Celebrating ‘Earth Day’ with good news blowin’ in the wind

By Maria Saporta

Happy Earth Day!

The environment certainly seemed to be front and center on everyone’s mind on April 22 — the 43rd anniversary of Earth Day.

Georgia Power announced that it had reached a deal to import wind energy from Oklahoma to Georgia by 2016. The move was applauded by several environmental organizations across the states — groups that don’t often find themselves on the same side as Georgia Power.

“We applaud Georgia Power for taking a strong step forward on 21st century clean energy solutions,” said Colleen Kiernan, director of the Georgia Chapter of the Sierra Club. “While there is always room for improvement, it is important to acknowledge Georgia Power’s smart decision. We hope they will follow in the footsteps of their sister company, Alabama Power, by doubling this wind power purchase agreement in the near term. Importing wind power is affordable and promotes clean air for Georgians: it’s a win-win.”

Georgia Power will purchase 250 megawatts (MW) of wind power in two separate agreements, which will power approximately 60,000 homes. Alabama Power previously purchased 202 MW of wind power from Oklahoma, and then found the power so affordable that the company purchased an additional 202 MW a few months later. This wind energy will begin powering homes and businesses in 2014. A Georgia-based engineering firm was hired to address transmission issues and ensure the power arrived safely in Alabama.

Ashten Bailey, staff attorney for GreenLaw, said adding wind power not only offers consumers more choices and a more diversified energy portfolio that keeps rates stable over the long term, but it also helps clean up the air.  Since wind power also uses no water, it also helps conserve our limited water supply.

Earth Day also is a time to take stock in other environmental milestones.

At the Rotary Club of Atlanta, Dennis Creech, founder and CEO of Southface, said that Atlanta fighting hard to win the national Better Buildings Challenge competition. Already 70 commercial buildings have signed up to reduce their energy consumption by 20 percent by 2020 — representing more than 50 million square feet of commercial real estate — mostly in downtown and Midtown. Now the program is being expanded to other areas of the city.

“We are planning to win this national challenge,” Creech said. “As Mayor (Kasim) Reed says: ‘We don’t play for 2nd place.’”

On Friday, Earth Share of Georgia held its 11th Earth Day Leadership breakfast at the Georgia Aquarium — celebrating 20 years that it has been running workforce campaigns for the environment.

When Earth Share started (then known as the Environmental Fund of Georgia), it raised $11,000 its first year. Since 1993, the organization has raised a total of $5 million, which has been distributed to 70 environmental groups.

Madeline Reamy, Earth Share’s executive director, said workplace giving has been challenging these past several years, but the umbrella group is still able to raise about $400,000 a year. Now it is focusing its efforts on other ways to raise funds to supplement its workplace campaigns.

By the way, Earth Share will be holding its 17th Annual Earth Day Party on Thursday, April 25 from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. at King Plow Arts Center.

Maria Saporta, Editor, is a longtime Atlanta business, civic and urban affairs journalist with a deep knowledge of our city, our region and state.  Since 2008, she has written a weekly column and news stories for the Atlanta Business Chronicle. Prior to that, she spent 27 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, becoming its business columnist in 1991. Maria received her Master’s degree in urban studies from Georgia State and her Bachelor’s degree in journalism from Boston University. Maria was born in Atlanta to European parents and has two young adult children.

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