Aug 06, 2012
It’s an interesting feeling standing on top of a wind turbine nacelle at Shepherd’s Flat Wind Farm in Arlington, OR and looking east through the haze at the PGE coal plant in Boardman. Certainly brings some of the challenges regarding electricity production into focus: kind of like looking at a living timeline of industrial energy innovation. I can’t help taking a moment to ponder mankind’s energy predicament when I find myself in those kinds of situations.
What makes this moment even more special is that I had the good fortune to be able to tour the Boardman Coal Plant last summer while participating in FTN’s ReCharge Retreat. I still remember how complex and dangerous the inside of that plant seemed and how glad I was to be interning at a wind farm that summer. While the technological components of coal fired power fascinated me, what was even more intriguing was the social and cultural context of coal power and the Boardman plant’s scheduled phase out in 2020. Listening to rank and file workers, plant managers, and corporate PR folks explain how the plant closing decision was made and the ramifications of that process and outcome was an eye opener. It brought the utterly human component of energy production and consumption to the forefront. It’s highly unlikely that without FTN and the ReCharge Retreat, I would have had an opportunity for that kind of interaction.
We all have choices to make about how we go about our personal and professional lives and those decisions have very real and often serious consequences. We always will be learning from our mistakes and figuring out more efficient, safer, and cleaner ways to produce and use energy. Coal power brought us many of the technological and cultural advancements we have come to cherish but obviously it came with some serious downsides. It was not a silver bullet; neither is wind, solar, hydro, nuclear, geo-thermal, fuel cells, bio-fuels, etc. Figuring out how to solve our energy dilemmas is not an easy or static process. It takes all our collective talents including innovation, collaboration, technological/scientific expertise and communication to wade through the complexities we face. This is what ReCharge was all about in my eyes and I liked it so much that I asked to go back this year as a guest alum & wind industry technician. I can’t wait to join the 2012 delegates at Mazama Lodge for a couple days and feel the refreshing and inspiring energy that ReCharge produces!
Hope to see you on the mountain,