How do employees feel when their leaders let them down?

Organizations are blessed by having hard-working employees who take pride in their work. I recognize not everyone fits this bill, but hopefully an organization has more of those that do than not. Yet, what becomes problematic for these earnest employees is when their leaders let them down.

I am thinking of the hard-working Wells Fargo employees who day in, day out help their customers, who saw leadership create a culture of cross-selling that led to some illegal behaviors. And, when honest employees shared their concern, they were admonished or let go.

i am thinking of the hard-working employees of energy company Enron whose leaders pursued aggressive and fraudulent accounting approaches with various code names to hide profits and dress up earnings. They also told their employees not to sell Enron stock when they knew the price was artificially propped up.

I am thinking of the hard-working folks of Arthur Andersen, who watched client leaders for their Enron accounting team help Enron’s leaders mask inappropriate activities and not catch others. These leaders brought down an accounting firm with an excellent reputation.

I am thinking of the hard-working employees of Duke Energy whose leaders have been less than forthcoming about a significant breach in a retired plant coal ash site knowing for years a problem existed and not moving quickly enough on some current ash sites where seepage into neighborhood water systems were a concern. Duke’s employees were incredulous by these actions.

I am thinking of the hard-working employees of Marsh and McClennan Companies whose leaders set-up and turned a blind eye to a small part of the company that was steering business and not operating in the best interests of the clients. They paid a huge fine and leaders were asked to leave.

These hard-working employees deserve good, honest leadership. The loss in stock price and jobs wear on them, but also the deflated pride in their companies. I worked for a subsidiary of Marsh and McClennan and it embarrassed and upset me that our leadership would do what they did and not address the problem when it was raised. Plus, being a stock holder through a 401(k) plan, stock purchase plan and some options, I was hurt financially as were folks who also lost their jobs due to the resulting downturn. I knew innocent folks who were asked to leave because of downsizing due to the impact of the malfeasance of this small group.

We need our leaders to be strategic and cognizant of issues, but we also need them to be honest and supportive of their employees. When problems arise, they need to be swift and contrite in addressing the issues.  Johnson and Johnson quickly addressed a Tylenol tampering incident many years ago when a nefarious person was removing lids and poisoning the pills. They did what they had to do to weather the storm.

From reading and watching news, apparently more than a few hard-working federal employees are not taking much pride in their new boss. That is unfortunate as they deserve more. So do we, with all of our leaders.

Governor McCrory may want to consider Flint

A few months ago, the state of North Carolina’s Department of Environmental Quality said the water was safe to drink near a coal ash site, only one year after saying it was not. I think many of us were puzzled by this reversal and I am sure that affected residents were in some disbelief.

Apparently, they would have been wise to not believe this reversal per the testimony of Ken Rudo, a state toxicologist. In his testimony, he chastised the leadership of the Department for its reversal saying they were endangering the public and made criticisms of the governor for at least being aware of the change in position.

Last week, the state epidemiologist, Megan Davies, resigned due to the Governor McCrory administration’s “false narrative.” The McCrory administration said Rudo lied under oath and both the state health director and assistant secretary in the Department of Environmental Quality fired off a public statement saying “Rudo’s unprofessional approach…does a disservice to public health and environmental protections in North Carolina.”

Really? I am having a hard time reconciling how being precautious does a disservice to public health. We only need to look north to Flint, Michigan and see what happens when state officials mask the risk of toxic water to a population. Nine current and former state of Michigan officials have been now been criminally charged because of hiding a problem which caused lead poisoning in a number of children and adults. As of yesterday, the problem is still being remedied with an increase in non-lead exposed homes from a low of 9% last fall to 45% as announced by Virginia Tech who is monitoring the progress.

