Solar Energy Can Save Water But First It Must Be Approved and Built

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The article below was Published June 1, 2018 in Renewable Energy Magazine.

Across the globe, wetlands are disappearing. Aquifers, rivers and lakes are drying up or becoming too polluted to use. As a result of this stress on the world’s water systems, 2.7 billion people find water scarce at least one month out of the year. However, solar energy may now offer a new way to conserve water to keep ecosystems thriving and help humans meet this basic need.

While many are aware of reduction in greenhouse gas emissions as a benefit of renewable energy, the World Resources Institute now finds that the switch to solar energy from fossil fuel electricity generation can also help save water. According to the Virginia Water Resources Research Center, if electricity is supplied from a power plant, it takes 3,000-6,000 gallons of water over the course of a year to power just one incandescent light bulb for twelve hours per day. Whereas fossil fuel power plants use water in the cooling process, solar panels require virtually no water to run or maintain.

This finding is particularly relevant in the Middle East and North Africa, which have abundant solar resources and face scarce water supplies. Saudi Arabia, which is one of the world’s largest exporters of oil, recently announced plans to build the world’s largest solar project by 2030. The 200 GW project would cut electricity costs by $40 billion and create 100,000 jobs. However, Saudi Arabia has announced other renewable energy investment targets, such as plans for 24 GW of solar by 2020, in the past decade that have yet to fully materialize. Whether Saudi Arabia will be successful in implementing the world’s largest solar project remains to be seen.

For solar to become an effective tool to help nations cope with water scarcity, new solar projects must first be approved. Companies must ensure that solar power’s positive attributes, such as water conservation and economic benefits, shine through to receive the stamp of approval needed to build these new solar farms.

Here are four questions to ask from the outset of the permitting process to increase likelihood of success:

 

Is the message clear?

Opponents will waste no time coming out against the aesthetic, home value and wildlife impacts they claim a solar project will bring. Solar companies must define a clear message from the earliest stages of the planning process and execute effective ways to spread the word.

Hold a community open house to introduce the solar proposal and receive feedback. This format allows residents to circulate among stations dedicated to key facets of the proposal. Provide handouts, display visuals, and engage experts to answer questions. A community open house should also promote resources such as a project-specific website and social media accounts that residents can visit after the event for updates. Partnering with stakeholders in support of the solar project can help add legitimacy to messaging, raise awareness of digital resources and loop supporters into the grassroots effort from the start.

Is reach expanding?

In the United States, the average adult spends a total of 5 hours and 42 minutes on digital media activities each day, according to EMarketer. As a result, every new solar proposal is worthy of a dedicated project website as well as its own Facebook, Twitter and/or YouTube channel, at the very least.

So, the project’s digital platforms have been created, but how can solar developers grow their audience? Organic reach occurs when social media users share or engage with good content. Create interesting graphics, find research or articles to back up messaging with statistics and post videos related to the project that residents will not hesitate to share. By boosting this content with a paid ad, it is possible to guarantee increased reach to social media users within a particular community or neighborhood at a low cost. Campaigns can be customized for any budget on social media.

Additionally, display ads on local daily or weekly newspaper websites that are frequented by members of a target audience will also help generate website traffic and expand reach to those who matter most. More sophisticated display ad campaigns can deliver impressions to internet users surfing websites beyond the local daily or weekly paper by drawing upon the Google Network to geotarget ads to residents as they browse any one of the thousands of news, entertainment, shopping or lifestyle websites that show ads. Display ad campaigns can even re-target ads to people who have visited the project website by serving an ad reminding them to complete the call to action once they have left the site.

Is the media strategy defined?

Do not wait until an article reporting on the protests about the solar project is published to respond. Set up editorial board meetings to take place as soon as the application is officially submitted, and invite reporters to the initial open house as a briefing. Creating an open dialogue with reporters will help make sure they reach out for comment any time an article is in progress. Share updates with reporters, and direct them to supporters and stakeholders willing to be quoted as an advocate of the proposal. Without a clear media strategy, projects risk being portrayed as unbalanced with far more opposition than support.

Will supporters go to bat for us?

The only way to convert a silent majority to a supportive majority is to ask residents to get involved. Create a pathway for people to get involved at any level, from active to more passive activity. An action can be as simple as sharing a post to help others learn about project resources, to something as time consuming as attending a public hearing. No matter what level of commitment a call to action takes, supporters will not get involved if they are not asked. The factor that makes the difference in any solar permitting process is identifying real residents willing to speak at hearings, write letters, sign petitions, display lawn signs and show support!

Most importantly, public officials should be updated regularly on supporter engagement. One way to do this is to create a portal on the project website that makes it easy for supporters to sign on to a form letter that is forwarded as an individual email to public officials on the supporter’s behalf. This keeps the issue at the top of officials’ inboxes and supporters on the forefront of project communications.

Tourism vs. Renewables – Making the Case for Both to Coexist

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The article below was Published May 7, 2018 in Renewable Energy Magazine.

Hydropower dams are one of the oldest forms of renewable energy harnessed by mankind. According to an article in Sustain Europe by Fergal McEntee, in 2016 hydro supplied a staggering 71 percent of all renewable electricity generated, accounting for 16.4 percent of the entire world’s renewable and hydrocarbon electricity generation. Moreover in the European Union countries, McEntee states that “hydro accounts for over 14 percent of all prime electricity, and 70 percent of all hydropower is from five main countries - Sweden, France, Italy, Austria and Spain.” Impressively Norway gets 99 percent of electrical energy from hydro.

There are 3,000 proposed dams in the works from Slovenia to Greece, and recently in Albania, there has been controversy surrounding the project planned for the Balkan region, along the Vjosa river, which is widely regarded as Europe’s last wild river. The Vjosa river runs 169 miles from the Pindua mountains of northern Greece to the Adriatic Sea, and up until now, the river has been undammed.

Opposition to the proposed dams has gained momentum with help from sustainable clothing brand Patagonia with “The Save the Blue Heart of Europe” campaign. This campaign highlights the threats to booming tourism in the region and potential destruction of the richly diverse culture, history and ecology of the region known as the Blue Heart of Europe as a result of the proposed dams.

New renewable projects are often presented by opponents as threats to tourism due to changes to the scenic landscape that they may create. However, renewable projects have significant benefits to local communities that can help to alleviate the potential dichotomy opponents seek to create.

Although hydro projects can impact the environment in a variety of ways, how a project is operated can make a big difference in its degree of environmental footprint. Projects can manage flow releases from dams to ensure there is enough water in the river to support native species. Retrofitting dams with fish passage equipment can also greatly improve access to upstream habitat. Flows can also be scheduled to mimic natural flow patterns, which help transport sediment and mimic biological cues that would have been provided by the natural flow cycle.

Projects being planned in the Balkan region must educate the public on dam construction and highlight the ways the dam will have a minimal effect on wildlife and fishing communities. Moreover, the tax revenue created from renewable proposals can support local infrastructure, parks and other public amenities that ultimately bolster tourism.

Efforts like the Patagonia campaign show us what renewable companies proposing new projects are up against, and they make gaining support for new hydro projects even more difficult. Companies planning new projects will need a strong advocacy effort to counter these types of messages. In order to gain support from the public, hydro companies will need a strong campaign that highlights the ecological and economic benefits that hydropower dams will bring to the region. Here are some tactics that should be included in any hydro campaign to build public support and educate residents on hydropower projects:

 

Launch a Website:

Effective use of digital is an important tactic to build grassroots support amongst members of the community and public officials. The most important piece of any digital campaign is to prepare an effective website that regularly updates residents, dispels new myths and disseminates the latest information. To get a project’s message across effectively, website content should be clear and well-organized. This website should also link resources to educate viewers from third-party sources and provide downloadable petitions, fact sheets, advocacy guides, infographics and more. Encourage people to sign up in support of the project to gather a supporter database. Targeted communications that call these supporters in the database to action makes the difference! Give citizens factual information on your development project to campaign most effectively.

Harness Social Media:

Companies planning new hydropower projects must take advantage of social media. Opening dedicated social media accounts for the project creates a defined target audience to reach with regular posts. Paid advertising is cost-effective on social media platforms, and it helps to build your audience and promote both awareness of the project, boost engagement and drive website traffic to help the community learn more.

Rally Stakeholders:

From statewide environmental advocacy groups to local neighborhood associations, stakeholders should be engaged from the start. While gaining the support of the fishing community and immediate neighbors of a planned hydro project is essential, remember that stakeholders can include a variety of people and groups, such as former elected officials, chambers of commerce, downtown business groups, neighborhood groups, civic and nonprofit groups, and even education committee organizations. Start by reaching out to these groups to set up presentations to members or meeting with leaders. There are many ways stakeholders can help amplify messaging through newsletters, email blasts, social media engagement, events and more. Even if an endorsement from the group is unlikely, various members may be eager to write letters or speak in support of the project on their own.

Incorporate Video:

A video is a powerful tool that can be inserted in many platforms. Whether on the homepage of your website, in an ad or in a social media post, utilizing video captures attention. Storytelling is an important way for community members to relate to the project and potential benefits, and video helps do this in an effective manner. Include clips such as expert testimony on benefits or mitigation techniques and successful examples of hydro projects. These videos can spark conversations online and in person and build a dialogue where there may once have been one-way communication of only myths.

 

Ultimately, new renewable projects and tourism do not have to be at a constant dichotomy. While a new hydro project, for example, will disrupt the status quo, with a strategic communications effort, community members can begin to back the project for a timely approval that enables renewable projects and tourism to co-exist.

5 Innovative ways to assure wind farm projects gain approval

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This article was Published April 13, 2018 in PES Essential.

Global wind capacity is set to double by 2027, and the United States is in the midst of the most lucrative time to increase production of wind energy. Renewable companies are fueled by an urgency to capture tax subsidies and currently in many parts of the country; wind is the cheapest source of new electric generating capacity.

Even with the many environmental benefits of wind farms over traditional sources, wind still faces opposition across the U.S., especially in rural areas. South Dakota has been expecting dramatic growth in wind energy production for some time now, but the contentious debates surrounding the approval of new wind farms has created a drift between residents and caused the state to lag.

Although in most cases wind turbines will create a minimal impact on the landscape, some residents feel the turbines are too unsightly, loud, and disruptive to wildlife, ignoring the many benefits, such as tax revenue, the project will bring to the state and local communities.

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Energy Projects Need A Strong Grid to Succeed

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The article below was Published April 2, 2018 in Renewable Energy Magazine.

The destructive Category 4 hurricane Maria struck the island of Puerto Rico on September 20th, devastating the island and knocking out all electricity, leaving 3.4 million residents in the dark. For months, the citizens of Puerto Rico have endured the unimaginable, as homes, schools, hospitals, airports, and police headquarters struggled to gain power and keep it on.The widespread destruction combined with loss of both power and running water caused over 200,000 Puerto Rican residents to flee to the mainland United States.

Power restoration has been a slow and complicated process due to the decades out of date grid and power lines that have been in need of critical maintenance. In Puerto Rico, the electrical infrastructure is aboveground and exposed to the elements. Intense winds and downed tree branches damaged power lines, transmission towers and substations that were already weakened by Hurricane Irma that hit less than two weeks before Maria.

Any energy project, renewable or not, will not succeed without a reliable grid. Any hurricane would cause damage to an energy grid, but Puerto Rico faced even greater challenges because the grid was already vulnerable. As the grid is rebuilt, Puerto Rico will need a massive public outreach campaign to explain grid construction as well as any new energy projects associated with the grid. Here are some tactics and points that should be integrated in a public outreach campaign to build public support and educate residents on grid construction and energy projects:

 

Social Media Campaign:

Open dedicated social media accounts for grid construction and energy projects to reach residents affected and update them with regular posts about the ongoing progress, convenient resources, and myth-dispelling materials.Paid advertising is cost-effective on social media platforms, and it helps to build a target audience and promote both awareness of the project and resources that help the community learn more. Producing a one-minute video to allow the audience to obtain key ideas about a renewable project or ways to get involved can be extremely effective in increasing any presence on social media and building support amongst members of the community and public officials.

