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    Credit: Adopt-A-Watt Inc.

    Eaton Corp. sponsored an electric vehicle charging station in Dearborn, Mich., which was the first city in the nation to move forward with Adopt-A-Watt’s energy saving initiative.

We’ve all seen those ubiquitous signs on road trips declaring, “this highway was adopted by” some organization. If that model can be used for picking up litter, why couldn’t it help public entities adopt clean energy and technology?

That’s exactly what Adopt-A-Watt Inc. Founder and CEO Thomas Wither thought back in 2006. He spent the first few years laying groundwork, introducing the concept to transportation departments and other potential hosts and recruiting sponsors. Now his Royal Oak, Mich.-based business is getting up to speed.

The program works like the Adopt-A-Highway and Sponsor-A-Highway programs. But instead of announcing someone has sponsored the cleanup of a highway, signs acknowledge that a company or organization sponsored the installation of clean technology and/or energy. Depending on the agreement with the host, sponsors donate money for solar panels, energy-efficient lighting, electric vehicle infrastructure, and electric vehicles themselves. All equipment and other contributions are tax deductible.

This is done at absolutely no cost to the host or taxpayers, which is great for cash-strapped public agencies.

Whenever possible, hosts are matched with sponsors at the local level. The company’s goal is to support local economies by offering local businesses sponsoring arrangements first and hiring local workers to do the installation. Sponsors include individuals, nonprofit organizations, and both large and small local and national businesses.

Five state DOTs are moving forward with the program. And after deals with DOTs in New Jersey and Washington state are finalized, Adopt-A-Watt will be operating coast-to-coast.

“This is a unique way of helping with clean and green energy plans at no cost to taxpayers,” says Wither. “Public agencies want to reduce operating costs but face the dilemma of ‘where does the money come from?’”

A recent example is Dearborn, Mich., which upgraded 102 parking structure fixtures which are expected to save 612,512 kWh and generate more than $300,000 in operating costs savings and new revenue over the next 10 years. The city installed an electric vehicle charging station sponsored by Eaton Corp. City of Dearborn Sustainability Coordinator Dave Norwood says the city learned of Adopt-A-Watt from the Clean Energy Coalition, a statewide nonprofit group focused on greening communities by building public/private partnerships.

After seeing a positive response, the city is considering two more projects.

“The only commitment we had to make was time and some energy data,” Norwood says. “This is a good way for local government to do energy-efficiency projects at little to no cost.”

If you would like more information or are interested in becoming a host or sponsor, email info@adopt-a-watt.com or call 866-643-5724.

Kelley Lindsey