Let’s break this issue in North Carolina down further. A toxicologist testifies under oath to inform the court that people living near the coal ash sites have remained at risk to dangerous toxins in their water. If he is lying, he will go to jail for perjury. His boss, an epidemiologist, resigns in support of the toxicologist’s claims. She left her job at a personal financial cost to protest the misrepresentation to the public. And, we are supposed to ignore these scientists and believe the governor’s administration? It should be noted the governor used to work for and remains a friend of the company whose coal ash is causing the issues.

So, my recommendation would be to believe the scientists who have risked so much to tell the story that the public may have been lied to about the safety of their drinking water. I would also recommend the governor’s administration take this seriously and revisit the issue. Because if they don’t and it turns out that Rudo and Davies are indeed correct, some folks in the McCrory administration may be censured, fired or worse. And, that might include the man running to keep his office, whether he wins or not.

For more on the story prior to Davies’ resignation, please refer to the attached link to a PBS Newshour report.

http://www.pbs.org/newshour/rundown/state-health-director-may-covered-toxic-water-north-carolina/

Climate change continues to hit home in the US

An article on two islands, one off the coast of Virginia and one off Louisiana, reveals what the rest of the planet is witnessing. Both Tangier Island in the Chesapeake and Isle de Jean Charles in the Gulf of Mexico, are being consumed by rising sea levels. Climate change is already impacting the planet and we better do something about it. A link to the articles is below.

These are not isolated incidents. The City of Miami and surrounding counties are spending $200 million to stave off the sea water from coming up through street drains following the mildest of storms. Last month, I read where the sea levels have been threatening a major water reservoir near the Everglades coming through the porous limestone. And, as we enter hurricane season, the rising sea levels are like raising the basketball court, so it is easier for the hurricane to metaphorically dunk a basketball and wreak havoc.

But, what the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has stated clearly for years, is the climate change will cause exacerbated weather patterns, where the drought areas will be drier, the forest fires will be more frequent and severe and snow-bound areas will be pummeled with stalled weather systems. This is not just around the world, but here in the states with California seeing much of the first two and states like Texas and plain states seeing more drought conditions.

The World Economic Forum annually publishes a Global Risk Report. In 2015, the report cited failing to act on climate change is the second greatest risk facing our planet over the next ten years. The greatest risk is made worse by climate change – our water resources are declining. So, ironically, as we have too much of sea water, our fresh water is being threatened. This is a key reason I have been against fracking as it requires so much water in the process (2 to 4 million gallons per one fracking attempt) that cannot be reused as the chemicals that are mixed with it are toxic to humans.

When I have been scoffed at for this comment, I note that for three summers in a row, frackers and farmers have been fighting over water in California, Kansas and Texas. Texas has some towns where the water has been severely depleted and California, where many crops are farmed, has recurring water rights legal fights as the water is being used up.

And, last fall, during a panel presentation on the Future Water Crisis, a Duke Energy spokesperson noted that they factor in evaporation into their water models and climate change is anticipated to increase evaporation by 11%. It should be noted that the normal power generation process with fossil fuels and nuclear power heats water into steam several times to turn the turbines to turn the generators. When the water is finally released back into the river, they have also lost about 1% to 2% of the water due to evaporation.

We have a presidential election in front of us and, on this issue, party matters. We have one party who is heavily funded by the fossil fuel industry who wants to get as much profit from fossil fuels as possible, so they require the naysaying of climate change. As a sidebar, Exxon-Mobil is being investigated by the New York Attorney General for alleged misrepresentation of the impact of climate change on its business to shareholders and investors, which is a securities crime.

The presumptive presidential nominee from this party has said several times that climate change is a hoax invented by the Chinese to steal our jobs. In fact, only one candidate from this party in the primary recognized climate change as a problem. This issue more than any other scares me, as we can no longer afford to wait and must build upon what President Obama has started and what the Paris Climate Change Accord compels us to do.

