Send us your tired, your poor ... your wind power.
Emma Lazarus didn't exactly pen it that way in 1883 when she wrote her famous poem, now on a plaque at the Statue of Liberty Museum. But today she could.
By the end of this month, 100 percent of the electricity that powers the Old Lady in the Harbor and Ellis Island, where millions of Americans first set foot in America, will be "green power." Windmills in West Virginia and Pennsylvania will supply the electricity that powers up the floodlights that shine on Miss Liberty's torch and the air conditioning that keeps all those immigration records from mildewing.
"It's a powerful public-policy statement to fuel such an important symbol in that way," says Jim Coyne, a renewable energy expert at FTI Consulting in Cambridge, Mass.
In some ways, shifting away from the heavy use of oil and natural gas is part of the US government's energy strategy. President Bush said wind power could provide up to 20 percent of the nation's electricity.
The General Services Administration (GSA), which runs US government facilities, has been switching over to green power for some time. In the Northeast and Caribbean (Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands) regions of the country, 33 percent of the electricity usage, or about 75 million kilowatt hours, are now renewable energy. These include buildings such as the Peter Rodino Office Building in Newark, N.J., and New York's 26 Federal Plaza, which houses the GSA and the FBI. Until the latest contract was signed, the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island received half their electricity from green sources.
The GSA also notes that going green is not costing taxpayers more money, because it buys electricity in bulk. "It's a wash," says Emily Baker, a spokeswoman for the GSA in New York. "Plus, there are so many other benefits such as the money farmers get from leasing their land for windmills."
Alternative sources of energy are still relatively small in the US energy picture, representing only 1 to 2 percent of US electricity use. But the industry is growing quickly: A record 2,400 megawatts were installed in 2005, enough to support the annual consumption of 650,000 homes. This year is expected to top last year, says Mr. Coyne.
The Statue of Liberty won't be directly hooked up to the windmills. The GSA is purchasing a renewable energy credit. The electricity the windmills produce is fed into the nation's electrical grid, offsetting the same amount the government uses. The process reduces the amount of electricity that needs to be produced by the conventional means of oil, gas, or coal. The statue and Ellis Island consume same amount of electricity used by 1,000 homes for a year, according to Pepco Energy Services, which is supplying the power to the statue.
Although Ms. Lazarus had no idea the Statue would ultimately use clean energy, she wrote: "Give me ... your huddled masses yearning to breathe free." Her words now take on new meaning.