Reinventing Power: America’s Renewable Energy Boom

Power County Wind Farm

As part of the environmental film series, the new documentary Reinventing Power: America’s Renewable Energy Boom will be shown THIS Thursday (11/6) at 6pm in the West Chester University Sykes theater. The documentary “tells the backstory of clean energy from innovation to installation”.

The film will focus on clean energy, but will also cover other themes such as job security, innovation, community benefits, workforce diversity, and much more. If you plan on attending the event, or if you would like to learn more about clean energy, let’s brush up on some fast facts about renewable energy!

Clean Economy

Many people are worried about the cost of switching to clean energy – but actually, in many areas, renewable energy is cheaper than coal and fracked gas (Lazard). Also, the costs of wind and solar power are dropping rapidly.

  • Since 2009, the price of solar has dropped 85%, and the price of wind power is down 66% (CleanTechnica)
  • Solar power is now cheaper than the current cost of utility-provided electricity in 42 of our nation’s 50 biggest cities and in nearly half of all states

People also worry that converting to clean energy will take away jobs from workers in the coal and gas industries. However, there is a predicted 108% growth in wind turbine technician jobs from 2014 to 2024, the largest growth rate of any occupation in the country and double the rate of the second fastest-growing job (Bureau of Labor Statistics). Not only does clean energy create jobs, clean energy jobs can be created anywhere!

Clean Health

A major reason we should convert to clean energy is because fossil fuels pollute our air and water. Large populations of people are impacted by pollution due to fossil fuels, especially in areas of low-income or in communities of color. Once we switch to clean energy, everyone will benefit from cleaner air and water.

  • The switch to clean, renewable energy sources like wind and solar has already prevented 12,700 premature deaths from fossil fuel pollution in the United States in this past decade (Nature)
  • Replacing fossil fuel vehicles with electric vehicles and clean transportation could prevent 10,000 asthma attacks annually (Environment California)

Clean Reliability

Our current sources of energy aren’t always reliable. Coal, fracked gas, and nuclear power fluctuate rapidly in price. Many power plants are decades old, and are starting to become a liability in the industry. Something else to worry about? Coal, fracked gas, and nuclear may fail during heat waves because they require so much water to manufacture. And with climate change on the rise, we will be seeing more extreme weather, and perhaps hotter summer. But when we make the switch, we will be working with much more reliable power.

  • In extreme weather events, like a hurricane, renewables are resilient. During Hurricane Sandy, for example, solar panels both weathered the storm and quickly repowered damaged areas (Christian Science Monitor)
  • Even for other uses of energy, like transportation, renewables come out on top on reliability. For example, electric vehicles require far less maintenance than fossil fuel vehicles, and their drivers avoid volatile gasoline prices (Department of Energy)
  • Emerging resources like energy storage, demand response technologies, and new transmission will create a more flexible energy system to produce even greater amounts of renewable energy

If you’d like to learn even more about clean energy, and how we’re going to get to 100% clean, please join us for the film tomorrow! Again, it is Thursday 11/6 at West Chester University in the Sykes Theater, at 6pm. And here is a quick trailer of the documentary:

For more info, please visit reinventingpowerfilm.org

Mother Earth, Symbol of Sustainability

Today’s inspiration: metal sculpture entitled Mother Earth, Symbol of Sustainability, on the Georgetown DC waterfront on the Potomac River.

What does Don’t Spray Me! have to do with sustainability?

1) We wish to control mosquitoes by natural means, best of all by denying them to option of breeding in our properties and communities.

2) When urban water runoff is dealt with sustainably, water sinks into permeable areas naturally, neither producing long-lasting pools nor overburdening streams.

3) By cutting down on the use of pesticides and herbicides, we help maintain the balance of species, threatened by our society’s rush into monocultures and chemical dependency.

4) We promote crops grown by earth-friendly methods, as opposed to the brutal (for people and the environment) methods of “big ag.”

More: add your own!