 

https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/us/rising-seas-are-washing-away-two-us-towns-how-theyre-responding-is-a-matter-of-faith-belief-and-money/ar-BBugN8v?li=AA4ZnC&ocid=spartandhp

We cannot rely on Erin Brockovich to save the day

Three recent events have flooded my brain with the need to call out to Erin Brockovich. She is a real life person portrayed by Julia Roberts in the movie by the same name. Not to spoil it for others, but she fights for the disenfranchised whose water has been polluted by an electric utility that denied such linkage. Yet, we should not be made to rely on white knights like Ms. Brockovich, to make business and government leaders do the right thing.

The first event is the most well-known, with the city of Flint facing a huge water crisis when the state of Michigan tried to save money by retapping into water from the Flint River using pipes that had significant lead build-up. The story goes deeper when state officials were aware of issues and did nothing. People complained and they did nothing. The people had tests done by a reputable source and the findings were denigrated. The governor holds much of the blame for letting his state down. Finally, the tidal wave of complaints and notoriety reached a boiling point and something is being slowly done. I think it can be successfully argued that if this was a more affluent community, action would have been taken sooner.

The second event is the continuation of the coal ash leakage in North Carolina. Duke Energy has been ordered to pay another fine for the Dan River coal ash spill last year. In their own documents, the company knew dating back to 1986 that the pipe that breached was not the type that would survive long term. They also failed to spend on at least two occasions $20,000 to fix the pipe as late as 2007. On top of this, the company has continually denied that people living near other coal ash dumps have water that is contaminated. They have been ordered to do something with these sites, but are accused of using faulty data leading them to a conclusion away from moving the coal ash, which is the more expensive solution.

The third event is equally disappointing about a disappointing court case. About thirty Republican-led states are suing the EPA on violating its authority under the Obama Clean Power Plan requirements which phase in changes over time. My state is one of those states, which is odd as we can easily meet and blow past the plan being the 4th most prolific state in solar energy. The US Supreme Court ruled yesterday to freeze the implementation requirement until the court case is completed, a ruling even surprising the complainants. On top of the campaign finance rulings, this may have been the poorest ruling I have witnessed by this court. It is very disheartening and runs counter to what the world needs us to do to address climate change.

We cannot rely on Erin to save the day, We cannot rely on governors to always do the right thing, as it is not uncommon to look to save money at the expense of citizens who are less inclined to vote for them. We cannot rely on business leaders to “be more than profits” and invest in our community and remedy actions when they are harmful. We must pressure our leaders to think about the environment. Truth be told, the groundswell of actions that have been occurring have propelled us forward. In fact, the best thing coming out of Paris is The Breakthrough Energy Coalition which is led by Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos and Mark Zuckerberg. But, we need government and industry to do their part and help, not hinder these efforts.

Our biggest risks over the next ten years, as measured by the World Economic Forum, are actions on climate change and our global water crisis (the latter goes beyond Flint, but we cannot waste water). Yet, neither of these topics is discussed by one political party and the other does not talk enough about them to distinguish themselves for voters. We can ill-afford a President who does not address these issues going forward. And, we certainly do not need one who said “global warming is a hoax invented by the Chinese to steal our jobs” and who unsuccessfully sued the Scottish government to stop them from putting wind mills off the coast of his golf course development.

Water – the best reason for renewable energy

At a recent Sierra Club meeting, I heard an environmental science professor speak about the river system that provides water for millions of Carolinians called the Catawba/ Wateree River Basin. This system has been on the watch list due to poor planning for several years. About half of the use of the river also goes to generate electricity for these same citizens through Duke Energy, so it is a multi-purpose river system. While this river basin is endemic to the Carolinas, the issue is more universal with water concern areas like California, Oklahoma, Texas, etc.

In previous posts, I have noted major concerns over our fresh water supply, noting it as one of our two dearest resources on the planet, with air being the other. Often citing Steven Solomon from his book “Water: The Epic Struggle for Wealth, Power and Civilization,” I noted a concern over our need to manage this resource, especially in light of the vast amounts of water that do not feed us, quench our thirst or help us stay  clean, but go instead into non-crop irrigation, fracking and other fossil fuel and nuclear power production.

