Throughout its various incarnations in Colorado since the mid-'70s, Marilyn Megenity's Mercury Cafe has been a model for clean energy. Since the Mercury settled into a permanent home at 2199 California two decades ago, Megenity has installed 36 solar panels on the building and also worked to change the city regulations on the use of wind energy.
Now Megenity wants to do more so her business can use less -- and she's asked for the community to help. She's launched a crowdfunding campaign that will allow the cafe to purchase and install 36 more solar panels and batteries; with less than two weeks left to reach the campaign's goal of almost $40,000, Megenity is hoping that her loyal patrons will jump at the chance to invest in clean energy for the future.
"To me, we are all facing climate catastrophe and I want everyone to have a future on this earth," says Megenity. "I've had a really wonderful life on earth here, but I want everyone to have that. We all need to take climate catastrophe really, really seriously and do whatever we can."
The solar panels currently installed on the Mercury Cafe were funded by a friend, but for this new project, the restaurant owner wanted to ask the community to make an investment in clean energy. She also hopes to raise awareness about the negative effects of fossil fuels by offering a model for alternative energy sources -- something she does daily as she drives her biodiesel-fueled car around town.
The solar panels are complemented by two windmills on the downtown building, which came about after Megenity partnered with then-Denver City Councilman Doug Linkhart and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory to change the rules around this particular form of green energy almost a decade ago.
"When we got Denver's first windmills, we changed wind law in Denver so that everybody can have windmills here. Before ours, nobody could," says Megenity. She also pushed for green energy reform that would require new buildings and certain structural remodels within city limits to adhere to clean energy standards -- but not much has happened within that realm.
Still, Megenity is working hard to educate everyone around her on the positives of clean energy, while reducing the restaurant's bills. This addition of solar panels could cut energy costs by around two-thirds; right now, because the restaurant is open mostly at night, the energy created from solar during the day goes back into the grid. With the help of new panels and batteries to save that energy, the Mercury Cafe will be able to use the energy itself.
Another reason that Megenity is turning to crowdfunding for this project is because the Mercury Cafe's size doesn't qualify the building for financing or support for solar installation. As it stands, insurance companies and banks will aid residences and large buildings in solar panel installation, but not a mid-sized structure like the restaurant. But if every person who currently "likes" the Mercury Cafe on Facebook donated $5, Meginity points out, the project would be completely funded.
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