Zero Pollution and the Wind is Free

Wind power is clean energy.  It has the lowest carbon footprint and lowest overall environmental impact of any energy source.  It produces ZERO pollution and is powered by a renewable energy source: the wind.

Theresa standing in front of 3 GW wind turbine

When I see wind turbines, I get excited.  I am inspired by the massive turning blades producing clean, pollution-free energy.  So it was a thrill when we visited the Bear Mountain Wind Park in Dawson Creek, British Columbia. In the above picture, I’m standing at the base of Turbine #34.

Visual Aesthetics and Noise Impacts from Renewable Energy

Vajjhala (2006) provides an analysis of the various challenges facing renewable energy siting. This analysis explains that it is more challenging to locate acceptable locations for renewable energy generation facilities because the number of suitable locations is limited, are likely to be in remote, pristine locations and therefore require more extensive infrastructure to support energy transmission to populated areas (Vajjhala, 2006).

Gila Bend, AZ: Leaders in Solar Power

We’re staying in Gila Bend Arizona for the next several days, just outside the Sonoran Desert National Monument.  Gila Bend is a dusty town about half way between Tucson and Phoenix.  This little 4-gas station town is mostly dirt, sand and sun.  Lots of sun. One of the sunniest states in the U.S., Gila Bend receives 300 days of sunshine per year.

Hats off to the city planners of Gila Bend.  They purposefully created an economic and zoning environment to capitalize on their #1 natural resource: the sun.  Eric Fitzer, the planning and economic-development director for Gila Bend, worked with town leaders to create a “solar overlay zone.”  Utility-sized solar plant zoning normally takes 2 years to meet zoning requirements, a major barrier to developing solar power.  Gila Bend’s upfront zoning reduced this to a mere 6 weeks. (Source: Solar Power Booming)

The 275,000 photovoltaic panels of the Paloma Solar Plant

Solar Energy in the Parks

Many state and national parks have embraced renewable energy.  Installed in 2011, the Oliver Lee Memorial State Park photovoltaic solar panels provide hot shower water and in-slab radiant heat for the bath house and visitors center.  With 310 days of sunshine per year, New Mexico is an ideal location for solar power.  New Mexico is the 4th sunniest state, behind Arizona, California and Nevada. An advantage of rooftop solar is that it uses the existing surface area to produce this power, as opposed to utility-sized solar power stations which require new space to be licensed and used. 

Solar panels on the Oliver Lee State Park visitor center

Green Energy Research

On January 16, 2012, I resigned from Fidelity Investments to pursue a lifelong dream of hiking for approximately one year across North America. We have been planning this trip for many months and expect to depart a few days from now, on January 26.

While traveling, I’ll blog about my experiences exploring green energy, applying what I learned in my Sustainable Business MBA. I will be visiting wind, solar and geothermal plants along the route. California alone has over 50% of the renewable energy in the United States. With the most aggressive legislative support of any state, California mandated that 1/3 of all energy come from renewable sources by the end of 2020. This is a growing business, especially out west and one that truly interests me!

Sourced from - Copyright © Carrington College's Renewable Energy Degree Program

Cape Wind: The Legal Battle between Green Energy and NIMBY

This paper describes the federal, state, and regional environmental requirements for the Cape Wind project, with emphasis on the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA) regulations.  It begins with a description of the Cape Wind project.  It discusses the purpose of NEPA and the mandated approach to ensuring transparency of federal projects using public hearings, environmental impact statements (EIS), and alternative options identification.  It discusses Cape Wind’s history in meeting federal, state, and regional requirements.  It offers the key viewpoints of the opponents and proponents of the project.  This paper concludes by stating that the opposition is practicing “not in my back yard” (NIMBY) by attempting to halt the project and locate it elsewhere.

Measuring Environmental and Social Responsibility

There are several approaches companies use to measure environmental and social impact. These methods have several factors in common. They all attempt to create measurable, quantifiable results that provide transparency into the actions of the company that affect the environment and society (Kubert, 2007). As noted by Andrew Savitz, achieving this is far more challenging than standard financial reporting (eClipsCo, 2008). The key reason is that all facts reported on financial reports are based on a single unit of measure, the dollar. However, there is not a standard measuring stick to measure environmental and social value. Even when attempting to trace environmental and social impacts back to dollars, assessing the total social benefits or total social costs is challenging. Therefore, there continues to be lack of consistency in measurement criteria and systems to assess the true social and environmental impact of a company’s actions.

Backcasting: Deciding the Future, Then Making It Happen

Backcasting and forecasting and are very different. Forecasting is planning the future by assuming that the set of variables and dynamics that exist today will continue to exist in the future. It assumes that the same products, markets, competitors and values will be present in future years (Greenwala, 2009). Forecasting extrapolates the present to predict a similar future (Sawhney, 2010). However, the future often does not follow the trajectory set by the present. Makridakis, Hogarth and Gaba (2010) explain that “extrapolating patterns and relationships from the past to the future can’t provide accurate predictions” of the future (p. 84).

Social Businesses Self-Fund Social Benefits

Mohammad Yunus, Nobel Prize winner and founder of the Grameen Bank describes a business model called a “social business.” This model is focused on solving a social problem with the expressed intention of generating profit to be funneled back into the business where it can provide additional social value. Social responsibility is at the core and the reason for the existence of the company. The shareholders in this model are the individuals the social business is intending to help. The business operates similar to a co-operative, where “profits are either ploughed back into the co-operative or disturbed amongst members” (Ghalib, Hossain, & Arun, 2009, p. 4). It is also self-sustaining with an expectation that those that benefit from the social business will prosper and contribute to society in general and potentially through additional social business start ups. The example Yunas shares is that parents obtain loans to send children to attend higher education which helps entire families and villages escape poverty. This positive upward spiral has the power to reduce poverty and create additional socially responsible generations.

Our Choice by Al Gore: Review and Critical Analysis

This paper provides a summary and critical review of the book, Our Choice, by Al Gore.  It describes the thesis of the book, which is to motivate readers to take action in support of renewable energy solutions and conservation to avoid the negative impacts of climate change.  This paper reviews the six sections of the book, describing the main arguments and supporting statistics based on peer reviewed facts and scholarly sources.  The major topics are the causes of global warming, renewable energy availability and technologies such as wind and solar, biological systems such as forests and population, energy conservation, super grid technologies, carbon taxes, political barriers and information availability.  It also describes the weaknesses and oversights of Our Choice, such as not offering a truly balanced viewpoint and neglecting to offer ideas on how some solutions would be implemented.  This paper concludes by stating that Our Choice is based on sound science and is written as a passionate appeal to readers to take positive action to address climate change.