Further, one of the key impacts climate change  has and will continue to have is on drought areas, making them worse. In fact, water provided cooling for power  generation (while water is replenished, there still is a net loss of water) is so significant, that when we have a drought, we should not only conserve water, we should raise the thermostat and turn off the lights. The reduction in electricity use will save water as well.

Yet, until I heard this presentation which included excerpts from Duke Energy’s internal presentations, it did not hit me that we run a reasonable risk of running out of  our capacity to support additional people in the Catawba/ Wateree River Basin. With our growth expectations for the area, even with modest growth, we will need to alter our mix of energy production in a dramatic way or we may very well run out of water. At a minimum, we will need to spend several hundreds of millions of dollars to add more water processing and waste management processing plants, as the ones we have will max out. Saying this last statement a different way, as we grow, we will grow beyond the capacity of existing plants to provide fresh water and treat sewage regardless of what the river might provide.

Even though the time period for concern is beyond the tenure of current politicians, we need to plan accordingly with a long term strategy. We cannot wait to act, as if we do, it will be too late to intervene. We need to have more active conservationist strategies per the counsel of previous Duke CEO Jim Rogers who liked to quote from Solomon’s book that “water is the new oil.” We need to be more concerted and aggressive in our move to renewable energy which need not require water usage. We must diminish fossil fuels not only for climate change reasons, but to afford us water to drink and cook with. And, we need to be prepared to build water and waste management processing plants before they max out.

Please note, I am not trying to be an alarmist, but more of a pragmatist. We must begin our planning and accelerate our actions. Not planning ahead is a key reason our Catawba/ Wateree River Basin has been included on the list of most threatened rivers.  A final comment is Denmark which sits at sea level, developed a long term plan to deal with the encroaching seas due to climate change. The plan had to have consensus from multiple parties as it had to survive the terms of the political officials. That is what is needed here.

Message to GM, Duke Energy and Toyota – If you only listened to a couple of us

Having witnessed the new CEO of GM, Mary Barra, testify before Congress yesterday regarding GM’s failure to remedy problems they knew about, I am moved by a comment from one of the mothers whose child died behind the wheel of a malfunctioning GM car in 2009. Paraphrasing the mother’s comments, “if they only listened to one or two of us, these other people would not have had to die.” I cannot find a more apt quote to surmise how many feel.

In fairness to Barra, she was not in charge of GM until this year, but she needs to get to the bottom of this and rebuild people’s trust. What we did learn yesterday is GM changed a part in one car model without changing the part number to track if it would be successful, which is unheard of. In other words, they tried to sneak a change in to limit risk. This is malfeasance on top of the decision not to heed warnings and fix something. People did not have to die.

GM’s woes follow closely on Toyota being fined $1.2 Billion for its covering up of accelerator problems. Toyota’s handling of this issue was extremely poor, at best, and it is not over. Several managers may face criminal charges for ignoring the cautions and requests of subordinates to fix the problem. Driving a run away car with an acceleration issue led to deaths and accidents. People did not have to die.

Not to be outdone, Duke Energy, who had a stellar reputation up until the late 1990s until it made some poor acquisitions and accounting issues tainted its image, decided to forego fixing problems with coal ash ponds after being sued last spring by several environmental groups. These coal ash ponds are near waterways, as the coal ash has to be kept wet so the pollutants in the ash don’t blow into the water and people’s lungs. Some of these waterways actually provide drinking water to local communities. Instead, Duke chose to work with a friendlier state agency and governor, who used to be employed by Duke and agreed to settlement of $99,000 (which is a tad shy of Toyota’s fine) and to fix the problem on their time. Now they have had a coal ash spill and some other leaks to contend with. No one has died as of yet, but drinking polluted water is not good for people’s health.

These issues are on the heels of Penn State not addressing a sexual predator scandal in its midst and it becoming more known that the Catholic Church has been covering up for sexual predators among its priests for years. I mention the sex scandals as well, as all of these issues relate to one key theme – leadership caring more about their image than their customers and people who have trusted them.