Stakeholder Engagement and Education:

Contacting stakeholder groups both locally and regionally to coordinate grassroots efforts can amplify messaging through newsletters, email blasts, and presentations to the organization’s members. Stakeholders can include a variety of people and groups, from elected officials, business groups, and neighborhood groups to civic and nonprofit groups, and even education committee organizations. The community should be largely involved in all project discussions and meetings because they need to be assured their concerns and opinions are going to be accounted for in any project plans.

Community Meetings:

Organize meetings with project officials and residents in an auditorium-like setting. Create a PowerPoint presentation to educate the public on the grid construction, along with fact-sheets and other relevant materials. Allow some time at the end of presentations to hear concerns from residents and answer any questions they might have.

A “Twitter Town Hall” can also be held for the residents who cannot meet face-to-face because they have left Puerto Rico temporarily but may still want to be involved in the discussion. In a Twitter Town Hall questions are labeled with a hashtag, so anyone viewing the feed knows it's specific to the event. The questions are forwarded to the agency or moderator so that it can address each one properly. A Twitter Town Hall has proven to be an effective and quick-acting tool that helps organizations spread information, as well as get in touch with the public for various objectives and programs. It is also important to continue the conversation after community meetings, whether attended digitally or in person.

Door-to-door Canvassing:

This tactic may be difficult given the destruction from hurricane Maria, but door-to-door canvassing will gain respect from residents who have suffered the unimaginable. Be sure to bring plenty of literature about the project, ways to connect and other relevant materials. Be prepared to answer questions and hear concerns from residents. Although it is time consuming, making that face-to-face contact will be worth it in the end.

Engage Supporters:

Find real residents to support the project. Once in contact with supporters, ask them to attend a public hearing and speak in support of the project. Direct supporters to fact sheets and websites so they have the latest information on the project and rules about making public comment. Sometimes providing some type of incentive to supporters for speaking at a public hearing helps.

Direct Mail:

Direct mail is a terrific way to target and disseminate information about grid construction and new energy projects to select groups of residents. This way, information reaches those who have been greatly affected by the disaster and are looking to be informed directly about grid construction and new energy projects on the island.

10 Tactics to Promote your Renewable Energy Project Proposal

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The article below was Published March 1, 2018 in Renewable Energy Magazine.

The world is becoming more digital everyday, and your renewable project campaign must keep up with the latest trends to be successful. Although digital media has taken over, the traditional tactics are still useful. Learn how to build support for your renewables project early and avoid costly delays by implementing these tactics in your campaign:

 

1. Assemble Stakeholders

It is critical to include stakeholder groups both locally and regionally in your project discussion. Local elected officials like to see community outreach. It is important to engage stakeholders to activate their contacts as part of the grassroots efforts as these groups can amplify messaging through newsletters, email blasts and presentations to the organization’s members. Coordinating a call to action with stakeholders can greatly enhance support in a meaningful way.

2. Rally your Supporters

Find real residents to support your project. Use social media accounts to locate supporters in the community and easily get in contact with them. Once you get in contact with supporters, ask them to attend a public hearing and speak in support of the renewable project. Direct supporters to your fact sheets and website so they have the latest information on the project and rules about making public comment. Sometimes providing some type of incentive to supporters for speaking at a public hearing helps.

3. Project Website

Prepare a thorough website that regularly updates residents, dispels new myths and disseminates the latest information. The website should be easy to navigate and contain up to date contact information. This website should also include a link that allows people to submit letters of support directly to public officials and elected leaders, and it should provide downloadable fact sheets along with any other resources that may help advocates build support.

4. Facebook Page

Having a Facebook page dedicated to the renewable project allows for direct feedback from the target audience and provides a platform for two-way communication. This Facebook page can serve as an online focus group where people can express their thoughts on the project. You can also host events, like project open houses, that can be advertised and RSVP’d to through this platform. The page should also link other useful sources and supporting research to help promote the project. Facebook Insights provide helpful information on audience demographics, post-performance and engagement on your page to ensure posts resonate.

5. Sharable Social Media Content

Creating quality and sharable content is a way to reach your target audience, educate the public and get them on board with your project. Any content posted should be bolstered as needed by social media marketing, which is both cost-efficient and effective to introduce the proposal to new audiences. Facebook has recently announced a change in its News Feed algorithm that will have a significant impact on marketers. The new algorithm will now reward authentic engagement, instead of passive likes or shares. That means pages and content that gain higher engagement rates will be prioritized over less engaging content. As a result, when creating that unique and sharable content for a renewable project, companies must keep in mind the audience it is trying to reach, and create content that caters to the audience’s interests accordingly to drive more meaningful interactions.

6. Create a #Hashtag

Create a consistent and unique project hashtag to share on all social sites. The hashtag should be relevant to the brand or project and be relatively short, so it is easily remembered. You will be able to monitor your project hashtag to get live feedback and respond to the people using it. Additionally, public officials and community members alike can search the hashtag for a live feed of chatter on the project.

7. Video and Aerial Drone Footage

Video is one of the most versatile and profitable digital marketing tools out there. According to 2017 video marketing statistics from Wyzowl, 79 percent of consumers would rather watch a video to learn about a product, than read text on a page. Creating a computer animated video on your project might be the extra push needed to get supporters involved or get the project to approval.

In recent years aerial drone footage of development projects has increased rapidly and is less expensive than other forms of aerial photography. Aerial drone footage of a renewable project will allow the public to visualize the project in a unique way. Aerial photography can be used in marketing brochures, social media accounts and websites. Footage can show the construction process through a video or GIF, or even use still images.

8. Run Digital Advertisements

Renewable companies can run paid advertisements across any social media platform. Pair the social media advertisements with the unique hashtag and content that has been created for the project to help spread positive messaging and encourage people to get involved. These ads will increase awareness and drive website traffic to continuously reach new segments of the local population.

9. Host an Open House

Hosting a community open house is a useful tactic because it allows residents one-on-one conversation with the project team. Residents can voice their concerns or ask questions and the company can tweak plans based on the public’s feedback. The open house should have four or five stations with experts on various topics. Each table should have drawings, handouts and any other relevant materials to the project.

10. Direct Mail

Although direct mail in large populated areas has become cost inefficient, in small rural areas it is still a great way to target new audiences and disseminate information about a renewable project to residents of your choice. When purchasing a direct mail file, make sure the information is updated and accurate. Often our firm will purchase a resident and voter file and cross match them. Voters tend to be more active civically than non-voters.

To Increase Wind Power, France Must First Increase Support for Projects

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The article below was Published Feb 5, 2018 in Renewable Energy Magazine.

The French government has released a ten-point plan to accelerate the development of wind power capacity within five years. The government’s target aims to increase the country’s wind power capacity to between 21,800-26,000 MW by 2023.

France has been working towards growth in renewable energy sources such as wind, solar and hydro power in hopes of reducing its dependence on nuclear energy from 75 percent to 50 percent of its electricity needs by 2025.Long-running opposition to wind farms from French activists has frustrated attempts to reach renewable energy targets. One tactic opponents use is filing appeals against wind projects through administrative courts. Those courts take years to hear cases, thus further delaying the completion of projects.

According to an January 2018 article from Reuter, “The filing of appeal after appeal against projects has become a French pastime,” statedGwenaëlleHuet, renewables energy director at Engie, the biggest wind power producer in France.

Wind farm opponents will use these tactics to slow down projects which can lead projects to become financially not viable. Many opponents of projects know that “slowing is as good as stopping” in some cases.

Activists have also successfully blocked completion of wind farms near historic sites such as Mont Saint Michel in Normandy, and energy company Engie was forced to abandon a project near a World War I battlefield last November. It currently takes seven to nine years on average to complete wind projects in France, compared to three to four years in Germany.

Companies seeking to bring new wind and renewable projects to function in France will need to develop a campaign to promote the projects, increase support, and avoid further delays. Here are some tactics and points that should be considered in an integrated communications plan to build public support and educate residents on any wind project:

 

The Use of Digital

Effective use of digital is an important tactic to build grassroots support amongst members of the community and public officials. The most important piece to any digital campaign is to prepare an effective website that regularly updates residents, dispels new myths and disseminates thelatest information.To get your project’s message across effectively, website content should be clear and well-organized.This website should also link resources to educate viewers from third party sources and provide downloadable petitions, fact sheets, advocacy guides, infographics and more. Encourage people to sign up in support of the project to gather a supporter database. Targeted communications that call these supporters in the database to action makes the difference! Give citizens factual information on your development project to campaign most effectively.

Take Advantage of Social Media

Companies that wish to reach local residents with facts would be remiss not to include a social media campaign. Opening dedicated social media accounts for the project creates a defined target audience to reach with regular posts. Paid advertising is cost-effective on social media platforms, and it helps to build your audience and promote both awareness of the project and resources that help the community learn more.Producing video content to share on social media network feeds (either organically or paid) is a dominant tactic to grab your audience’s attention.

Facebook has been putting a significant emphasis on video content. Around 500 million people watch Facebook videos daily. Producing a one-minute video to allow your audience to obtain key ideas about your project or ways to get involved can be extremely effective in increasing your presence on social mediaand building support amongst members of the community and public officials.Twitter is also a great social media network platform to share video content, with 82 percent of users watching video content. Producing a 30-second to one-minute video on Twitter is an effective way to engage your audience and build knowledge, support, and awareness for your project.

Any organic content posted should be boosted as needed by social media marketing. These ads will even help drive website traffic to continuously reach new segments of the population with your convenient resources and myth-dispelling materials.

Get to the Stakeholders

Stakeholders go beyond landowners. While gaining the support of the landowners and immediate neighbors for a new wind farm or renewable project is essential, remember that stakeholders can include a variety of people and groups, such as former elected officials, chambers of commerce, downtown business groups, neighborhood groups, civic and nonprofit groups, and even education committee organizations. Start by reaching out to these groups to set up presentations to members or meeting with leadership. There are many ways stakeholders can help amplify messaging through newsletters, email blasts, social media engagement, events and more.

 

Communication is often the key to gaining approval on any wind farm, and often it is the difference-maker between project approval and defeat.

A New Year’s Resolution – Build a Campaign to Promote your Renewable Project

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The article below was Published January 2, 2018 in Renewable Energy Magazine.

Opposing offshore floating wind farms is the newest target of wind and renewable opponents as we enter a new year. Recently, French based Eolfi was denied approval of an offshore wind farm in Taiwan. The project would have impeded shipping lanes, and despite the reduction in size, failed to win approval.

Solar projects are not immune to this opposition either. Engie Developments was recently denied approval for projects in Ireland. Concerns ranging from disturbing habitats and road disruptions were listed as reasons for the defeat.

Let's move inland with wind. UK firm Innogy recently was rejected with their Kirkby Moor Wind Farm. The need for subsidies from the government, along with public opposition, helped sink this project.

After working on building public support for projects for nearly 25 years, having a base of project proponents is essential to help get a project over the finish line. Think about what 10 e-mails to the relevant government officials in support of a project would do. Now think about 100 e-mails, or 300, or more. How about a coalition of real residents to support your project and speak out at public meetings? So many renewable developers do not even have a website or social media presence for their project. Public outreach is as critical as proper engineering, legal and environmental consultants on your team.

So, as we enter 2018, here are three new year resolutions to consider for your renewable project promoting:

 

Resolution # 1 - Digital

Digital and grassroots campaign tactics to build support amongst members of the community and public officials. To kick off any digital campaign, prepare a thorough website that regularly updates residents, dispels new myths and disseminates new information. Website content should allow the audience to obtain key ideas on project details and benefits without having to do too much reading. Visuals and well-organized content are key to ensuring your message gets across. This website should also include a link that allows people to submit letters of support directly to public officials and elected leaders as well as provide downloadable fact sheets, and any other resources that may help advocates build support.

Resolution # 2 - Social

Social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter have grown into powerful campaigning tools. Facebook and Twitter accounts dedicated to the renewable proposal offer enormous opportunity to reach community members organically through peer-to-peer information sharing. Any content posted should be bolstered as needed by social media marketing, which is both cost efficient and effective to introduce the proposal to new audiences. These ads will increase awareness and drive website traffic to continuously reach new segments of the population.

With an effective digital strategy, supporters can be educated and harnessed to action. Citizen support makes a huge difference at public hearings, and key advocates can write letters, provide media quotes, offer testimonials, display lawn signs and more to show support throughout the approval process. Digital platforms allow supporters to stay updated on the most important times to take action as well as the most effective means to ensure their voices are heard.