Special feature: West Chester Food Co-op

The West Chester Food Co-op is working to build a member-owned (cooperative) full-service grocery store in West Chester.  The store will provide daily access to fresh, healthy, local food, and will be walkable for those in the Borough and have parking for those who don’t.

Cooperatives are businesses formed not to return profits to investors but to serve the needs of their members.  A cooperative offers our community the opportunity to build together something we all want.

The Food Co-op hired a consultant to produce an investment-grade projection of revenue for a store in our community; so we know it can work.  Read more here.

Cooperatives start through community support: many small investments from as broad a base as possible assure that the business reflects the community.  The Co-op is building that equity base right now.

The Food Co-op is more than a grocery store: its mission is to enhance the well-being of the people of West Chester by promoting healthy and mindful eating, improving access to sustainably produced food, helping those in need to secure quality food, advancing sustainable and humane agriculture, supporting local farms, and building community through cooperative enterprise.

The Co-op seeks to bring transparency and accountability to every step of the food production and distribution process from farm to table, providing confidence for educated consumer choice and food that the community can trust. Nutritious food is a gift to the health and well-being of an entire population.

Member-owners make a one-time $400 investment (there is an installment plan and gift certificates are available). The Co-op is nearing its target to move into the next phase of development; your investment can put them over the top.  See the timeline for project development here.

You may email the Co-op here or join on-line here.  Please support our friends and community!

It’s not just about the pesticides

Since 2015, with many others, I have been part of the West Chester PA activist group Don’t Spray Me, whose immediate purpose is to cut down on both mosquitoes and the pesticides sprayed to kill them.

The Don’t Spray Me effort is not “just” about mosquitoes and even not “just” about pesticides.

The short version is that if we, as individuals, organizations, and municipalities, can prevent mosquitoes from breeding in standing water, then we won’t be threatened with toxic air-borne spraying that has less lasting negative impact on mosquito populations than on many other vulnerable species, including but not limited to hypersensitive humans, beneficial insects like bees, and some other species.

Many things we believe in are under assault today. Americans have become very skeptical of trusting the status quo, and we rightly worry what could happen next if we aren’t vigilant.

When I have the mosquito conversation with anyone who grew up in the 1950s and 60s, they usually recall being exposed to DDT in their neighborhoods, when that chemical was being sprayed liberally in a futile attempt to save elm trees from Dutch Elm Disease. Many of us recall basking in the cooling DDT mist as it drifted down from the treetops….

read more at Politics, A View from West Chester

Comments to the Sustainability Advisory Council, 8/18/16

Nathaniel Smith: views on the role of SAC

I would like to reflect briefly on how the anti-mosquito & non-spray effort fits in to the sustainability theme.

Occasionally people ask us: Aren’t mosquitoes part of the balance of nature too?

Yes, but in an urban environment like West Chester, where the balance of nature is disrupted, they become pests

The stream protection plan, just discussed, fits in nicely here, because natural, healthy streams bring us good drainage and mosquito-eating fish and dragonflies.

If West Chester didn’t have people, we wouldn’t need a Sustainability Advisory Committee. But people are also part of the solution.

The mission statement of this Committee is ”to increase collaboration between Borough departments on issues regarding the economic vitality and environmental sustainability of West Chester Borough.”

And Borough code also says: “The Committee seeks to develop initiatives aimed at increasing Borough staff knowledge, developing community partnerships, and fostering sustainable best management practices.”

In my view, sustainability also extends beyond preserving the balance of nature to assuring that people live in an attractive and healthy natural environment.

The County Health Department is part of the US Environmental Protection Agency’s Pesticide Environmental Stewardship Program, which “promotes the adoption of innovative, alternative pest control practices.” In the EPA’s words, we wish to “work toward pest management practices that reduce the risks to humans and the environment.”

We are asking SAC to also support those goals and to:

– accept the mosquito Task Force as a SAC project

– appoint a SAC member as a regular liaison to the Task Force

– help publicize the Task Force’s outreach to residents