Green year in Review

The top 15 environmental news and trends in and around Reno for 2010, here, in purely subjective order:

1) Yucca Mountain project funding pulled. After President Obama eliminated funding for Yucca Mountain in the 2011 budget, the Energy Department filed to withdraw its license application for it, which would effectively put an end to the project. However, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia will be holding hearings in early 2011 to decide whether the Energy Department had a right to withdraw its application. Meanwhile, a federal panel is revisiting the issue of how to deal with nuclear waste.

2) Green jobs: the waiting game. Green jobs have been identified as one component of getting the state out of this economic mess, but they’ve been slow to come. Approving clean energy projects and policies is a slow-going process, but some jobs are trickling in. Meanwhile, several green job conferences and panel discussions have been held locally about how to bring more clean energy jobs here. The general consensus is Nevada needs a better educated workforce, better policies and incentives for green businesses to come and stay here, and two seemingly incongruous things: political will and patience.

3) Solar development. As the state frets over green jobs, some have been added through solar energy projects. The first large-scale solar project on public lands in Nevada, the Silver State North Solar Project south of Las Vegas, was approved in November. A month later, designated “solar zones” in Nevada were announced to help speed the solar energy development process. Earlier, in July, the One Nevada Line transmission project was approved to connect clean energy resources in northern and southern Nevada.

4) Gaga over geothermal. Remember those green jobs conferences we were talking about? One word kept popping up over and over: Geothermal. The short story is we’ve got it—more than most places in the world. And by “we,” we mean Northern Nevada, not just the state. We have the companies, the resources, a giant piece of the federal funding for it, and now facilities are in the works to help edumacate the masses about it. This year, the University of Nevada, Reno got a $1.2 million grant to develop and operate the National Geothermal Institute, which will complement its already existing Great Basin Center for Geothermal Energy and is expected to be a consortium of geothermal schools, including MIT, Cornell and Stanford.

5) More water days. We were skeptical about this one: Water more days of the week, but use the same amount of water? That’s what the Truckee Meadows Water Authority found was the general case when it was studying its decision this year to allow residents to have three, rather than two, set water days per week.

6) Reno climate: The air and water temperatures of Lake Tahoe, Pyramid Lake and Walker Lake were hotter this year, according to NASA, but Nevadans were still doubtful about global warming. In a Las Vegas Review-Journal poll taken in April, 55 percent of Nevadans considered global warming “unproven and subject to debate,” an 11 percent drop in believers since 2008.

7) Roads go on a diet. Certain roads in Reno got skinnier this year, to the relief of local cyclists. They can now ride a bit more safely at places like Arlington, California and Holcomb avenues, where bike lanes have been added.

8) EcoReno closes. The beloved independent eco store shut its doors in December after a two-year run of providing everything from recycled toilet paper and compost tumblers to natural cleaners and upcycled jewelry.

9) Peppermill goes geothermal. Talk about using the resources you have. The Peppermill resort and casino tapped nine geothermal wells. The casino expects to recover its $9.7 million investment within five years. As of this spring, the Peppermill said it was heating 100 percent of its property and running water—from the pools to the spa to the hotel rooms—with renewable energy.

10) Locally grown food in local restaurants. This has gone on to some extent for years, but in 2010, there seemed to be more local food in local restaurants and cafes than ever—or at least more restaurants publicizing it. To name a few: 775 Gastro Pub, 5th Street Bakehouse, Bistro 7, 4th Street Bistro, Sezmu, Dish Café, Granite Street Eatery, and more.

11) Coop on the move, again. Speaking of local food, the Great Basin Community Food Coop announced in May it was looking to move from its cozy but crammed Plumas Street location. The Sallaberry sisters, at the co-op say they expect to announce where that move will be this month, adding that it will be in a bigger space that’s still central to Reno’s urban core.

12) Nevada EcoNet lives to see another day, and a new direction. With a new executive director, a new blog and a more streamlined focus, the local nonprofit that has thrown the city’s big Earth Day celebration for the past 20 years nearly went belly up a couple of years ago. It stayed afloat with volunteers, board members, and one part-time employee, Kaitlin Weeks, who has now become its full-time executive director.

13) Reno named a top green city. The Natural Resources Defense Council listed Reno among its “2010 Smarter Cities” for its “emerging energy culture,” due largely to the city’s use of things like renewable energy installations and green retrofits to reduce its energy use.

14) Transition Reno kicks off. The local chapter of this international grassroots-driven group had their “great unleashing” this year—with film festivals, local discussions and the forming of action groups—to help Renoites transition from an oil-based lifestyle to one that’s more sustainable.

15) Everybody’s on Facebook. If you’re a local, environmental nonprofit or business, or, say, a media outlet (search “RN&R Green”), chances are you have a Facebook fan page by now.