Resolution # 3 - Stakeholders

Contacting stakeholder groups both locally and regionally to coordinate grassroots efforts can amplify messaging through newsletters, email blasts, presentations to the organization’s members. Coordinating a call to action with stakeholders can greatly enhance support in a meaningful way.

 

Don't let your renewable project succumb to delays, moratoriums and defeat. Renewable developers have many options, and a great story to tell.

Solar Energy: The Future of Africa

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The article below was Published December 5, 2017 in Renewable Energy Magazine.

With less than 50 percent of Africa’s sub-Saharan countries on the grid, many still don’t have universal access to electricity. According to an article by Benjamin Fox, published on Euractive.com, “the average Kenyan ‘off-grid’ household spends over €200 per year on kerosene,” which is an alternative method of generating electricity that is often dangerous, and costly. An investment of €340 billion is needed for 100 percent of the African population to gain access to electricity by 2030. The costs and need for expanded access are causing new demand for off-grid renewables, such as solar energy, in East Africa.

The boost in solar energy in East Africa is improving many lives. Fox writes that since there is an abundance of sun light, “solar technology is improving and mobile money transfer networks allowing people to pay their bills by mobile phone are far more popular and well-established than bank accounts.” Because of these benefits, off-grid renewables are now being recommended to other parts of Africa, including rural Africa. In a conference in Cape Town, South Africa, ministers and government representatives met to discuss the development of renewable energy in Africa, and urged that rural Africa be introduced to on grid and off-grid solutions (Fox). The European Investment Bank (EIB) is currently trying to close two solar projects in Western Kenya, and one EIB representative, Catherine Collin, stated that it is a priority to offer access to electricity for low-income community members. This is another sign of the current growth of solar energy in Eastern Africa.

These investors understand the practicality of solar energy and the positive effects it has on communities such as the ones in East Africa. However, there still are arguments against new solar energy projects proposed across the world, and negative public opinion about certain projects tends to sway decisions on whether new projects get approved or not. The City of Moulton, Alabama for example, is facing public opposition towards a newly proposed solar farm. In November, the Moulton Planning Commission declined the recommendation for a 6.3- acre solar farm, according to The Moulton Advertiser. The article, written by John David Palmer, stated that “the decision was made to allow for more time to study the situation, and also because some of the neighbors said they were not notified in a timely manner, even though commissioners said the meeting was advertised well in advance.” Neighbors worry that their property values could decrease if the site is rezoned from single-family to manufacturing to accommodate the new solar project. This delay could potentially have been prevented with some more planning and an effort to sway public opinion in favor of this project.

Opposition to solar projects often exists, whether the projects are small or large in scale. Getting the message out there is a key factor in swaying public opinion. Utilizing the right methods of communication will ensure that your message for any renewable energy project will be received according to plan. So, what are the best tools to promote your project, build support and avoid political defeat or stalling of a project?

 

Get Up to Speed

Recently, Twitter changed its policy to allow tweets with a longer character count. This update means renewable companies can now extend their message to the public. Technology and social media are constantly evolving. Therefore, it is important to stay in the loop with any new changes across prominent networks so that the messages can spread as effectively as possible. Reaching out to members of a community through social media channels like Twitter, Facebook and Instagram can make a big difference in a campaign. Questions can be answered and concerns can be addressed in a forum that allows for companies’ positive messaging to spread organically. To further increase reach, paid ads can boost messaging in an extremely cost-effective manner.

Get to the Stakeholders

Contacting stakeholder groups both locally and regionally to coordinate grassroots efforts can amplify messaging through newsletters, email blasts and presentations to the organization’s members. Coordinating a call to action with stakeholders can greatly enhance support in a meaningful way.

Get Involved

A great way to gain approval for a project by any government, local or regional, is to get involved in politics. Speaking with representatives and educating them on goals and past accomplishments will build a trusting relationship between both parties. At the end of the day, the future of your renewable project is in the decision makers’ hands, and getting involved will increase its support and chances for approval.

Get Informed

Being well informed on projects that have not been approved in the past is a good way to make sure a future project is a success. Research is an important part of any campaign because it allows developers to gain insights on the community’s needs and any past concerns, thereby increasing the chances of a project’s approval. Get ahead of the game by getting informed, understanding all the variables and anticipating the results.

 

Don't let your renewable project succumb to delays, moratoriums and zoning defeat. Developers have many options and a great story to tell. As the world continues to move towards renewable energy, there will be many opportunities for new projects. With the proper public affairs approach, these companies can face challenges presented by the opposition confidently to build support when it is needed most.

Ten tactics for renewable projects that will help earn approval

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The article below was Published November 15, 2017 in PES Essential.

Renewable project companies have moved light years in the past decade on their ability to educate residents on the benefits of renewable projects. However, there is more work to be done to ensure that wind and other renewable projects do not get entangled in a web of misinformation, and eventually delayed or even defeated.

All too often, companies find that every single month a project is delayed, the renewable company loses thousands of dollars. Even a delay of a few weeks is costly, so keeping with a strict entitlement calendar is essential.

This month, one such project blocked by the Scottish government was West Coast Energy’s Highland Perthshire wind proposal. The wind farm was in the pipelines for five years and had been scaled back from forty to twenty-five turbines in response to public outcry. The project would have been able to generate enough clean energy to power 40,000 homes and start a community fund that could have generated as much as £9 million during its lifespan. However, despite these benefits, after site visits and extended public input, the Scottish government concluded the landscape effects outweighed the meaningful contribution the project would have admittedly made to achieving Scotland’s renewable energy targets.

Moreover, according to reports from The Courier, “opponents hoped the decision, and its cost in time and money, would ‘convince energy companies to seek more suitable locations in the future before they submit speculative plans.’” This sentiment demonstrates that without a strategic effort to activate wind supporters in a community, public opposition can easily shift both the conversation and the timeline in their favor, costing companies valuable time and resources. Given how effective this tactic has been at delaying or cancelling projects time and time again, it is not likely to go away anytime soon.

The best way to build public support for a project is through proper communication, patience, listening and outreach. I often feel that you cannot over-communicate when it comes to large projects. If companies stick to the facts, dispel the rumors, avoid the hype and employ some of the tactics listed below, then they may find themselves with a successful project.

Here are my ten tactics and points that should be considered in an integrated communications plan to build public support and educate residents on any wind project:

With Britain ending coal, will they now accept wind?

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The article below was Published November 01, 2017 in Renewable Energy Magazine.

Britain has relied on coal as an energy source since the Industrial Revolution. In fact, coal was responsible for transforming Britain into one of the largest industrial nations in the world, exchanging water powered wheels for coal-burning steam engines, to power the very machines that revolutionized industry. This transition may have had a positive effect on the development of the modern world, but backlash would eventually arise from the lingering effects of the CO2 produced as a result.

According to an article written by Fred Pearce, published by 360Yale,“Britain is responsible for 6 percent of all the industrial CO2 in the atmosphere today, which is more per head of population than any large nation, the U.S. included.” However, throughout recent years, Britain has been working on changing that statisticby diminishing coal indefinitely and took a large step towards that goal in 2015 with the closure of the last coal mine. Power plants that produceenergy from burning coal, such as the DraxPower Station located in the UK, are estimated to be shut down by 2025 or earlier, according to 360Yale’s article. An analysis of the usage of coal for electricity in Britain today shows it has already dropped from 80 percent in 1974, to only 2 percent this summer. The only question remaining with this transition is, with the decrease of coal usage in Britain, what alternative energy sources will be accepted as a replacement for coal?

Since coal is now being used only in backup situations, Pearce cites natural gas, nuclear, and growing networks of wind turbines and solar farms as the main sources of Britain’s energy. With carbon taxes and government price guarantees, it is cheaper for Britain’s National Grid to obtain renewable energy, such as wind and solar energy, than it is to obtain coal. Solar energy often peaks in the summer, while wind energy tends to peak in the winter. Offshore wind farms have been generating 8 megawatts per turbine and are less expensive than coal, nuclear, or gas energy. Despiteall the benefits provided by wind and solar energy, there is still a large amount of oppositiontowards the usage of renewable energyfrom the public. For example, in recent headlines published by National Wind Watch, residents in Galilee, Israel are complaining that the addition of a new wind farm will block the landscape. Also published on National Wind Watch, there is a case in Scotland, where protesters are claiming that the turbines would destroy the scenery.

Townships, counties and municipalities are also getting into the "slowing" movement of wind farm growth - with moratoriums. Moratoriums often allow communities to pause the development of wind farms while local zoning ordinances are rewritten or adjusted. The problem for wind farm developers is that these adjustments are almost always detrimental to siting wind projects. So now you need two public relations campaigns - one to educate the public on your actual project, and one to educate the public on the pitfalls of a moratorium. In my two decades of working on development projects, I have never seen a moratorium come "out of the blue." There is always a reason for such actions. So, what are the best tools to promote your project, build support and avoid political defeat or stalling of a project?

 

Get Informed

Being well informed on projects that have not been approved in the past is a good way to make sure a future project is a success. Research is an important part of any campaign because it allows developers to gain insights on the public’s needs. Therefore, increasing the chances of a project’s approval. Get ahead of the game by getting informed and understanding all the variables and anticipating the results.

Get Involved

A great way to get approval for a project by any government, local or regional, is to get involved in politics. Speaking with representatives and educating them on goals and past accomplishments will build a trusting relationship between both parties. At the end of the day, the future of your renewable project is in the decision makers’ hands, and getting involved will increase its support and chances for approval.

Get to the Stakeholders

Contacting stakeholder groups both locally and regionally to coordinate grassroots efforts can amplify messaging through newsletters, email blasts and presentations to the organization’s members. Coordinating a call to action with stakeholders can greatly enhance support in a meaningful way.

 

Don't let your renewable project succumb to delays, moratoriums and zoning defeat. Developers have many options and a great story to tell.As Britain continues the transition away from traditional energy sources, renewable companies will have many opportunities for new projects. With the proper public affairs approach, these companies can face challenges presented by the opposition confidently to build support when it is needed most.

Despite the Need for Renewables, Opposition to Wind Farms Seems Here to Stay

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The article below was Published October 05, 2017 in Renewable Energy Magazine.

One only needs to visit wind-watch.org or other anti-wind farm websites to see that opposition to wind farm projects, whether organic or not, isn't going away anytime soon. Wind watch posts hundreds of articles per month, sometimes as many as twenty a day on wind projects across the globe. Just a quick internet search of projects gives us such news headlines such as "Giant wind farm bid near Hawick slammed as worst yet drawn up" or "Wind farms in Ohio pit environmentalists against some neighbors..." or "Savoy voters reject bylaw allowing taller wind turbines" as just a few quick examples of recent headlines.

What wind farm projects often need is a cohesive public affairs strategy that takes into consideration that invariably, some level of opposition will likely occur to a project, and waiting for that moment to act is already putting your project one step behind. Wind farm projects are not defeated because they are bad projects. They are defeated for a myriad of other reason, often led by fear tactics of the opposition, lack of public outreach by the developer, and project approval being stalled so long, that projects become financially not viable. Every month that goes by when approval of a project is "expected" but then delayed, results in numerous fees and costs that continue for the wind farm developers. Many opponents of projects know that "slowing is as good as stopping" in some cases.

Townships, counties and municipalities are also getting into the "slowing" movement of wind farm growth - with moratoriums. Moratoriums often allow communities to pause the development of wind farms while local zoning ordinances are rewritten or adjusted. The problem for wind farm developers is that these adjustments are almost always detrimental to siting wind projects. So now you need two public relations campaigns - one to educate the public on your actual project, and one to educate the public on the pitfalls of a moratorium. In my two decades of working on development projects, I have never seen a moratorium come "out of the blue". There is always a reason for such actions. So what are the best tools to promote your project, build support and avoid political defeat or stalling of a project?

 

Get Digital

Use digital and grassroots campaign tactics to build support amongst members of the community and public officials. To kick off any digital campaign, prepare a thorough website that regularly updates residents, dispels new myths and disseminates new information. Website content should allow the audience to obtain key ideas on project details and benefits without having to do too much reading. Visuals and well-organized content are key to ensuring your message gets across. This website should also include a link that allows people to submit letters of support directly to public officials and elected leaders as well as provide downloadable fact sheets, and any other resources that may help advocates build support.

