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April 18, 2001

Jonas Diño

NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, CA

Phone: 650/604-5612 or 604-9000


NOTE TO EDITORS AND NEWS DIRECTORS: You are invited to cover Earth Day 2001 events, including a photo opportunity with a burrowing owl, at NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, CA, on Thursday, April 19. To reach Ames, take the Moffett Field exit from Highway 101, drive east to the main gate at Moffett Federal Airfield and report to the visitor badging office for maps and directions to Ames Earth Day events. U.S. media representatives must have valid picture ID in order to enter Ames. Foreign media representatives must be escorted.

Release: 01-25AR


Beating big drums and going on hikes to see some of the many birds that live near south San Francisco Bay are only two of many activities in which employees can take part to celebrate Earth Day, Thursday, April 19, at NASA's Ames Research Center, in California's Silicon Valley.

The theme of Earth Day this year is "Conserving Biodiversity," but Ames will also focus on its success in cutting electricity use by more than 15 percent to help California deal with its energy crisis. Craftsmen will be working on a solar array pilot project that will generate electricity on top of Bldg. N-245 at Ames.

"We will have a street fair that will include about 25 exhibitors who will highlight the conservation of plants and animals in the San Francisco Bay area," said Christel VanArsdale of Ames, who helped organize Ames' Earth Day events.

Reporters are invited to a short nature walk for media led by Ames wildlife biologist Chris Alderete, who is also leading longer hikes for employees. "During the walk, there's a good chance to see the burrowing owl, which is listed as a California species of special concern, a status that has legal implications," Alderete said. He expects that bird watchers could get as close as 50 feet to an owl.

"The western burrowing owl population has been in serious decline over the past few decades in California. The birds are important at Moffett because we have been sheltered from development in the past, and we have upland grassland habitat where 18 to 27 breeding pairs of owls live each year," he explained. The small birds live in ground squirrel burrows and have long legs, buff white breasts and lemon-yellow eyes.

The media walk is scheduled from 11 a.m. to noon PDT, and reporters will meet on the west side of historic Hangar 1 at Ames before leaving by car. Reporters may leave the walk early. "We also might see golden eagles, red tailed hawks and loggerhead shrikes," Alderete added. "We have wetlands where four endangered species live, including salt marsh harvest mice, and three types of birds -- California clapper rail, California least tern and snowy plover."

Steve Frankel, who will offer reporters the chance to see the installation of solar panels on an Ames roof, also heads Ames' energy conservation efforts. Installation of motion-sensor light switches and timers, as well as an e-mail campaign that asks employees to conserve energy, has cut Ames' electricity use from an average of 9,144 megawatts per month in the year 2000 to as low as about 7,000 megawatts during February, he said.

Reporters may see craftsmen working on a solar array project on top of Bldg. N-245 from 10 a.m. to noon and 1 p.m. to 3 p.m., PDT. "We are installing a 5.5 kilowatt generation plant that will make almost 10,000 kilowatt hours of electricity per year," said Frankel, an engineer spearheading the project. "The solar-electric power will go into the NASA Ames power system. However, this is just a small part of our efforts to address California's energy crisis."

"We think the solar-electric system will have a life of about 25 years or more with virtually no maintenance. This system takes sunlight and turns it directly into electricity. It goes into the building’s power system," Frankel explained.

"The Department of Energy (DOE) measured light levels on the roof, and made the economic analysis," Frankel noted. Palo Alto granted NASA $20,000 for the project, he said. In addition, NASA will pay the balance of the cost to construct and operate the pilot plant. NASA and DOE designed the system. More information about the Million-Roof Project is available on the Internet at:

Ames Earth Day 2001 events are open to on-site employees and reporters.
More information about Earth Day activities is available at:



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