made available to other libraries via a web portal.

Source: Darcie Shinberger, Western Illinois University

Winter Expected to Begin Cooler Than Normal

Over the last few months, sea surface temperatures in the equatorial Pacific have continued to show signs of cooling. As a result, it appears that the La Nina phase is growing stronger and will likely be one of the main influences in the weather patterns across North America during the upcoming winter.

Looking back at past climate records indicates that in those years with a developing La Nina in late autumn (1978, 1995, 2005) Illinois typically experiences a cold start to the winter season. The years of 1978, 1995 and 2005 all had a more seasonable autumn and then had below average temperatures in December.

Other climate indices such as the NAO (North Atlantic Oscillation), as well as some long-range models, suggest a colder weather pattern for December across Illinois.

With that being said, energy usage and costs with respect to heating are forecasted to be above average during the start of the winter season. However, climate models do indicate that while a cold December may be in store, the rest of the winter will likely trend warmer than average, which should provide some relief in heating costs.

The Illinois map this month illustrates the average number of heating degree-days across the state during the month of December. Due to the colder than normal December forecasted, actual heating degree day totals are expected to be about 60 to 90 higher than the listed averages.

Geothermal Heat Pump Grants Available

Life Crossings Academy was the most recent non-profit organization to receive a $34,650 grant toward the completion of a geothermal heating and cooling system in its new facility. Funded by the Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation (ICECF), and administered by the Association of Illinois Electric Cooperatives (AIEC), the geothermal grant program was created to promote the installation of energy efficient geothermal systems to heat and cool public and non-profit facilities served by Illinois' electric cooperatives.

Corn Belt Energy Corporation serves the Academy. Jeff Reeves, the cooperative's CEO, noted that geothermal technology will provide both comfort and energy savings for the facility for many years. "Because of the energy cost savings and environmental benefits, geothermal technology is an excellent match for many of our members, both commercial and residential," Reeves said.

While use of this energy-efficient technology has grown in the residential market, it has been underutilized in institutional and commercial installations because of the higher initial costs to install.

"Geothermal heating and cooling systems are the most energy efficient available today," said John Freitag, Vice President of Operations for the AIEC. He added that geothermal systems can save more than 50 percent in energy costs, and have been proven to decrease maintenance costs as well. Geothermal systems recover the earth's energy with loops of pipe installed underground. It is primarily the cost of installing this ground loop that creates the higher initial cost.

Pastor Ed Herald is very pleased with the system's comfort, and said that the first month's electric bill for the facility's new 21,000 square foot building was just slightly higher than bills from the former 7,000 square foot facility.

"The ICECF appreciates the leadership of AIEC and Life Crossings Academy on this effort," said James Mann, Executive Director of ICECF. "Organizations like Life Crossings Academy can offer their peers and the wider commercial sector proof of the energy and maintenance savings during a building's lifecycle that far outweigh the initial capital investment for installing a geothermal system."

State Senator Bill Brady of Bloomington joined the gathering and congratulated church leaders for their efforts. He noted the importance of energy efficiency, particularly in these times of rising energy costs, and the need to make the most of the earth's natural resources.

Illinois Clean Energy invests in clean energy development and land preservation efforts throughout Illinois. Facilities not serviced by one of the Illinois electric cooperatives can apply directly to ICECF for geothermal system funding. Information on ICECF's other grant programs can be found at

For information about the geothermal system funding program, contact your local electric cooperative or Nancy Nixon at the AIEC at 217-241-7954, e-mail, or go to

© 2007 Illinois Country Living Magazine.
Association of Illinois Electric Cooperatives

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