The Sustainable Energy and Communities Summit welcomed four panels of speakers from across Nevada and the West to the Prim Theater at the museum on Friday.
“This is a theme whose time has come in Nevada,” said Jim Davis, CEO of Chevron Energy Solutions.
Davis was the keynote speaker at the half-day afternoon summit and was joined by city planners, architects, Nevada System of Higher Education regents, representatives from NV Energy and community development experts.
They were there for one reason.
“We need to have these conversations that are vital to the community,” said Colin Robertson, the curator of education for the museum who also moderated Friday’s discussion.
Their conversation may have been timely.
The Senate approved a bill on Thursday to basically freeze spending on energy and water projects next year after pouring tens of billions of dollars into them as part of last winter’s economic stimulus plan.
Those participating in the panel discussions and presentations agreed that Nevada needs to find creative solutions to forge ahead in finding sustainable energy sources.
“Today is all about hearing and discussing issues and ideas,” Davis said. “Nevada excels at developing its natural resources. The state could become the first state to generate most of its power from natural sources.”
Davis would know.
As the head of the largest producer of geothermal energy on earth, Davis pushed the ideas of expanding solar, geothermal and wind resources as well as bio-fuels research and development and natural gas.
In Sparks, a 150-megawatt solar facility is planned for east of the city limits. Mariah Power has installed wind turbines at Mendive Middle School as well as at the homes of Spanish Springs locals. Palomino Valley residents are staring down a project by Nevada Wind that would put 44 wind turbines in the area.
Davis also pushed youth education in the sciences as a solution for the future of Nevada’s creative renewable energy needs.
His call for education was echoed by University of Nevada, Reno professor and department of art chairperson, Howard Rosenberg.
“We need to start at the elementary school level,” Rosenberg told the theater of about 100 people. “They are the ones that are going to be the most affected and the most efficient. … They are the ones that will get us where we want to be.”
The summit also aimed to connect the dots between the innovation needed for sustainable development and the arts, which is known to foster innovation.
“Artists and architects are all central to the dialogue that takes place around community issues,” Robertson said. “Artists are bringing up issues long before others.”
To promote this idea of art fueling alternative energy and sustainable communities, the summit invited city of Reno arts and culture manager Christine Fey to add her input.
The former city land use planner spoke of revitalizing the downtown Reno core.
“The artists move into these downtown neighborhoods … and the buildings that they revitalize become commodities,” Fey said of developing a living arts district.
She then explained that these buildings then attract economic drivers such as young professionals in a skilled workforce, pushing the artists into new realms.
“Artists were recyclers before it was vogue to be a recycler,” Fey said.
Locally, Fey pointed to the McKinley Arts and Culture Center and the Riverside Artists Lofts in downtown Reno as examples of artistic development fueling sustainable creativity.
The McKinley center is moving toward installing a permeable concrete parking lot. This type of concrete promotes cleaner ground water by allowing natural drainage and migration of water into the earth.
The Riverside Lofts provide affordable housing for artists to showcase their creativity in downtown Reno.
The summit held panels from local leaders on the subjects of art and architecture, community and environment, business and sustainable energy, business incubators and education and workforce training.
“The status quo is not OK,” said speaker and founder of Cathexes Architecture, Don Clark. “We have economic opportunities to reinvent ourselves as far as how we are treating the environment.”