Not Just Hot Air

Teal Tigner, Clean Air-Cool Planet

Teal Tigner, Clean Air-Cool Planet

By Teal Tigner,
Corporate Program Consultant
Clean Air-Cool Planet

In today’s issue of the Wall Street Journal, there is a very interesting article about Wind Farms and Wall Street.  In much of the climate legislation news of late, information regarding alternative energy investment plans has fallen by the wayside in favor of the latest buzz surrounding cap-and-trade.  But in my opinion, this element of climate action is even more significant than a carbon cap and trade system because of its economic and climate implications.  Why?  Because in addition to being sustainable sources of energy, wind-farm and solar company projects result in another, good-for-the-economy outcome:  jobs. 

Building wind turbines and installing solar panels require special technician training.  Unions such as the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers recognized this necessity years ago and began adapting their certification programs accordingly.  (See the Success Story here). In 2003, the IBEW Local 103 chapter, which is based in Dorchester, MA, installed photovoltaic panels on the roof of its facility in the hopes of covering some of its energy costs while providing an in-house training ground for its technicians.  In 2005, it erected the first wind turbine in the city of Boston for the same reasons.  Today, the workers trained through the IBEW Local 103 are in high demand as wind and solar projects take off across New England and the rest of the country.  And with available financing appealing to the deal makers of Wall Street, these projects are attractive to both investors and environmentalists. 

Under the current federal program, the government will give a cash rebate for 30% of the cost of building a renewable-energy facility.  But wind farms and solar panel companies are not the only ones who can benefit from this program.  Consumer-based companies like Staples have partnered with renewable energy companies in an effort to operate off of clean energy while reducing their greenhouse gas emissions.  Other companies such as Steelcase have purchased majority shares in wind farms for the same reason. 

So what does all of this investment mean?  Well, three things really :  1) The green collar workforce we’ve heard so much about is starting to really take shape; 2) Wall Street is taking an interest in making environmental industries profitable; and 3) recognizable mainstream companies are taking the lead in some really cool sustainable projects.  All of this is good for the environment, business, and the consumer.  Even more so, these are projects that people can see, understand, and support with considerably less political rhetoric than other aspects of the climate change initiative.  Sometimes simplicity really is best.

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