Taos Solar Music Festival
The Green Mantra of New Mexico
By: Mike Marino
June 30 – July 1, 2012
The western sun journeys high above the deepest of blue skies of the pastel paradise of New Mexico. A massive hydrogen and helium power plant resembling a giant yellow pinata in the town square is in the center of the human village that has made "go green" the new mantra of New Mexico. Abundant in the green extreme, El Sol provides not only a clean and remarkably renawable energy source illuminating the humblest of adobe abodes, but businesses and whole communities in the desert state are tapping into its energy riches with all the fervor and fever of the Gold Rush era. Solar energy and it's myriad of uses is creating a new breed of eco-pioneer. The race is on to discover the bounty of energy uses from the sun and the wind in the wide open spaces of the desert southwest, and in New Mexico that means it's time to energize and celebrate at the annual Taos Solar Music Festival in June during the Summer Solstice proving that solar power does rock and roll!
Taos sails into summer with a three day solar festival designed to exchange energy ideas, further educate the eco-minded, win over new converts and to entertain the masses in Kit Carson Park in downtown Taos. The festival draws huge crowds so it is advised to make reservations well in advance for the summer fest. The festival has over thirty vendors, numerous energy exhibits, demonstrations, and of course, mas musica!
Taos is known far and wide, and proudly, as the Solar Capital of the World and with good reason. Plentiful sunshine and an energetic, creative community of artisans, musicians and those seeking a sustainable lifestyle perpetuate the ongoing energy experimentation. This group of the energy efficient eclectic has resulted in the formation of the Taos Earthship community, an energy rich enclave of passive solar system homes made of natural and recycled products designed to minimize the reliance on and use of fossil fuels. Instead they rely completely on the natural order of Mother Nature's own power suppliers of sun and wind. The Earthship homes also hoist their energy efficient sails to make full use of prevailing winds and their invisible energy producing efforts, so as the song says, "the answer my friend is blowing in the wind." The mass media of FM radio is also an innovator in the field of energy and entertainment, as Taos is the home base of KTAO which is heralded as the worlds most powerful solar powered radio station with the high desert sun dialing it up with a radio array of 140 photovoltaic cells, proving that even the blues can go green.
Tapping into the energy of the natural elements have been the Great White Whale of humanity since time began, with the goal being to harness it and not harpooning it. New Mexico has always been in the front lines of the battle against wasteful use and the high cost of energy so it's no surprise that the Los Alamos complex and the Sandia Laboratories in the state have been studying alternative energy applications since the race for space heated up during the Cold War. The passive use of the sun's warming rays have been known to ancient cultures in the pre-rocket science age and were utilized by the pueblo cultures of the southwest and evident in the positioning of their cliff dwellings which made the most of a southerly exposure to capture the suns warmth during the winter months. In effect, Taos is as important to alternative energy karma as the Guggenheim is to the world of Andy Warhol, art and pop culture.
The Woodstock Art and Music Festival was laced with liberal doses of LSD set against a tie-dyed backdrop of a waning Sixties subculture. The Taos Festival however is a solar bash with solar flair and panache, that always includes an amalgam of musical performers with a wide and diverse appeal to festival goers. Musicians who have played in Taos over the years include everyone from Steve Earle and Harry Belafonte, to the Indigo Girls and the Robert Cray Band. The music is ongoing and it's not unusual to have 15 to 18 bands booked for the entire weekend. The two stages used are amplified and electrified utilizing the natural organic power sources of sun and wind. The smaller of the two stages is solar powered with photovoltaic panels while the larger stage is wind powered with energy provided by the Kit Carson Electric Cooperative.
The Taos Festival is a fiesta of music with utilitarian purpose. The music is a wonderfully woven tapestry of audio color to infuse the fest with artistry through performance while presenting alternative energy ideas and just how those applications can be implemented by individuals seeking an escape from high energy costs, wasteful uses of precious natural resources and discovering new, yet old, ways of harnessing cleaner, leaner sources of power for the home and business. This is accomplished through demonstrations by various vendors on site at the Solar Village on the festival grounds who are more than eager to share visionary ideas to help improve the lives of individuals as well as our own star ship, Planet Earth.