Get Social

Social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter have grown into powerful campaigning tools. Facebook and Twitter accounts dedicated to the renewable proposal offer enormous opportunity to reach community members organically through peer-to-peer information sharing. Any content posted should be bolstered as needed by social media marketing, which is both cost efficient and effective to introduce the proposal to new audiences. These ads will increase awareness and drive website traffic to continuously reach new segments of the population.

With an effective digital strategy, supporters can be educated and harnessed to action. Citizen support makes a huge difference at public hearings, and key advocates can write letters, provide media quotes, offer testimonials, display lawn signs and more to show support throughout the approval process. Digital platforms allow supporters to stay updated on the most important times to take action as well as the most effective means to ensure their voices are heard.

Get to the Stakeholders

Contacting stakeholder groups both locally and regionally to coordinate grassroots efforts can amplify messaging through newsletters, email blasts, presentations to the organization’s members. Coordinating a call to action with stakeholders can greatly enhance support in a meaningful way.

 

Don't let your wind farm project succumb to delays, moratoriums and zoning defeat. Wind farm developers have many options, and a great story to tell.

Key Lessons from the “Ready for 100” Campaign to Promote Renewables

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The article below was Published September 8, 2017 in Renewable Energy Magazine.

The commitment to renewable energy targets has been a pillar of progressive climate policies in many countries for years. However, with the help of the Sierra Club’s “Ready for 100” campaign, now many U.S. cities are moving beyond rhetoric on the national level to take real action in the form of a commitment to power 100 percent of the community’s electricity needs with renewable energy by 2050. Already, over thirty-seven cities have signed on to such mandates for action, and five cities have achieved the 100 percent renewable energy use objective, including Aspen, Colorado; Burlington, Vermont; Greensburg Kansas; Kodiak Island, Alaska; and Rock Port, Missouri. As dozens of other city centers work towards the transition to 100 percent renewables, pillars of this successful campaign can be replicated in suburban and rural areas to promote renewable energy.

Climate leadership in cities is productive in the effort to combat climate change because more than half of the world’s population lives in urban areas. However, the Sierra Club’s recent national survey of U.S. adults found that 83 percent of respondents support a goal of 100 percent clean energy. This leaves enormous potential to build support for the development, production and consumption of renewable energy in communities nationwide.

An essential component of the “Ready for 100” campaign is citizen involvement. At a time when many are frustrated with the division that plagues policy conversations taking place on the national level, citizens can look to their local leaders to facilitate change. “Ready for 100” makes citizen advocacy on the local level easy and appealing to supporters through several pillars of the campaign’s successful model.

Interactive Resources

One glance at the campaign’s homepage indicates the characteristics of an effective grassroots website. It is ripe with graphics, videos and testimonials to help educate on the issues. However, more importantly, there are interactive characteristics that engage the viewer from square one. For example, website users can enter their zip code to get climate facts about a particular metro area or state. Facts include public transportation ridership data, number of green buildings and electric vehicles.

Additionally, the website draws in social media posts to create a photo petition. Citizens can contribute their photos to the petition by using the campaign hashtag (#ReadyFor100) on Twitter and Instagram, or by submitting an image directly through Tumblr. Whereas most petitions focus on the numbers, these images connect faces with names, making for great content that reinforces the depth of support.

Effective Calls to Action

For any grassroots campaign to be successful, the call to action must be easy to understand and well-suited for multi-platform communication. When public officials hear in masse from their constituents, it pressures them to take a position. Today public officials are operating just as frequently on social media to connect with constituents, and therefore, advocacy on social media platforms is useful, and most effective when it is well organized.

One highly effective call to action deployed by the “Ready for 100” campaign utilizes form letter that supporters can sign on to by filling out their email address and contact information right on the campaign website itself. The brief letter urges mayors to make the move to 100 percent renewables and outlines the key overarching themes behind this initiative. Hardly any work is required on the part of the advocate to participate. There is no need to copy and paste suggested content (or develop one’s own), and it is not necessary to look up email addresses for intended recipients. All the advocate must do is click submit. They can share the letter URL with others in their community for a constant flow of support letters to their mayor, and also help expand the movement nationally by urging others in their social media network from various regions to get involved.

Assemble Stakeholders

As stakeholders from the academic, environmental and business/technology communities get involved, the discourse is elevated. Citizen advocacy initiates the conversation, and stakeholders help identify ways to implement 100 percent renewables initiative locally. A pledge from public officials is an essential step, but funding and accountability developed in partnership with stakeholders ensures that the campaign’s vision will become a reality. It is important to engage stakeholders to activate their contacts as part of the grassroots effort as well as for their institutional expertise.

In total, the “Ready for 100” campaign has just announced the milestone in which 150 mayors have pledged support for this campaign across thirty-three states. The greenhouse gas reduction that will result is estimated to be the equivalent of taking 12.5 million cars off the road, according to Sierra Club estimates. As this movement continues to grow, both localities and companies that put forth new renewable energy proposals, whether policy or development related, can benefit from grassroots support. Well organized outreach equips citizens with the tools they need to urge change—and that’s great news for the renewable energy industry!

Tactics for Battling Public Opposition to Residential Development Projects

Builder and Developer Magazine

The article below was Published July 2017 in Builder and Developer Magazine.

Builders and developers need to assess their strategy of building public support to counter local opposition to residential and multi-use projects, as the outcome for a smooth entitlement of their projects will otherwise be at risk.

Development projects of all types continue to be met with public opposition from groups protesting companies’ efforts to develop new projects. Whether residential, commercial or industrial, these projects that have the potential to create many new jobs and generate significant tax revenue are being met by opposition groups that cite various concerns. For example, a proposal by Richland Communities in Manteca, Calif. to turn a 184-acre lot into single family residential community was recently defeated by public opposition. The site currently hosts the Hat Mansion, which is viewed by residents in Manteca view as a landmark in the community despite the need for millions of dollars in renovations to bring the property up to code. The developers expected a smooth approval process but failed to account for the opposition they would face from members in the community.

Similarly, in 2016 the Cedar Rapids, Iowa city council declined a proposal for a $9 million, 45-unit low income development due to strong neighborhood opposition. According to an article in The Gazette written by B.A Morelli, the majority of City Council members were in support of the development proposed by CommonBond Communities but because of heavy public opposition who raised concerns over a multitude of issues including traffic and lack of sidewalks, the proposal required a two-thirds supermajority to pass. Defeated or delayed development projects, like those in Manteca and Cedar Rapids can have significant financial consequences and prohibit growth in a local community.

Builders and developers need to assess their strategy of building public support to counter local opposition to residential and multi-use projects, as the outcome for a smooth entitlement of their projects will otherwise be at risk. In the case of the proposed residential development projects in Manteca and Cedar Rapids, delays and eventual abandonment of the projects cost the local economies significant tax revenue and hundreds of new jobs.

Having been in the business of running public affairs campaigns to build public support for controversial projects for over 20 years, I can tell you that the key piece of the puzzle missed by developers in their public outreach strategy is the “campaign” style approach the opponents seem to do so well.

Too often development proposals do not offer up an aggressive public affairs campaign when a project is announced, often letting crucial time pass between the announcement and launch of public outreach. Opponents use this time to build opposition and sway residents against these projects. By running a political style campaign, you can reach all residents, identify the supporters, and harness them into action on behalf of your project. Here are some crucial tactics that companies should consider in their outreach efforts:

Digital Campaign

  • Social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter are two extremely successful and cost effective forms of campaigning. Because of the massive amounts of information consumed regularly on these sites, it is only palpable that they are a crucial tool in promoting a project of any sort. When using these platforms, it is important to know all the different features to use them as effectively as possible. For example, Facebook allows its users to create free pages for various topics and events that can then be shared and liked to grasp the attention of target audiences. With over a billion users, Facebook is guaranteed to help immensely in gaining local support for any proposal. Companies that start a support page dedicated to a particular development project on Facebook can then purchase ads to boost local support for their project. Twitter is another social media platform that encompasses several features that make promoting a certain project exceptionally easy. With the use of creative hashtags to spread the word, twitter is extremely effective in reaching target audiences. It is important to operate on these platforms that opponents will use to clear up myths and set the record straight for undecideds or potential supporters.
  • It is important to create a project-specific website that is directly related to the proposal for individuals to use as a reference point. On this website, there are a few items that are important to include. First, a page that allows people to submit letters of support directly to public officials and elected leaders is crucial. Imagine being an elected official and receiving a constant flow of supporter letters on a project? Second, include fact sheets and any other resources that may help gain support. Third, use the website as a platform to dispel rumors, update residents, and disseminate new information.

Grassroots Campaign

  • Announce the proposal with a press release that launches both your website, social media platforms and possibly a community open house. Be proactive, as messaging on the benefits of such project has a good story to tell. Hold an open house to answer residents’ questions and recruit supporters. All of this should be done in the first few weeks after announcing a project, to not allow the opposition to gel and take over the narrative.
  • Meet with identified supporters. Once you have a database of supporters built from outreach such as direct mail, ads and phone calls, developers should meet with supporters in groups or individually so that they know they are not alone in their support. These supporters are a grassroots force that can begin to write letters to public officials, the newspapers, and attend key public hearings to speak out. Rarely will a supporter write a letter on behalf of a project or attend and speak at a public hearing without prior face to face contact with them.
  • Build grasstops support. In addition to reaching out to residents, it is also important to meet with stakeholders, well-known members of the community, businesses, associations and other civic groups to attempt to bring them on board for support.
    Keep an updated database. As supporters are identified, all contact information and notes on communication with them should be put into a database to refer to throughout the entitlement process. Coding your supporters by local legislative districts can also help if it becomes necessary to target a particular local legislator who may be wavering in support.
  • The primary goal of these grassroots campaigns is to never allow the opponents an opportunity to seize the moment because of inaction by the developer. Simply announcing a project is not enough to assume that everyone will be on board to support it. By running an aggressive campaign and identifying supporters locally, companies will start a step ahead. Knowing what to do with the identified members of a community who support your project is the next step, and it is one that will allow vocal support to outnumber opponents, whether it be petitions, letters or crowds at public hearings.

In 2017 and beyond, expect public opposition to development projects. Meeting this challenge with proven grassroots techniques and digital campaigns will be critical to making this year a success for companies looking to develop.

Wyoming wind: Politics restricting revolutionary renewable energy potential

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The article below was Published July 6, 2017 in Renewable Energy Magazine.

The State of Wyoming produces more coal than any other state in the nation, but if one global wind turbine manufacturer gets its wish, the state may just be forced to turn its attention to wind energy.

According to a New York Times article written by Diane Cardwell, Goldwind, headquartered in China, is making an attempt to attract coal miners in Wyoming into the wind industry. The program called “Goldwind Works” will offer free training for those interested in becoming a wind farm technician. The program aims to target coal miners who are out of work and others from different industries across the state.

What will become the largest onshore wind farm in North America is to be built in Wyoming. The Chokecherry and Sierra Madre Wind Energy Project by Power Company of Wyoming will boast 1,000 wind turbines in Carbon County, Wyoming. Goldwind is preparing to supply around 850 of those wind turbines and is seeking at least 200 workers to build and maintain them. According to Justin Worland from Time Magazine, the project is expected to create at least 1,000 new local jobs.

Despite the enormous amount of renewable energy potential in the state, Wyoming stands alone as the only state in the country with a wind production tax. In this way, legislation in the state tends to favor fossil fuels over renewable energy, and renewable energy produced by the state is very limited. As it stands, it is likely that the energy produced by the wind farm in Wyoming, which will power up to 1 million homes, will be transported to California through a 730-mile long power line. That amount of energy would power nearly every home in Wyoming, Idaho and North Dakota combined.

In 2015, Wyoming received nearly 88 percent of its electricity from burning coal. The state also produces around 40 percent of all the coal in the United States. As with most scenarios, the people and legislators in Wyoming would need something that sweeps them off of their feet in order to be willing to change what has worked for them for so long, and that something may just be wind jobs—wind jobs that are cleaner, healthier, more lucrative, and are rising at a projected growth of 108 percent over ten years according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

If Goldwind is able to gauge enough interest from those in the coal industry and successfully transform hundreds of coal miners into wind farm technicians while simultaneously creating hundreds of new jobs, it could open the door for similar projects in the state. As more jobs are created and as the quality of life continues to improve, legislators in Wyoming and those opposed to renewables may eventually become more open to the benefits of wind energy.

