For the last few years I’ve spent a lot of my time learning about/thinking about the intersection of renewable energy and the environment. It can be a lonely space – in between electrical engineering and traditional wildlife biology where you get out in the field and look at critters. So imagine my intrigue and delight when I was invited to sit on a panel for the New England Women In Energy and the Environment conference! Finally – people who could understand where I’ve been.
The event was the annual “Women Shaping The Agenda” (WSTA) discussion. Five panelists, one moderator, and over 100 enthusiastic attendees braved torrential downpours and tornado warnings to gather in late July at Saint Anselm College in Manchester, NH. This location is where candidates traditionally go to start their presidential campaigns, and it felt like the perfect place for the first WSTA held in New Hampshire. The topic was “Getting to Net Zero: Balancing Environmental Priorities for Renewable Energy Development,” and the enthusiasm of so many like-minded professionals was palpable! And let’s not forget that the room was almost entirely filled with women. Here were successful women working in traditionally male-dominated fields supporting each other, networking, and making it clear that the future of energy and the environment will be filled with women. It was exciting!
Now to the conversation we were all there for. Sue Kaplan, Founder of Sustainable Futures Consulting and Adjunct Faculty at the University of New Hampshire, led us all through a lively discussion around renewable energy in New England. Dorian Brown, Energy Manager for the City of Nashua NH, talked about building a microgrid for the city and transitioning municipal energy use to renewable sources. Nikki Bruno, Vice President of Clean Technologies with Eversource, highlighted a geothermal project they are working on to tap into a highly underutilized renewable energy source. Rachel Pachter, Chief Development Officer for an offshore wind company, shared some of the challenges with moving offshore wind energy projects forward, and Maria Belen Power, Undersecretary of Environmental Justice & Equity in Massachusetts, reminded us of the need to keep environmental justice at the forefront of our work as we transition the New England energy sector to renewable sources.
I shared some of the work Maine Audubon has been doing to encourage appropriate siting for renewable energy projects, including with our Renewable Energy Siting Tool, and I discussed the need for more transmission lines – well-sited and responsibly constructed and maintained – to bring all that renewable energy to our homes and businesses.
We ended the evening on a high note of optimism and comradery; the future looked bright and it felt like we could do anything! Dusk was setting in as I slipped out to the parking lot and a flash of movement caught my eye. As I slid into my car, I watched a Merlin settle in on a branch in a wetland on the edge of the lot. It was a lovely way to end a beautiful day.