“If they had only listened to one or two of us, these other people  would not have had to die.” If they had listened to the first voices in the sex scandals, others would not have had to be raped by a priest or Jerry Sandusky. If Duke had only heeded the warnings and lawsuits, they could have been ahead of the problems, rather behind them. Leaders need to lead, not protect their hind end or organizational image. Hopefully, Barra can steer GM better toward being more trustworthy. Hopefully, Pope Francis can continue to rebuild the trust in the Catholic Church. Hopefully, Duke can remedy their failure to act. Hopefully, Toyota and Penn State have learned their lessons. You owe this to us. And, it is time we start demanding it.

Note: My friend Barney has an excellent post on GM which can be found with the attached link. http://mountainperspective.wordpress.com/2014/04/02/is-general-motors-good-for-america/comment-page-1/#comment-3513

 

When things get too cozy – the travails of Duke Energy and DENR

I have been a customer and shareholder of Duke Energy for over thirty years. I have also been a North Carolina taxpayer for the same length of time. For the most part, Duke Energy has been a good company and recognized as such in its industry. Yet it has had a few moments when it got involved with some accounting irregularities in South Carolina and it bought into the gas transmission industry before it exited it with much egg on its face. With that context, I want to share my disappointment in Duke on the coal ash spill that could have been avoided along with their response. I also want to add that criticism of too cozy a relationship between Duke, the NC Department of Energy and Natural Resources (DENR) and our governor is well placed.

As many of you know, Duke Energy is responsible for coal ash leaks on the North Carolina and Virginia border which have spilled coal ash into the Dan River. The “Dan” provides water to several communities in Rockingham County, which ironically is the seat of the Senate Leader in NC, Phil Berger. Rightfully so, Senator Berger has expressed outrage at Duke and their failure to notify people timely and their poor response.  However, the senator is also responsible for helping defang the environmental protections in our state and promoting fracking with an industry loaded committee to study the issue, so he has contributed to our lackluster environmental protection.

Duke is concerned about fixing the problem, but what troubles me is the issue of the coal ash ponds in our state was raised by several environmental groups last year in a lawsuit. They shared many concerns over the dozens of coal ash ponds, but the DENR decided to make it easier by consolidating the lawsuits into one and then settling with Duke for a fine of $99,000 and a commitment to clean things up on Duke’s timetable. That number is correct – a Fortune 500 company was fined the amount of $99,000, which cannot even count as being a slap on the wrist. As of this post, DENR has been sued by the Environmental Protection Agency and copies of emails have been requested to discern any foul play.

I would be remiss if I did not mention that our governor, Pat McCrory was an employee of Duke Energy before winning the governor’s race. However, this cozy relationship has been fairly cozy for some time, predating McCrory’s tenure. But, under the guise of reducing so-called burdensome regulations on industry, the environmental restrictions have been greatly loosened in our state, especially the past three years. Our General Assembly has passed some questionable legislation as well as considering rolling back a requirement to do more alternative energy, before it was beaten back when they realized late how successful the solar energy industry has been here. The Speaker of the House, Thom Tillis, noted his surprise that NC was the 5th most prolific solar energy state in the country at the time.

As a Duke shareholder, I have sent two emails to the previous and current CEOs about cleaning up the coal ash ponds. The first one was last spring to Jim Rogers and the second one was this past week to Lynn Good, the new CEO.  She came out in the paper saying the clean-up of the Dan River spill is on Duke (shareholders) while the clean up of other coal ash ponds will be on the customers. This last statement has not sat well with customers. Good is thinking too much like she was still in her old job of CFO and not like someone whose company screwed up and people were harmed. I understand her rationale, but by failing to act last year, Duke threw away the last shred of goodwill on this subject. The governor is banging on the lid of a trash can now, but he is a little behind on the issue in most people’s minds, as well.