A renewable energy project in Wyoming is likely to face significantly more opposition than it would in other places around the country because of the state’s influence in the coal industry. However, wind farm developers, investors, and others involved in these projects can still gain public support using grassroots and digital campaigns. Social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter have grown into powerful campaigning tools due to the abundance of information being consumed on those sites daily and also due to their cost efficiency. News, updates, and information regarding projects or project proposals can be shared with the public instantly and generate significant traffic and feedback in a very short amount of time.

In addition to utilizing social media platforms, an effective digital campaign will also include a website dedicated to a specific project or proposal. This website should include a link that allows people to submit letters of support directly to public officials and elected leaders as well as fact sheets, and any other resources that may help gain support. The website should also be used as an additional platform to dispel rumors, update residents, and disseminate new information.

Another important and effective aspect of grassroots campaigning is stakeholder relations. Contacting stakeholder groups both locally and statewide to coordinate grassroots efforts can amplify messaging through newsletters, email blasts, presentations to the organization’s members, and state house days to petition the legislature. Coordinating a call to action with stakeholders, such as neighborhood groups, environmental groups or chambers of commerce can greatly enhance support in a meaningful way.

If the Wyoming wind projects currently under development generate the positive economic impact analysts are predicting, the state may have to reassess its wind production tax. In this scenario, it is important for companies and investors to utilize the aforementioned tactics in order to gain significant public support, and in the case of Wyoming, to sway legislators from imposing legislation that aims to penalize or prohibit renewable energy projects.

Wyoming could have a transformative effect on the wind industry in the United States and by creating greater fossil fuel independence while creating thousands of new jobs in an energy sector that is cleaner, healthier and pays more. Providing the people of Wyoming with the necessary information and developing a large support group for renewable projects in the state could lead to legislators opening their doors for more renewable projects as well as keeping the energy generated by those projects in the State of Wyoming.

How the UK Can Continue Leading the Charge on Renewable Energy Innovation

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The article below was Published June 7, 2017 in Renewable Energy Magazine.

The new offshore wind turbines at the Burbo Bank Extension Wind Farm in Liverpool Bay can power a single home for 29 hours with just one rotation. Dubbed the “world’s biggest wind turbines,” the new MHI Vestas turbines are 8 MW each, which is more than double the capacity of the 3.6 MW turbines installed at Burbo Bank less than a decade ago.

Burbo Bank Extension Wind Farm is the first time the MHI Vestas have ever been commercially deployed, and now these 32 turbines will power 230,000 homes in the UK.

The UK has certainly established itself as a global leader in offshore wind technology and is starting to reap some of the benefits that come with that accomplishment. According to an article published last month in Recharge News, titled “Innovation is Key to the UK’s Offshore Wind Success,” the supply chain for UK offshore wind projects in 2016 was worth approximately €3.1 billion. That number is poised to increase as installed capacity increases. The new turbines at Burbo Bank Extension contribute to this supply chain value because they were designed, developed and assembled in the UK.

The cost of offshore wind development has dropped by a third since 2012, which is faster than experts predicted according to the April 2017 article “UK’s Bet on Offshore Wind Pays Off as Costs Plunge” published in The Telegraph. The UK struck gold at the right time with its offshore wind investment, and now the government does not plan to funnel any excess funds into onshore wind or solar in any of the three energy subsidy auctions for emerging renewable technologies that will take place for the first time in two years. The total budget for these auctions expected to take place by 2019 rings in at €730 million.

As incentives shift from one prioritized renewable industry to another, UK renewable companies in any industry can benefit from making strategic outreach to help ensure new projects are approved. If less excess funding will be allocated for on-shore wind and solar, it is even more important for onshore wind and solar companies to be smart about building public support for new projects in order to maintain a balance and see new installations through to fruition. Otherwise, as projects progress through the local entitlement process, any delays cause costs to rise quickly. Activating a sturdy base of public support can prevent these delays and keep costs down over the course of the approval process for new projects.

Millennials represent one target audience that makes sense for renewable companies to communicate with in the local communities in which they seek to build. According to a 2016 report from Accenture, 61 percent of millennials stated that they would sign up for a digital app that would allow them to track their energy usage and help reduce their carbon footprint. Additionally, twice as many Millennials compared to those over age 55 are likely to sign up for solar panels in the next 5 years. Millennials currently make up more than 25 percent of the population in the UK and are assuming leadership positions in public policy, environmental organizations and renewable companies, making them prime audiences for engagement.

With strategic and carefully tracked outreach, Millennials can become key advocates for new proposals in no time. Because Millennials are so well connected, resources such as Facebook and Twitter have become effective tools to build support for renewable projects. Companies should create both a website and social media accounts as digital resources designed to help raise awareness and provide varying levels of detail to the community about the proposal. Facebook and Twitter will drive impressions to the website through both paid and organic reach. Ads on these platforms are cost-effective ways to increase engagement and awareness, and ads can be targeted to social network users of a particular age, political leaning or proclivity towards environmental causes. As the social media following grows, content gets shared and new viewers visit the project website to learn about the proposal in greater detail. Both tools are great resources to drive calls to action in the form of letters (or Tweets!) of support to public officials, hearing testimony, petition signatures in support, GOTV efforts and so on.

Any digital advocacy for a particular project should also coordinate with third-party stakeholder outreach. Presentations to the membership of local environmental group chapters, neighborhood associations and other taxpayer groups make for a great introduction to the project in-person. These efforts can then be followed up with coordinated social media efforts and e-newsletter blasts for various calls to action as needed. Through coordinated digital efforts, these groups can become valuable assets for reaching supportive audiences. Industry-specific groups can also provide well-informed hearing testimony in support of the project to sway the opinions of public officials.

Building grassroots support is key to continuing the momentum for renewables in the UK and across the globe. Millennials are inclined to appreciate the benefits of new renewable projects and are well equipped spread the word about project benefits. Digital tools have become an essential vehicle through which to reach the most interested parties and can lead to relationships with key advocates that will make a world of difference in the permitting process.

Another unique project underway, here’s how companies can gain the same approval

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The article below was Published April 13, 2017 in Renewable Energy Magazine.

GE Renewable Energy has been granted approval to begin construction for a unique project, set to be built in Red Lake Falls, Minnesota later this year. The project has been referred to as a cohesive solar wind hybrid project that will be the first of its kind in the United States. Leaders of GE Renewable strongly believe that it will open doors for more like it to come.

GE Energy has been contracted to supply two 2.3-116 wind turbines from GE Renewable Energy’s Onshore Wind business, along with 1 MW of solar power conversion equipment provided by their current business. Although the approved 4.6 megawatt (MW) project is relatively small, GE Energy has high expectations in terms of its potential profitability. The company predicts that the global market for Hybrid Solar Wind projects could reach up to $1.47 billion by 2024. The US sector size was already valued at $195 million in 2015, and is anticipated to reach over $300 million by 2024.

How will it work? This project will utilize GE’s Wind Integrated Solar Energy technology platform to merge the solar panels through the wind turbine’s converter so that both wind and solar share all the same balance of plant. GE estimates that the move will make for a 3-4% increase in system net capacity and up to 10% increase in annual energy production.

Overall, there is a great deal of confidence and enthusiasm from executives of both GE Energy and the developer, Juhl Energy, for the exclusive project. GE is one of the many companies driving innovation for more efficient energy production, and this proposal is a prime example through the complementary nature of wind and solar. The two companies appear to be a well-suited pair with a strong plan in place to achieve success. To gain the same sort of project approval as GE did with its unique project, it is important for renewable projects of all varieties to take advantage of various outreach tactics to build public support:

Promoting a Project Using Social Media: Due to the extensive amounts of material consumed on social networking sites daily, it is only logical that these platforms would make for proper outlets for companies to advocate for renewable projects in any industry that may be facing opposition. Facebook’s ads platform allows companies to create affordable ads, that can then target specific demographics relevant to the project. Because Facebook ads will automatically appear in users’ newsfeeds, they tend to be quite influential. They can also be optimized for different objectives such as awareness or driving engagement. With the later, companies can choose to pay only for the likes obtained to expend resources wisely. The Twitter ads platform is similar to Facebook in that it allows companies to create ads and target desired demographics to build a trusted following. While it may not be a company’s first inclination to build a social media page specific to a project, it certainly is a cost-effective way to introduce an innovative proposal and identify supportive community members. Video ads and content are easily consumed and shared to help spread the word.

Maintaining a Project Specific Webpage: As it is considerably the most important task when trying to gain project approval, and move forward with construction, creating an informative and well maintained webpage could in fact make or break the deal. A website devoted to the project provides companies with a vehicle to offer facts, clarify any fallacies, or simply answer any questions that spectators may have regarding the proposed project. Ultimately, a project specific webpage sort of characterizes the project, and makes for a great place for all individuals to become acclimated.

What should be included? To achieve the upmost success from creating a project specific webpage, there a few things that must be comprised. Firstly, include a section that allows residents to sign up as supporters for the proposed project, in addition to a place where they can promptly get involved. Also, a form letter that residents can virtually sign onto by filling out their contact information, can make an outstanding impact on the overall outcome. These letters are then automatically emailed to public officials for a consistent flow of support throughout the campaign. This feature has truly made for a much simpler way for individuals to voice their support, ultimately making for a much more successful campaign.

Web Ads: Though gaining support for a potential project can be tough, web ads have shown to be enormously helpful in doing so. They work by allowing companies to geo-locate target audiences and creating ads that will only reach potential voters. Rather than focusing on page likes and engagement, like advertising with social media, web ads focus on click through rates. Generally, they are linked to the company’s project specific webpage.

It is true that with nearly any renewable project proposal comes public opposition- supporting the concept that proper campaigning is tremendously valuable in gaining approval. Making it known to pubic officials that there is an enormous amount of support backing a proposed project is the first step. By doing so, there will be no question as to whether support for renewable projects exists within a community, much like the support that GE Energy received regarding the solar wind hybrid project that will be operative in Red Lake Falls later this year.

Industry on the Move

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The article below was Published March 2017 in PES Essential.

It seems the US is finally being blown away with the idea of wind power. At last traditional forms of energy are being reviewed and clean, sustainable wind energy is being taken seriously. There is to be a 200 turbine windfarm off the coast of Long Island.

“Today is a big day for clean energy in New York and our nation. Governor Cuomo has set a bold vision for a clean energy future, and this project is a significant step toward making that a reality. The South Fork Wind Farm will be the second offshore wind farm in America, and it’s largest. There is a huge clean energy resource blowing off our coastline just over the horizon, and it is time to tap into this unlimited resource to power our communities.” said Deepwater Wind CEO, Jeffrey Grybowski, in an empowering speech following the approval of a revolutionary project.

In light of much discussion over climate change, it has become imperative to reassess conventional forms of energy sources such as fossil fuels and make changes. There is a need to provide energy that is replenished naturally, offers climate change mitigation, and adds economic benefits on various levels. In response to this effort, the Long Island Power Authority Board has just recently granted approval for the construction of what will be one of the United States’ largest renewable projects yet. This is a project that will re-invent the way that renewable energy is utilized; opening doors for more just like it to come.

In accordance with a recent article published by the New York Times titled, “Nation’s Largest Offshore Windfarm Will Be Built off Long Island,” the official project, developed by Deepwater Wind, will be lodged between the eastern tip of Long Island and Martha’s Vineyard, spanning about 256-square-miles. Consisting of approximately 200 turbines, the production of this wind farm will allow for the fueling of 50,000 homes.

How will the landscape look? These turbines are anticipated to be about 600 feet tall, and will be connected to a substation in East Hampton by a 50-mile undersea cable. Though talk of opposition has occurred regarding visibility of the wind farm, Deepwater has reassured individuals that it will be extremely minimal, if noticeable at all, from the coasts of both Long Island and Martha’s Vineyard.

