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Osage energy conservation pioneer dies at 93

Osage energy conservation pioneer dies at 93

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OSAGE | Wes Birdsall, who gained national recognition for his tireless efforts in energy conservation as manager of the Osage Municipal Utilities, died Friday. He was 93.

Birdsall, an Ohio native who served as head of OMU from 1972 to 1992, had the ability to convince his neighbors to adopt energy conservation practices at a time when oil prices were on the rise — practices that also helped to keep local rates down.

His Demand-Side Management Program, which began in the 1970s, used giveaway programs, rebates and energy audits to promote energy efficiency. The program went on to save the Osage community more than $1 million a year in energy costs and put Osage under a national spotlight.

The National Center for Appropriate Technology's "Smart Communities Network," which recalled those early days, said Birdsall climbed into a plane and took aerial infrared photographs of the community to highlight sites that had significant heat loss.

"When we showed people on the scanner how much energy they were losing, they usually were on the phone to a contractor before we could get out the door," Birdsall said.

Birdsall's efforts caught the nation's attention, gaining recognition in the Wall Street Journal, USA Today and "Good Morning America." Always passionate about conservation, he went on to teach classes in energy conservation at the University of Northern Iowa following his retirement from OMU.

In 2006, the OMU building was renamed the Weston D. Birdsall Municipal Building in his honor.

"He brought national attention to this community and left a legacy that is still being discussed to this day," said Mayor Steve Cooper at the dedication.

A modest Birdsall said then, "I was just a catalyst."

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