Duke Energy, you are better than this. You have done some nice things in alternative energy and shut down some coal plants. That is good and you should be commended. Now, do the right thing and clean up the ponds before the next accident. Do what you should have done last year when you were apprised of the concerns. You should also be thinking about more creative ways to pay for this and not place the lion’s share of the burden on customers. And, please continue decommissioning the coal-fired plants as you have been doing. We need to divorce ourselves from coal at a faster clip as there is no such thing as clean coal and it does not get cleaner sitting in a coal ash pond.

I would also encourage you to link to a much more thorough post in Amaya’s blog called The Brabble Rabble.  Amaya includes greater detail about the defanging of the DENR and other environmental groups in North Carolina. Here is a link: http://thebrabblerabble.wordpress.com/2014/03/12/politics-north-carolina-style-coal-ash-pollutes-nc-waters-as-regulatory-body-endures-job-and-funding-cuts-duke-energy-promises-to-pass-clean-up-costs-on-to-customers/#comment-2251

Promoting Lynn Good is good for two reasons

You may be asking who is Lynn Good? She is the new CEO of Duke Energy Corporation, the largest utility in the United States. She was promoted from her position as Chief Financial Officer having worked with Duke Energy and the company Duke acquired for over 20 years after being an auditor of utilities. As reported by The Charlotte Observer today, she is only the 7th female to head one of the nation’s 200 utilities. This is good news from two major fronts.

The obvious one is a very credible candidate who happened to be a woman was promoted to CEO. I use this phrasing as her credentials would make her a great candidate irrespective of her gender. In addition to her job at Duke, she has also been one of Duke’s champions to the community, serving as Board Treasurer for the Arts and Science Council in Charlotte, Duke’s headquarter city. Plus, she has a depth of financial knowledge about utilities based on her experience and per The Charlotte Observer loves her job due to its complexity of financial and regulatory challenges. I know we should all love our jobs, but when someone publicly marries reasons like this for her joy at working for Duke, that says a lot, as running a publicly traded utility has many moving parts.

Yet, to see a woman justifiably achieve a promotion like this makes you feel progress is being made toward reducing the gender deficit at the top. Good was a computer science major, so she has always been one of the few women in her class or field. I hope and believe that is changing, but having some lightning rods like her can only help in more girls pursuing STEM degrees.

The other reason her promotion is important is due to her promotion from within. I say this as a shareholder of Duke Energy. One of my favorite business books is called “Built to Last” by Jim Collins. His team looked at the best companies in industry over time and how these companies dwarfed the results of their nearest competitor. They were built to last. One of the several tenets for their success was called “homegrown management.” I won’t quote this statistic exactly, but the book said out of the 500 leaders these 18 companies had in their histories, 495 of them were promoted from within the ranks. I wrote a post last April about this book which defines the key tenets for their success, so if interested, here is the link:

https://musingsofanoldfart.wordpress.com/2012/04/29/built-to-last-lessons-still-endure-for-all/

The key to this success is there are two types of knowledge about your job – one is extrinsic and the other is intrinsic. The former is what you know about the job that is portable and is of value to a new employer. The latter is what you know about getting your job done at your company. You know how to navigate the company – whom to call upon and whom to avoid. This knowledge is less valuable to a new employer, which is why some folks don’t succeed when they change jobs.

My old company made a habit of hiring people from outside. The new CEOs did not have this intrinsic knowledge and often brought in others from outside who they trust, but these newbies did not have the intrinsic knowledge either. So, they may not know a new idea of theirs was tried and failed. They may not know that the person who merchandises themselves best to the new leaders is part of the problem. They may be overlooking the folks who are quiet but very effective. So, they usually do not succeed. My old company eventually would fire these leaders and go get new ones who did not have this intrinsic knowledge either. This is a key reason I am glad I know longer work there.

So, I am very happy for Lynn Good and Duke Energy. Both women and the company have a great standard-bearer. I think both will be well served. And, as a shareholder, I like that. Well done.