As stated on their company website, Deepwater claims that traditional power plants burn fossil fuels and produce harmful pollutants that are associated with several negative impacts on our environment and public health. However, they assure readers that offshore wind is a clean and plentiful energy source that will help displace fossil fuels, while improving the cleanliness of the air that we breathe.

Deepwater reveals that this project will make for a great number of high paying jobs, benefitting local companies tremendously. This is because the number of individuals needed to build and operate this project includes the expertise of environmental services’ companies, scientists, marine biologists, engineers and tradespeople. Ultimately, when the project generates power locally, it will provide jobs locally.

Another aspect of Deepwater’s proposal is a keen awareness and protectiveness of wildlife. Often, public opposition regarding renewable projects is focused on potential harm to wildlife, which is why it is so refreshing to see a renewable company take such pride in protecting the environment. Deepwater has demonstrated this by partnering up with several environmental advocates, conservationists and scientists, to protect endangered whales and other marine-mammals during pre-construction and construction of the project.

Within the last decade, the company has experienced an exceeding number of technological advances, including hugely lowering the costs of building and servicing. Because offshore wind is strongest in the middle of the day and early evening, when electricity is utilized the most, the clean energy plants will help stabilize electric rates. The new development will ultimately provide hundreds of thousands of individuals with a cost effective and clean source of energy.

Though Deepwater has been granted approval for the construction of this breakthrough project, which will in fact open doors for more like it to come, that doesn’t mean that the opposition to offshore wind will come to a halt. In fact, future wind proposals, whether on-shore or off, will most likely continue to move steadily until acted upon by an external force. Public comment, regulatory hearings, or stakeholder input could exemplify this. However, to ultimately gain the approval that Deepwater was able to secure, there are many convincing tactics a company can use to conduct public outreach and ask members of the community to voice their support for other renewable projects.

Maintain a Consistent Image

Projects can be negatively affected due to conflicting information on a development, or just an overall lack of consistency in messaging. The voice should be unchanging throughout communications, across all platforms, to create the feeling that all audiences are listening to the same company representative. By nailing down a uniform voice, companies can more easily approach negative feedback, as an opportunity to educate individuals, on the merits of the wind project, without elevating opponents’ positions.

Develop a Project-Specific Presence Online

The Internet has become an asset in promoting projects, ideas and virtually anything facing opposition. It is critical that when trying to gain approval for a project, a website (or at the very least a landing webpage) devoted to the proposal, is created. This will allow companies to present the facts and offer resources to educate community members and to learn more about the proposed project.

On this website or webpage, companies should include a place where local residents can sign up as advocates for the wind proposal, as well as a place where supporters can take action instantly. With a form letter that viewers can sign onto by filling out their name, email address and zip code, your website can become an epicenter of support. These letters can then be emailed straight from the user’s own email address directly to public officials automatically, allowing supporters to voice their support with a single click whether in a line at the grocery store or on the go.

Social Media/Digital

Using web ads is a cost-effective way to gain attention on a company’s project website. Web ads on local news websites allow for companies to geo-locate target audiences and produce ads that will reach only potential voters while people scroll through daily news. Web ads can link to the website, with measurable click through rates, while ads on social media platforms can have objectives that increase page likes, engagement and more.

Additionally, ads on social media outlets can target, by interest in environmentally friendly causes or groups, within a geographic region, for wider awareness and online engagement of support. Key performance indicators of social media ads include cost per video view, cost per page like and more to ensure the best use of an advertising budget. When calls to action are placed on the website or social media platform to which members of the audience are driven, a flood of conversions will occur from those who take the next step to complete the requested action.

Leverage Stakeholder Support

Stakeholder involvement from groups or organizations with missions or platforms that align with the project is key in gaining project approval. In many cases, finding these sponsors can involve making a presentation to the membership or just a simple one-on-one meeting with the leadership to discuss the benefits of the proposal. Renewable proposals come with incredible opportunities to gain third-party support, to help validate benefits in the media, on the internet and at public hearings.

The Long Island Wind Farm project approval brings hope for a more amenable response from citizens and public officials to help new wind proposals gain momentum. By utilizing some of the tools listed above throughout the United States and beyond, more efficient approvals could indeed be possible, saving companies’ time and money. As a field or sea of wind turbines gains a more positive image in the eyes of the public, it will become a widely recognized symbol of clean, affordable and sustainable energy with which to provide electricity for buildings and transportation.

Even unique wind projects require plans to combat opposition

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The article below was Published March 6, 2017 in Renewable Energy Magazine.

It is evident that when any sort of renewable project is presented, public opposition often follows. Despite the job opportunities, tax revenue and renewable energy the proposed project may bring, protestors dedicate considerable time and effort to halt renewable projects. Ultimately, these protests make it very difficult for companies to gain approval and move forward with construction.

Recently, a unique project in Scotland involving a partnership between a Lanarkshire based IT group and technology specialist, NVT Group, and a green technology innovator, Own Energy Solutions, has received much attention in the media. In a recent article published on NVT Group’s website titled, “Jobs Boost as NVT Group Announces Strategic Technology Deal with Own Energy,” it is established that Own Energy has developed a small wind turbine and inverter system that will generate wind energy using lampposts as hosts.

How will these turbines work? It’s quite simple. With the help of a bespoke inverter, the raw energy produced by the turbines will be conditioned, and then fed directly into National Grid. It is palpable that these turbines will be a cost effective, clean source of energy for the Scotland making way for more projects just like it throughout the U.K. and eventually around the globe.

Accompanying the proposed project, are many enticing community benefits. For example, each suitable lamppost conversion will save a half ton of carbon from being released into the atmosphere. Since there are 10 million lampposts in the U.K. and 20 percent of them are suitable for conversion to wind turbines, it is indisputable that this project has the potential to grow tremendously, and truly make for a cleaner environment.

Additionally, it has been confirmed that the project will make for 25 jobs in the next twelve months, increasing to around 300 within the next three years. It is safe to say that between the amount of money this project could potentially save, and the job opportunities that it will bring, it will make for a more prosperous Scotland, and eventually U.K. as a whole.

Amongst the plethora of benefits associated with this innovative project, it is probable that it will in fact be a success. However, that does not necessarily validate that the disapproval from select groups will not cause delays for the project. As stated above, regardless of however many advantages a project may bring, opposition that ranges anywhere from a few vocal individuals to large organized activist groups is inevitable along the way to implementation. Nevertheless, there are many strategies that can be used to promote a project and move forward with construction.

Creating a Project Specific Website: When promoting any sort of renewable project, it is extremely important that a website (or at least some sort of landing webpage) is put in place. Since the Internet is primarily where individuals turn to, to seek information at their fingertips, it would only make sense that this would be a helpful way to enlighten audiences on a potential project or idea. A web presence permits companies to provide facts, downloadable resources and information that may clarify any misconceptions that spectators may have.

With the creation of a website or webpage there are a few things that should be encompassed to ensure that it is being use as effectively as possible. For instance, companies should include a section that lets residents sign up as advocates for the proposed project, as well as a place where supporters can immediately get involved. A form letter that viewers can sign onto by filling out their contact information, can also make a notable impact on the conquest for project approval. These letters are then automatically emailed to public officials for a steady flow of support throughout the campaign. This feature is a fantastic way to provide supporters with an opportunity to simply voice their support, even while on the go from mobile devices.

Take Advantage of Social Media: As a result of the vast amounts of material being devoured on social network sites daily, it is only palpable that these platforms would make for a suitable outlet for renewable energy companies to endorse a project that is up in the air. In fact, Facebook being the largest platform, has a feature that allows companies to create affordable ads, that can then target specific demographics relevant to their project. Because Facebook ads will automatically appear in users’ newsfeeds, they tend to be extremely influential. Similar to Facebook, Twitter, is another social media platform that allows companies to create ads, and target desired demographics to build a trusted following.

Web Ads: Gaining support for a potential project is challenging, however with the help of web ads it can be made easier. Essentially, by allowing companies to geo-locate target audiences and producing ads that will only reach potential voters, web ads have a high success rate. Typically, they link to the company’s project specific website/webpage. Rather than focusing on page likes and engagement, like advertising with social media, web ads concentrate on click through rates.

The goal of any outreach campaign is to reach public officials on the platforms in which they engage. This means creating calls to action for supporters to tweet their support to public officials, or comment in support on Facebook. Regular advocacy in a coordinated way will provide a strong foundation for when hearings arise, generating earned media along the way. With letter writing drives and testimony at hearings, there will be no question in public officials’ minds as to whether or not support exists in a community for innovative renewable projects such as the generation of wind energy from lampposts.

Using a digital campaign to battle opposition to hydroelectric energy

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The article below was Published February 2, 2017 in Renewable Energy Magazine.

When any type of renewable project is presented, it is often associated with public opposition, making it more difficult to gain approvals on time, or at all. In many cases, a plan will be well underway, before being shut down due to protests, and other various factors. Despite what the disapprovals may be, it is not too difficult at times to bring a project to a standstill.

As reported by the recent article, “Sikkim: Locals fight to save their community and the environment from hydropower projects” published by The Morung Express, the locals of Sikkim, India are making it incredibly difficult for the government to continue to produce the anticipated 520 MW Teesta Stage. This is the fifth hydroelectricity project that has been proposed, and protested in Sikkim.

The article goes on to state that since India’s National Hydro Power Corporation was granted permission to build on the dam of the Chandey Village in Dizongu in 2012, it has been an ongoing struggle to in fact do so.” Lepchas” make up a so-called “vulnerable tribal group” in Sikkim, and play a large role in the effort against the hydroelectric energy projects.

Lepchas have made claims that the people of North Sikkim have already suffered a great deal of environmental damage, and that these potential plants threaten damage to the Khangchendzonga National Park, which is protected by UNESCO.

In addition, the Lepchas raise concern that because the construction of the power projects will make for a great deal of job opportunity, an influx of new workers in the Sikkim area, will become a demographic threat. “We Lepchas are like tigers; an endangered species in India”, said Gyatso Lepcha, General Security of Affected Citizens of Teesta.

After shutting down the previous four projects, it is evident that the locals of Sikkim use various tactics when putting a halt to their governments plans. Here are some suggested tactics that hydro project developers or entities should consider to help gain support and ultimately, this approval:

Digital Campaign

  • Social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter are two extremely successful, and cost effective forms of campaigning. Because of the massive amounts of information consumed regularly on these sites, it is only palpable that they are a crucial tool in promoting a project of any sort. When using these sites, it is important to know all the different features, so you can use it as effectively as possible. For example, Facebook has a feature that allows its users to create free pages for various topics and events, that can then be shared and liked to grasp the attention of target audiences. With over a billion users, you can guarantee that Facebook will help immensely in gaining support for any proposal. A renewable project company, whether it be hydro, wind, solar or another type of project, can start a support page for that particular project on Facebook, and purchase ads to boost local support for their project. Twitter is another social media platform that encompasses several features, that make promoting for a certain project exceptionally easy. With the use of hashtags to spread the word, and the ability to retweet messages, Twitter extremely effective in reaching target audiences.
  • It is important to create a project specific website that is directly related to the proposal that individuals can use as a reference point. On this website, there are a few items that are important to include. First, a link that allows people to submit letters of support directly to public officials and elected leaders is crucial. Imagine being an elected official and receiving a constant flow of supporter letters on a project? Second, include fact sheets, and any other resources that may help gain support. Third, use the website as a platform to dispel rumors, update residents, and disseminate new information.

It is apparent that with any type of renewable project, comes a great deal of public opposition, making any proposal difficult to complete. However, with the proper use of digital campaigning to reach targeted audiences through social media and a project website, nearly any approval is possible.

Making the Case in Morocco for Renewable Project Approval

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The article below was Published January 11, 2017 in Renewable Energy Magazine.

With each passing year, it seems many countries set higher benchmarks for renewable energy generation as the pace quickens towards reaching the goals previously set. As pressure mounts from a political standpoint to prioritize clean power sources, citizens are presented with greater opportunities to learn about the benefits of industry growth.

However, these conversations on the macro level do not necessarily make building public support within local communities where new projects are proposed any easier. To secure timely approval from entitling agencies, companies should reiterate these benefits as they relate to the local community through clear messaging points and “new” fashion forms community outreach.

