Pause and effect
Amid an anemic economy, Nevada has a chance to plan for a greener future
If anything positive can be said of the current recession, it’s that it’s given Nevada an opportunity to pause. Not to be confused with inaction, it’s a moment to reevaluate how to approach the future in terms of the state’s growth and renewable energy.
That sentiment was expressed at the half-day Sustainable Energy and Communities Summit held Oct. 16. Organized by REA250 and the Nevada Museum of Art, the summit featured panelists from a range of sectors: art and architecture, the environment, government, business, education and workforce training, all discussing the idea of advancing renewable energy.
“This horrible economy is an opportunity for NV Energy, for us to pause,” said Philip Satre, chairman of NV Energy’s board of directors. “Our forecast for growth a few years ago resulted in a proposed coal fired power plant for Ely, Nevada.” That plan has since been shelved, but Satre noted it was an energy option they could’ve ramped up quickly to meet demand. “We have this pause to be able to build alternative sources for that.” Satre said the utility company is issuing requests for proposals for more renewables “to make the likelihood of a coal fired plant in the state unlikely.”
Architect Stacey Crowley helped create an environmental plan for the Kiley Ranch master planned community, which resulted in the Kiley Ranch Wildlife Preserve. “The chance for pause, we’re seeing that in the development world, as well,” she said. During the housing boom, the race was on to construct as much as possible, as fast as possible. But now, “it’s a chance to see when we do get back into building, to do it in a way that makes sense.” This could mean more renewable energy features in new homes, more LED street lighting and smarter open space plans.
The pause is also an opportunity to educate the public about what renewable energy actually looks like. Jason Geddes from the city of Reno’s Environmental Services says that when he talks to groups, he’ll mention wind, and they say “bird kill.” Then he shows them modest, quiet, spinning double helixes. “You have to point it out to them,” he said. When an audience member asked for Geddes’ vision of Reno in 20 years, he said, “To me, every home should be zero energy and use that grid when the wind’s not blowing, and the sun’s not shining.”
Dr. Stephen Wells, president of Desert Research Institute, said it’s disturbing to see Germany and other countries outpace the United States in renewable energy. “This pause is to see this is what life needs to be.” He said we need to be teaching children and ramping up development in renewables at the same time, but he fears we’re backing away from education and innovation. “If we miss this opportunity, we’re going to see other countries, like Bulgaria, outpacing us, which is just embarrassing,” he said.
Panelist Danny Thompson of the Nevada State AFL-CIO is a former state assemblymember. He said politics is the root problem to advancing clean energy in Nevada, whether it regards education, innovation or policies surrounding renewables. “It’s a fundamental tax problem compounded by over-reliance on the gaming industry,” he said. “When the gaming industry has a bad slot tournament, we have to do away with kindergarten.”