Here Comes the Sun Again

About a month ago, I used George Harrison’s song “Here Comes the Sun” to highlight the continued expansion of solar energy in the US. It was noted that California has passed 1 gigawatt of solar energy which is more than produced by many countries.Solar energy continues to become more affordable and is a job creator, as well. Also mentioned was the success of a Durham, NC company called Semprius which is a joint venture between the US Department of Defense, Siemens and Pratt Whitney Rocketdine. Semprius makes the state of the art photovoltaic panel in the world which converts 33.9% of the sun’s energy into electricity, a significant increase from the previous conversion rates of 24%. Instead of 1/4 conversion, it is now 1/3 about a 40% increase in productivity.

Yesterday, I saw two more highlights in my home state of NC.These observations are state specific, but I wanted to highlight what can be done when things are set in motion.Other states are having success as well, with California leading the way. In NC, a huge part of the success is a mandate for utilities to provide 12.5% of their energy from alternative sources by 2021, something that Duke Energy is taking seriously.  Duke just rolled out yet another 12.5 megawatt solar farm in eastern NC which can power 3,000 homes. The two additional highlights are unrelated to Duke Energy, but build on the success of Duke’s efforts in NC and the Charlotte metro area which has become an alternative energy hub in its headquarter city.

The first highlight involves an Italian company solar panel installation and photovoltaics developer setting up an US headquarters in Charlotte called Siser USA LLC. Siser will start small with ten employees, but they have a five-year track record in Europe and have developed 50 megawatts of solar energy in Italy, Germany, Spain and Eastern Europe. They picked Charlotte for its infrastructure and dedication to solar energy. An additional foreign-owned solar panel maker, Jetion Solar out of China helped recruit Siser to the Charlotte area. I should add that within 45 miles of Charlotte are several solar farms created Google and Apple for data centers they will be powering in Hickory, NC.

Further east, the second highlight is from Chapel Hill based Solar Strata, whom I have written about before. It plans to build a 100 megawatt solar farm in Duplin County breaking ground at the end of the year. This site will be able to power 11,500 homes. In 2012, Solar Strata announced a dozen solar farms under construction and this year they plan to announce another 25 more. By my count that is 37 solar farms which is pretty heady stuff. I noted in my last “Here Comes the Sun” post a month ago, solar energy projects need not be big and that is perhaps their elegance. They can be set up pretty much anywhere there is a large field and can supply power to nearby homes and data centers or plants. I passed by the Google site the other day on my way back from Asheville as it is noticeable from the road. One other irony is it is very near the famous Maiden minister who was severely criticized for wanting to put gays behind the electrified fence. I will let you write your own punch line to this.

As before, I mention all of these success stories for solar and wind energy as the stories need to get out. These are building energy sources, they are becoming much more affordable and scalable, they are creating jobs and they are continuing to be dismissed by the fossil fuel industry and the political party it funds. I worry about the GOP led NC state legislature who is talking about rolling back the 12.5% alternative energy requirement, who passed a fracking bill and wants to begin drilling with a stacked deck of fracking friendly oversight, and who dismissed a peer-reviewed rising sea level estimate that was similar to predictions made in Virginia, Louisiana and other coastal states and went with a looking backwards forecast that was 1/5 the estimated increase of the peer-reviewed report. Stephen Colbert rightfully lampooned the NC state legislature for their folly on holding back the tide with legal briefs. This was before Hurricane Sandy crushed New Jersey and New York due to coming ashore over higher sea levels.

Solar energy is a key part of the solution to our global warming crisis. Wind and other alternative energy sources play a key role as well. Plus, solar energy is much cleaner and will not pollute the environment with chemicals like many of the other solutions, fracking for natural gas and coal to name two. So, in my best George Harrison….here comes the sun doo-da-doo-dah, here comes the sun……and I say it’s alright……Let’s celebrate our many solar successes and spread the sunshine.