Morocco is one such country making progress in the transition to clean energy and setting a policy agenda that aims to combat climate change. Recent investments in renewables aim to lower the price of energy, increase efficiency and create jobs. A recent report by the Mediterranean Forum of Institute of Economic Sciences (“Femise”) estimates the potential for 270,000-500,000 renewable industry jobs to be created in Morocco by 2040.

Aside from the economic benefits such as jobs and significant revenue, the report also notes the importance of renewables considering the increasing prevalence of water scarcity across the Mediterranean and other regions. In the United States, according to the American Wind Energy Association (“AWEA”), the power sector uses more water than any other, including agriculture.

However, water withdrawals per MWh ranges from nearly zero with solar photovoltaic or wind to hundreds of gallons for nuclear or coal with once-through cooling. Therefore, when drought hits, with certain renewable sources, more water could be available on reserve for other uses depending on the type of generation chosen. These are important factors to inform communities of to help individuals realize not only what communities could gain by supporting renewable energy, but also what is at stake.

While good “old” fashion community outreach is the best way to introduce a renewable proposal, it should take a “new” fashion approach. In order to generate positive letters of support, letters to the editor and hearing testimony, an effort should be made to educate the community on the facts so that supporters can be identified and asked to take action. It is tangible evidence of community support that helps persuade public officials.

Whether a proposal is introduced through a press conference or a press release, attention to detail will lend itself well towards establishing credibility. Hold a press conference at an innovative facility or educational institution and invite stakeholders and industry experts. Alternatively, if more subtle optics are preferred, include industry stakeholders’ remarks in a press release to validate environmental or economic benefits.

When the proposal is introduced, a website dedicated to the proposal should be announced as a place for community members to get updates, learn about project details, view site plans and sign up in support. Added tools such as a form letter of support that viewers can sign and send via email directly on the site with one click are useful ways to encourage action. Many times, supporters are willing to help, some at higher levels than others, but they just have to be asked!

Spreading the word from here is a must. At a first glance, companies may be reluctant to creating a Facebook page for a wind farm proposal for fear of opening a project or company to scrutiny on the web. However, operating on the platforms opponents and public officials engage on is important. At no cost to create, a dedicated social media page becomes a tool to push content in easy to consume volumes out to the masses. Infographics, fact sheets and photos are shareable resources that will quickly get passed through supporters’ own networks to increase awareness and expand the grassroots supporter base.

Ads placed on Facebook or Twitter appear directly within a viewers’ feed. With how quickly information is consumed today, often times, viewers do not even realize a post or tweet is sponsored content. Instead they consume it with other information shared among their peers. These ads can be created to fit any budget and micro-target particular areas of the community or demographics most likely to support the proposal. Additionally, social media advertising reaches viewers across platforms from smartphones and tablets to desktops.

Any supporters identified through comments on social media platforms should be coded into a database and appended with contact information. Whether a resident file is purchased containing every household in the community, or a file is compiled based on information provided through social media, the website and in-person meetings, all supporters, opponents and undecided should be coded. This way, messaging can be tailored to bring out the supporters, and perhaps clarify common myths amongst undecided in various mail or telephone identification campaigns.

Ultimately, as the database is compiled and supporters are identified, the most important part of community outreach is developing a relationship with each group. Hold supporter meetings in small groups to start letter drives, distribute lawn signs and prepare for hearings, for example. Providing reliable supporters with the tools they need to become key advocates who engage others in the cause is the goal.

Invite undecided and opponents to community open houses to speak one-on-one with project experts. Instead of a presentation style event, create stations on various subject matter about the proposal. Some undecided may be converted to supporters, and opponents may either be neutralized with truthful information or appreciate the company’s effort to listen to their concerns.

Bringing Communities on Board with New Projects in 2017 and Beyond

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The article below was Published December 3, 2016 in Renewable Energy Magazine.

An unexpected victory by President Elect Donald Trump has left many in the renewable energy industry asking how new leadership will impact the industry in the United States. On a national scale, advocacy for a sustainable path forward could easily see a shift in messaging, from emphasis on overall reduction of carbon emissions to jobs and economic growth as a basis for expansion of the industry.

Shifting the dialogue to the economic output results in this manner can be an asset to renewable companies as it has the potential to help prime audiences to be more receptive to acknowledging the jobs and revenue these proposals will bring to their own local communities. Renewable companies should capitalize on this message as new projects are proposed.

Outgoing Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy called the transition to a low-carbon economy “inevitable” due to the threat of global climate change. However, while the benchmarks are there to set the broad scale objective, public opposition often arises and prevents individual projects from ever coming to fruition.

Groups form quickly to resist taking on the responsibility of perceived aesthetic, noise, and health threats as a result of fulfilling clean energy goals in their own community. The sentiment manifests itself as, “If it’s inevitable, let it happen elsewhere.” Meanwhile, the silent but often supportive majority remains passive.

Companies supply economic benefits regularly as part of an application. However, perhaps against the shifting political backdrop, now is the time to draw upon the country’s overwhelming desire to create and maintain jobs across rural America. Framing the message as what is at stake in real communities creates a greater likelihood of resonance when presented through the appropriate channels.

In today’s 24-hour news cycle, companies must interact on the platforms their supporters engage on to identify support, set the message, and equip advocates with the tools they need to spread grassroots support for any renewable project.

Open House

An open house is an effective way to introduce a renewable proposal to the community. Allow community members to interact one-on-one with project experts and provide handouts and information about resources which attendees can visit to learn more. Invite the media as well as stakeholders to establish the facts and build trust with public officials and the community outside of the local approval process.

Project Website

Any creditable project should have a website or landing page committed specifically to the project. Include a feature that allows viewers to instantly send letters of support to public officials directly from the page. This feature should work from any device to enable supporters to send letters anywhere while on the go. Additionally, a dedicated website allows viewers to obtain grassroots resources including fact sheets, infographics, suggested language and more to acquire new support through sign up forms on the website.

Digital Advertising

Web ads are a cost effective way to drive website traffic or publicize events. They can be placed on the local news websites that the target audience likely frequents and geotargeted to reach residents of the locality in which the project is proposed. More intricate targeting exists for ads served to mobile devices for many news sites as well.

Social Media

Due to the volume of information consumed on social network sites, often social network users view or engage with sponsored content before they even realize it is a paid advertisement. For example, since Facebook ads appear directly in audiences’ newsfeeds, renewable energy companies can use these to serve content and calls to action to almost any demographic through paid ads. To be most effective, each project should have its own dedicated Facebook page, which costs nothing to create. Then by placing ads that promote the page on any budget, the page will be put in front of the target audience to raise awareness of the issue and solicit engagement. Once the page has a decent following, it will begin to grow organically as viewers share content to spread the word. While Facebook has the capacity to reach over a billion people, it is most useful to renewable companies that seek to reach a narrow population in a town or county.

Database Development

When supporters are identified through events, the website and Facebook page, they should be added to a database and coded for their level of support. From here, phone numbers, addresses and political district information can be appended to build a core database of support that allows for targeted outreach. Additionally, opponents and undecided members of the community should be coded to organize outreach accordingly. Gaining support at the margins, primarily within the undecided category, can be the difference between project approval and defeat.

Direct Mail

In order to educate community members on the benefits of the proposal, introduce a new project to a community by mailing all households in the target area in which you are seeking approvals. Direct mail will help spread the word about the new digital platforms to drive traffic and spread awareness about the key messaging points.

Regardless of how the conversation about renewable energy expansion manifests itself across the globe, it remains clear that a concentrated effort to build relationships with supporters of any renewable project is essential.

All land use is local, and as a result, public support must be demonstrable and visible to public officials and entitling agencies. Therefore, companies must find ways to connect the benefits of renewable projects to the lives of community members to inspire the letters and emails to public officials, letters to the editor and speaking at hearings that matter to officials.

Proactively educating audiences and asking them to get involved will always help make the supportive voice strong to prevent costly delays or outright defeat.

Revealing the Sunny Side of Solar and Other Renewables to Achieve Success

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The article below was Published November 8, 2016 in Renewable Energy Magazine.

Any renewable company or project manager that has navigated the entitlement process understands that it is a fragile process dotted with uncertainties of local politics and public perception.

Whether the process for approval requires a vote from community members themselves, a rezone of the land or a regulatory approval, the road to construction for new projects in any renewable sector can often become an uphill battle, regardless of the projects’ many economic and environmental benefits to the local community.

It is interesting to note that even as pressure increases for corporations in other industries to take a position on social issues, including the environment in particular, this pressure does not always trickle back down to move residents to come out and support sustainable proposals at local community meetings as they are proposed.

For example, although approval of a solar farm in Gaston County, North Carolina was recommended 4-1 by the County Planning Board, about a dozen residents spoke out against the proposal as it went before the County Board of Commissioners. Ultimately, the vote was delayed another month, and the public comment period has since closed.

Gaston County now waits to learn the fate of the solar proposal through an upcoming Commissioners vote on November 10th to determine whether the 161-acre parcel will be rezoned before the solar company can even apply for a conditional use permit. For many proposals, delays are equally as harmful as outright defeat, as companies waste valuable time and resources during the entitlement process.

Yet, there are many ways companies can make important community outreach to not only break through the noise of the 24/7 news cycle and residents’ busy lives, but even come out on top in the eyes of public perception and public officials.

Many concerns surrounding aesthetics, noise, safety and wildlife are not unique to a specific renewable sector. Unfounded myths tend to rear up right from the moment an application is submitted so to prevent companies from operating in crisis mode in the eleventh hour before a vote, a plan should be in place to address potential concerns as soon as they arise. From traditional tactics to the new media tactics, a small effort can go along way in making the supportive voice the strongest voice.

Opportunities to connect with community members are numerous as typically the community wants to hear what companies have to say about a proposal but do not know where to look. To keep them from guessing, start with editorial board meetings to inform the media about the renewable project. Having these meetings up front will allow companies to introduce the community to the various resources to learn more as well as the facts about the project right from the beginning.

Finding opportunities to gain earned media is an important part of establishing credibility with the community. Find events to participate in through sponsorship opportunities that allow for a booth to interact with the community. Site visits and demos with any models or simulations are great ways to get the media the inside look at a proposal.

Stakeholders can then then have the opportunity to comment on articles and validate points about the benefits. Therefore, stakeholder relations are a critical piece of the puzzle as well and can range from local to regional or in some cases even national groups.

Launching digital platforms from the start is another way to go from making outreach to building grassroots support. While operating a social media page is certainly a time commitment, it is an essential way to spread the word about the proposal and set the record straight.

Social media complements a grassroots friendly website, with supporter signup forms and downloadable resources, built for the proposal as well. Devote a Facebook and Twitter page to the proposal and operate them as a forum for supporters. Opponents will likely operate in the social sphere and therefore, so should proponents—proponents just need to be provided a place to connect.

With social media, paid advertising can suit any budget and help to build a following of supporters. Starting off with advertising to get your page in front of people most likely to hit the “Like” button will go a long way. A/B testing ads with different messaging will help define the most likely pool of social advocates. Then, with the help of engaging content, supporters can share posts to spread the word among their followers to increase website impressions and answers to a page’s calls to action.

The effort to make outreach does not end with digital. One critical step companies can take is to host an open house. This allows for people to learn more firsthand about the project and meet with experts face to face. Speaking with the experts behind the operation can make community members feel more comfortable and ready to listen, if they are not yet ready to offer outright support. Stations set up can focus on the hot button issues, allowing residents to visit the ones that concern them the most for the factual information and handouts.

The objective of running a grassroots campaign of any size is to form relationships between a company and supporters as well as between supporters themselves so they can share their stories of support. Everyone’s reason for supporting renewable energy may be slightly different.

Sharing these stories builds a web of support that gets transferred among peers and can be elicited when it comes time for hearings in the local approval process. Letters and testimony of support from constituents are important tools to move public officials towards support. Creating a grassroots-styled campaign within a community will help ensure backing for a development and prevent crisis when it matters most!

Innovative Solutions to Offset Development Dilemmas

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The article below was Published October 12, 2016 in Renewable Energy Magazine.

Society is currently undergoing a shift in many ways from traditional sources of energy to renewable sources of energy to become more sustainable. Although many positive factors come into play regarding the innovative approaches companies propose for their renewable energy developments, projects can still face substantial opposition and must build public support to counter it.