The Solar Village is hosted every year by the New Mexico Solar Energy Association. Green is the operative word in Taos so the Solar Village is a technological Garden of Eden of green builders and green products featured along with demonstrations on solar, wind, and modern cistern technology. In floor heating systems (which by the way date back to the days of the Roman Empire), utilizing solar powered water heaters are energy savers in themselves, and for the more technically adept there are demonstrations on water to hydrogen fuel cells, their technology and practical uses. If you are a fan of the Food Channel there is plenty of solar cooking and baking going on, and cookware gizmo's and gadgets on display that today are science fact and not science fiction.
The car enthusiast won't find heavy metal V-8 powered 1957 gas guzzling Buicks, but instead the latest in electrics, personal vehicles and solar powered automobiles and race cars. Mr. Wizard always said that science can be entertaining, and the kids activities and hands-on projects are pure serendipity designed to get children to understand that going green can be fun as well as practical and hopefully will keep the green faith going well into adulthood. Alternative energy and sustainable living share the information vendor highway in the Solar Village with other groups representing wildlife preservation, environmental groups and those interested in promoting a lifestyle harmonious with nature and not in contention with her.
Green building products, techniques and Star Trekian Earthship tech can be explored and explained. The Solar Village in it's totality is an astounding array of displays that would send Buckminster Fuller reeling, sending him into an orbit of ecstatic dymaxion delirium. If you are interested in solar and wind power, there are plenty of experts on hand to remove the cloak of technical mystery from the world of wind turbines to the pros and cons of active and passive solar installations for a particular application. The Solar Village has demonstrations of water collection systems that allow the eco-conscious to collect water freely from nature for drinking and for grey water uses.
The Village can also demonstrate ways of supplying a small garden with recycled water with easy to construct mini garden water diversion irrigation systems which can be employed to keep the garden in a state of full tilt blooming boogie. Being an old school composter and organic gardener myself I have to recommend the highly educational green thumb demonstrations that focus on organic soil improvement and farming, on large and small scale.
The Village has information on how to protect wilderness and waterways by creating land trusts to preserve open space which is the environmentally correct thing to do and in the short and long run, we all benefit. Green builders and solar designers are on hand to help you plan that new green home or undertake a green renovation project, and if you want to lend a hand to a neighbor you can join forces with Habitat For Humanity for a truly spiritual experience that is practical at the same time. Habitat volunteers will be happy to assist you in getting started on existing projects close to home.
Lodging options are many and range from chain motels to mom and pops to charming bed and breakfasts to enjoy the pastel pleasures of the great American southwest. The Old Taos Guesthouse and the Laughing Horse Inn are both located in town as are the phalanx of motels. Many festival-goers lodge the old-fashioned and most non evasive environmental way known simply by camping out and enjoying nature without walls or cable TV. The El Torreon Historic Hacienda is located just one and a half miles north of Kit Carson Park and a tent site will run around $45 for the entire three day event which breaks down to $15 a day. Daily camping sites are $20 per day for single day use. There’s even shuttle service from the site to the festival grounds but at a distance of only one and half miles take advantage of leg power and get some exercise in the clean, fresh outdoors by walking it.
Nearby Carson National Forest also has rustic camping available and depending on the area you choose the price will vary with the facilities available or not. Camping is the rustic back to nature way to go when festing in Taos, but let's face it, we are a wireless society with our love affair for laptops, i-Pods, cell phones, digital cameras and an assembly line of electronic this and thats which seem to come along with us wherever we go, including camping. Recharging these products takes energy so while in Taos, go local and go solar. There are numerous compact solar battery chargers on the market that take full advantage of the sun's power and there are even hiking clothing lines and backpacks with solar panels. There also exists a clip-on solar panel for the backpacker that doesn't always want to haul civilization along with him or her. There are solar powered compact ovens and stoves for the camper and flashlights with rechargeable batteries that can be solar charged. Leave the propane at home and stop looking for electrical outlets. When in Rome do as the Romans do, or in this case when in Taos, do as the solarians do!
Taos is located two and a half hours north of Albuquerque and its International Sunport; rent a car for the drive north through some of the most beautiful scenery in New Mexico including art-galleried Santa Fe with authentic southwest architecture throughout on up into Taos itself. For information on Taos and the Solar Music Festival visit the Taos Chamber of Commerce website at www.taoschamber.com and get ready for the next Taos Solar Music Festival and Go Green for the Big Blue Planet!
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