Renewable Energy

Meet Our Speakers: Doug Davis

The Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System is the largest concentrated solar facility in the world. Located in California’s Mojave Desert at the Nevada border, the solar plant helps meet California’s electricity needs and reduces carbon dioxide emissions by 640,000 tons annually. While this transition to renewable energy sources is laudable, the context is more complicated: the site of the solar plant is prime habitat for the endangered desert tortoise and is part of the Pacific Flyway for migrating birds. Environmental manager Doug Davis of NRG Energy oversees the nation’s largest private-sector desert tortoise and bird protection programs to reduce the solar plant’s impact to the desert ecosystem.

Doug attributes his graying hair to the slew of unexpected issues that have increased the solar plant’s impact to local and endangered species.  Yet he is committed to maximizing the intactness of the ecosystem that now coexists with the solar plant. To do so, Doug’s team extends to federal agencies such as the BLM, USGS, US Fish and Wildlife Service, and California Department of Fish and Wildlife; dozens of biologists working on longitudinal tortoise and bird survival studies; and conscientious solar plant employees. Though there is still much to do, Doug is dedicated to an intact desert ecosystem because he understands the value these species’ survival for the desert and the world: “There’s a reason I live in a rural small community—[so] that I can listen to the coyotes at night and see the stars. I don’t want that to go away.” 

By Elizabeth Greenfield


Meet Our Speakers: Brett Isaacs

Even before he left his home in Kayenta, AZ for college, Brett Isaacs knew that he would return home with the skills to improve his community on the Navajo Nation. Brett grew up making things with his hands and after seeing a problem in his community, he found his niche building solar power systems. He graduated from Arizona State University with a degree in American Indian Studies, with a focus in Economic Development, Law and Policy. Brett now makes a living working across the Navajo reservation, building power systems in areas without municipal electricity. Beginning in Shonto, where he lives now, he has expanded out to many of the Navajo Nation’s 110 chapters, where an estimated 18,000 people live without power. Brett designs and builds solar systems for individual houses, larger projects like schools, and also makes mobile systems. Brett has taken his work up to the Standing Rock reservation, allowing the protectors there to power their camp sustainably with a mobile unit that will soon be joined by two more. Brett’s skills allow Navajos to improve their quality of life in dramatic ways. As he says, “we have to maintain our traditional aspect, outlook and culture, and still integrate into a progressing society that is using technology and advancement… You are trying to bridge the two… Fossil fuels are not necessarily the future. We have to start investing into something different, and start believing that that difference is going to pay off at some point.” Brett’s work is making a big difference to Native people across the West.

By: Maggie Baker

Better Know an Educator: Roger Clark

“Hello Mr. Raven,” Roger Clark, of the Grand Canyon Trust, interrupts himself to greet a raven whirling above him on the west rim of Marble Canyon in Arizona. Roger has poised himself here because of his belief that a person should intimately know the places they work for. As the Grand Canyon Program Director this is the landscape he has dedicated his work, and impressive education, towards. Roger received his Master’s degree and PhD from the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies and quickly took up a position at Berkley as an assistant professor of Forest Sociology. His love of academia and his students kept him in the job until he was convinced, at the suggestion of one of his students, to become a river guide at 30 years old. For the next ten years Roger’s love of the natural world and education blended together on western rivers. His work for the Grand Canyon Trust, which began in 1989, consists of the promotion of renewable energy, the fight against uranium mining around the Grand Canyon, and work to stop a proposed tramway that would run into the bottom of the canyon. Meeting Roger, it is clear why his classes at Berkley were stock full of 300 students. Everything he says is wrapped in a laugh and it is as easy to ask questions of him as it is to joke with him. Roger Clark’s devotion, humor and knowledge stand as a powerful force in his Northern Arizonan community.

By: Grace Butler