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Community News: Mid-City

KOREATOWN : Big Rig Generates Talk--and Power

October 16, 1994|LESLIE BERESTEIN

Parked on tiny White House Place, the enormous green tractor-trailer looked out of place Oct. 7 in the quiet residential area near 1st Street and Vermont Avenue, moreso considering the neighborhood is part of the Los Angeles Eco-Village, a community dedicated to environmental preservation.

Fortunately for the environment, this was no ordinary smoke-spewing big rig.

Far from it--the trailer attached to the soy diesel-fueled tractor was "Cyrus," a unique mobile solar electric generator developed by Greenpeace, on its last leg of an educational tour across the United States and Canada. The Eco-Village visit preceded the tour-ending stop in Wilmington the next day.

Forty feet long, with 40 solar panels and 4 1/2 tons of batteries capable of storing 100,000 watt-hours of electricity, Cyrus--named after a legendary king of ancient Persia--has been powering concerts, radio broadcasts and community events nationwide since April, said Kelly Quirke, a spokesman for Greenpeace, the international environmental organization.

It was originally designed to power recording studios for the production of a benefit rock album titled "Alternative NRG," released last January.

"We decided to take Cyrus on the road to demonstrate clean energy and to let people know that the barriers are political, not technical," Quirke said.

"This can do anything regular electricity can do."

Inside the trailer-generator are educational exhibits discussing clean energy, comparing it with fossil fuels and explaining the possible dangers associated with burning fossil fuels.

Throughout the day, students from nearby White House Place Primary School and Virgil Avenue Middle School streamed through the trailer for a quick lesson on solar power.

"We don't talk to the kids about the economic side, but we do talk to them about the dangers of waste," Quirke said.

Lois Arkin, who lives in and helps organize the Eco-Village neighborhood, was glad Greenpeace could include them on the generator's itinerary.

"It's the first time we've had a major organization here that has had a resource that our community could develop,' she said.

The man who has driven Cyrus on its route through North America is Jim Kron, who powers his San Diego home with solar energy. Driving around the country pulling a giant green solar generator with Greenpeace emblazoned on the side, he said, has been an enlightening experience.

"I've gotten mixed reactions," he said. "In places that are very resource-dependent, such as logging areas, you find some antagonism. Then again, one time I was at a truck stop in Wisconsin, working underneath the truck, and I saw these cowboy boots approaching. I thought, 'Here we go again.'

"I got up and found out the guy wanted to give me a hundred-dollar bill as a donation."

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