As engineering and construction approaches shift to more intricate and exciting approaches, it is important to remember the need for community outreach to educate residents on the proposal as it is under review.

Genex, an energy company based in Australia, plans to convert an old Australian gold mine into a pumped hydroelectric energy storage system. There are a myriad of benefits that will result from this innovative proposal.

First and foremost, this development is sustainable and will generate enough energy to power 27,500 homes by using sources of renewable energy. It will operate efficiently, but will not sacrifice the well-being of the environment to do so. Whereas the previous mining conducted on the site posed potential environmental hazards, this project brings new opportunities for clean energy production.

Second, Genex will provide employment opportunities to many in the Queensland area. For the pump to operate at maximum efficiency there must be workers to oversee the production and storage systems.

Workers will also be needed during the construction process of converting the gold mine to a hydroelectric pump. This is especially beneficial for the community because it will provide an opportunity for those who may have lost their jobs after the gold mine was closed to find new, more eco-friendly employment with Genex.

Third, new revenue will be generated in the Queensland area from restoring the dormant site to an active use. This revenue can support vital community services, such as public education and infrastructure repairs. The revenue generated will directly benefit Queensland residents and promote economic growth for years to come.

As countries look to replicate innovative transformations, like the one undertaken by Genex, the need to build public support for renewable proposals among community members should still be a priority.

While the transformation implemented by Genex seems like a no-brainer from the outset, members of the community could still have raised aesthetic, environmental, or economic concerns, as with any renewable proposal, especially if little information is available.

Renewable proposals constantly face new regulations or entitlement processes that can cause delays or make it more difficult to receive approval. For instance, the Polish parliament approved a new bill this past June for mandatory setbacks of new wind farm developments from residential housing. This new law, in part, is the result of collective calls for wind farms farther away from homes and communities—out of sight, out of mind. Without proper education, community members may default to positions that resist change. Yet if no one accepts developments in their neighborhood, communities cannot prosper by reaching healthy levels of sustainability.

Although the location of a renewable project may vary, the steps to make it successful are the same. Companies must make outreach through public affairs to receive permits and approvals in order to move forward. Delays are costly, and can halt a project indefinitely. Here are some helpful tips to get your renewable project approved:

Conduct Outreach.

The best way to stay informed is by researching the community’s potential concerns as they relate to the location you plan to develop. Being informed will save you time and will tremendously benefit your campaigning efforts from campaign planning. Hold open houses, reserve booth space at community events and find other creative ways to visit people in their community to introduce and discuss the proposal.

Create an Effective Website.

Developing a project website (or dedicate web page off an existing site) may be obvious, but it is important to remember to give it a grassroots flare. Link resources to educate viewers from third party sources and provide downloadable petitions, fact sheets, advocacy guides and more. Encourage people to sign up in support to gather a supporter database. Give citizens information on your development project to campaign most effectively.

Build with Social Media.

Creating a dedicated social media page on Twitter, Facebook and/or LinkedIn will allow rapid communication on the proposal’s benefits. Relationships can be built as supporters interact with content and share resources. Be sure to invite all people who Like page content to like the page, and start Facebook ads with different objectives (page likes, video views, awareness) targeting the demographics most likely to show support for cost-effective advertising. Once a solid following has been generated, use the similar audiences tool to direct ads to new people who share certain characteristics as the people who liked the page.

Leave a Paper Trail.

Although the use of technology and social media is prevalent nowadays, there are still people who prefer obtaining their information through newspapers and direct mail.Meet with reporters to provide the facts in editorial board meetings, and issue a press release to announce the project and digital resources.

Go with Grassroots.

Using grassroots tactics like a political campaign to raise awareness is an excellent approach to spread the word and build community support for renewable projects. Tangible support from citizens should be encouraged in the form of writing letters to the editor and submitting comment at hearings. This depicts true dedication and support for your project, and will leaving a lasting impression with public officials who issue permits.

The Primary Source for Renewable Project Delays and The Strategies to Prevent Them

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The article below was Published September 12, 2016 in Renewable Energy Magazine.

Newton’s First Law of Physics states that an object will remain at rest or in uniform motion in a straight line unless acted upon by an external force. In a sense, this foundation can be applied to the inertia of the permitting world for new renewable energy projects.

As a new proposal begins progressing through the entitlement process, it often moves steadily until acted upon by an external force, which could be personified by public comment, regulatory hearings or stakeholder input.

When this external force portrays a proposal in a negative light as a result of environmental, aesthetic or noise concerns for example, the progression of the proposal slows down. A March 2016 study by London Economics International and 3E, a Brussels renewable energy consultancy, conducted an analysis across 6 countries and 4 renewable technologies (onshore wind, solar, hydro and offshore wind) to examine the costs of regulatory delays on renewable energy projects.

While the results of the analysis found the impact of delays can be highly project-specific, observations also include that “regulatory costs and delays with respect to permitting, primarily driven by the environmental impact assessment, result in a greater impact on the cost of projects relative to other forms of delays.” Without proper public support to advance the environmental benefits inherent to the proposal, public officials and regulators lack the political cover that is an essential component to project approval.

All too often, long and expensive permitting and appeals processes threaten the success of renewable energy proposals. However, with the proper approach from the outset, the community can be engaged in a productive way to set the message and build a positive reputation for the project. This positive force will keep the permitting process in motion, saving time and money. To ensure success, companies can approach the approval process with these helpful tips:

  • Develop an Online Presence: In a digital world where everyone is free to express their opinions, it is important to develop a website and social media presence for the project at hand. This enables companies to present the facts and offer resources for community members to learn more.A website with resources such as fact sheets and downloadable content can set the record straight against any myths. Additionally, social media pushes “sound-bite” content right into newsfeeds with the other miscellaneous content social media users elect to consume. On both platforms, viewers can express support and ask questions to engage directly with renewable companies.
  • Create a Uniform Voice: A project can easily be affected by the image and voice a company projects online. The voice should be uniform across posts and responses so that social media users feel as though the same person is responding on the company or project’s behalf each time. The best way to manage any potential conflict that may arise from nay-sayers is to approach negative feedback as an opportunity to politely correct myths to set the record straight without elevating opponents’ positions.
  • Advertise and Measure: Web ads are a cost-effective way to drive website traffic. Local news websites present opportunities to geo-locate your target audience and serve ads only to those living in the area that will vote on it for example. Ads on social media offer even more ways to target ads to the audience that matters most and is most likely to be interested in or support the renewable proposal. Both can link directly to the website and offer measurable results such as “cost-per-click,” cost per video view, reach and other key performance indicators depending on the objective selected.
  • Leverage Stakeholder Support: Stakeholder engagement affords renewable proposals independent narrative support from groups or organizations with missions or platforms that align with the project. Identifying these stakeholders can involve making a presentation to membership or simply a one-on-one meeting to discuss the proposal and its benefits. Ultimately, renewable proposals have incredible opportunities to gain third-party support to help increase awareness in the media, online and at public hearings.
  • Go with Grassroots: Community outreach can be structured like a political-style campaign, scaled to fit any size project. Calls to action across social media platforms and through other various tactics are an effective way to encourage participation by members of the public. Start with small asks to share the project’s social media pages and posts to help spread the word. As posts further inform the social media audience, and as a base of followers is built, these calls to action can get more complex to encourage letter writing to public officials and newspapers as well as attendance at important regulatory hearings. Additionally, building a database of community members with address, phone, email and demographic information and political district enables organized outreach. Those who express their opinion on social media or sign up as a supporter on the website can then be coded into this database as supporters, undecided and opponents. Then messaging through direct mail, phone banking and other Get Out The Vote (“GOTV”) efforts can use more tailored messaging through this outreach is guided by the database.
  • Engage the Media: While grassroots might be considered the “new age” approach to outreach, media relations cannot be overlooked. Sit down with editorial boards to explain the project vision and benefits from the outset to announce plans formally to the community. Offer press releases as needed and be sure to invite the media to any open house events or community information sessions held on behalf of the proposal. Equally important is engaging subject-matter experts online in industry publications to help add brand value to a particular project.

With a regulatory process that can often times lack clarity and transparency, it is important to build positive momentum for renewable projects and maintain that momentum with the backing of public support in any community. All the aforementioned tips offer vehicles through which audiences can be reached and asked to help. Instead of allowing for a silent but supportive majority, calls to action to attend hearings and write letters to officials or newspaper editors will help make any proposal a positive force moving in the right direction towards approval.

Policy Changes in Scotland Result in Negative Impacts for Renewable Sector

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The article below was Published August 8, 2016 in Renewable Energy Magazine.

 

While development in general is on the rise in many places across the globe due to economic growth, the successful outcome of renewable proposals is not guaranteed everywhere. Recent changes to renewable energy policies in Scotland, for example, are leaving the industry there with a great deal of uncertainty.

In light of these changes implemented following the 2015 General Election, the Scottish Affairs Committee was prompted to investigate the impact of the modifications, including restricted subsidy access, as well as their future implications on the renewable sector as a whole.

As is the case with many public infrastructure projects, the July 2016 report notes significant public interest in the subject as well as concerns raised by individuals and interest groups with respect to onshore wind projects in particular.

A list of key concerns include adverse impact on scenery, environment, health of local residents and housing prices. Additional concerns highlighted constraint payments to wind farms as well as the critique that turbines do not generate electricity when it is needed.

Despite these wind-related concerns, the report also made reference to a 2016 poll commissioned by Scottish Renewables, which found that 70 percent of respondents supported an increase in renewable energy as a whole. Taking these and other factors into consideration, the report ultimately found that Scotland’s renewable energy policy changes would have a negative impact on the sector.

Moreover, in particular relation to onshore wind, the report’s findings state, “uncertainty about support for onshore wind has resulted in many projects being pulled, and a significant reduction in new projects being brought forward. The cancellation of projects which were already in development means lost capital for investors who include local authorities, community groups and private companies.”

Gaining the support of government officials, the community and interest groups is vital for the success of renewable projects as the industry continues to grow across the globe. In order to heighten success, companies can procure support by looping in stakeholders through the following tactics:

Project Website

Any creditable project should have a website or landing page committed specifically to the project. A project website can send instant letters of support to public officials to provide a quick presentation of support. Additionally, it allows viewers to obtain grassroots resources including fact sheets, infographics, suggested language and more to acquire new support through sign up forms on the website.

Digital Advertising

Digital Advertising is both a cost-effective and efficient way to raise awareness for a project. Digital Advertising allows advertisers to connect with micro-targeted audiences to gain the most support using the least amount of resources. In order to encourage supporter sign ups, ads should link directly to the project webpage or any social media pages developed in support of the proposal.

Social Media

With the advent of the 24-hour news cycle, news consumers have become much more selective about the content they consume. Encourage those who may support your proposal to follow a Facebook page or Twitter account devoted to the proposal to stay up to date in their newsfeeds on social media. Without a presence on the platforms a company’s supporters engage on, opportunities to build critical support will be missed. Social media pages are a great way to grow the advocacy base and send out calls to action. Boosting these platforms with sponsored content will help ensure your message is in front of the right demographic.

Database Development

It is important to build a database of all the households within a community that outreach is made in, including their contact information and political district. Later, code this database as supporters, opponents, and undecided. Constituents of a specific public official that needs to be swayed can be targeted through communications in a political campaign-style approach. Different messaging can be targeted by district, or by those who are undecided with particular questions or concerns from various feedback channels.

Direct Mail

In order to educate community members on the benefits of the proposal, introduce a new project to a community by mailing all households in the target area in which you are seeking approvals. Direct mail will help spread the word about the new digital platforms to drive traffic and spread awareness about the key messaging points.

Telephone Identification

The ability to identify individuals in support of the proposal is essential. Too often, there is a silent majority that is overshadowed by a few voices against the project. Using telephone identification calls to all households in a database, supporters can be identified and asked if they are willing to assist by writing a letter to the editor or a public official, attending a hearing or joining a Social Media page in support.

Whether a project is experiencing opposition or not, it is important to ensure that the proposal is presented to the community in a positive light. Expose community members and stakeholders to site plans early on and let them know resources are available to learn more about the benefits relevant to their lives. Bringing public officials and community members on board in support of a proposal is important to the success rate of projects and to prevent the loss of time and resources. The policy environment is ever changing, and these tactics will help renewable proposals achieve success.