Environmental Excellence – The Green Academy Awards

Imagine over 500 people sitting in a very nice ballroom, all very dressed up and  gathered to celebrate environmental excellence. Imagine an organization who works all year to find groundbreaking solar projects, innovative transportation initiatives, river restoration projects and environmental education programs to find ones deserving of a Green Academy Award. Imagine Mrs. Green thinking she died and went to green heaven.

Meet Arizona Forward – an amazing organization that has influenced quality of life decisions in the state of Arizona since 1969 and is now celebrating 45 years of operation. This stellar organization brings businesses and civic leaders together to improve the environmental quality AND economic vitality of cities and towns throughout the Grand Canyon State. All throughout the year, they work to make our state a cleaner, healthier, more robust place in which to live, work and play. And then they celebrate what they and others have done at their Annual Environmental Excellence Awards Program. I was fortunate to be a guest at this year’s 34th annual event.

Why does it matter to put so much time and effort into a celebration of this magnitude? Let me count the ways. It highlights important, cutting edge, environmentally important ideas. It brings a spirit of economic vitality to all lucky enough to be there. It embodies hope, possibility, change and success when it comes to the daunting issues facing us as a planet today. And the event is really fun – a very important part of sustaining yourself from the inside out. Proof positive? Meet Dean and Irene Gekas, our delightful, outrageously fun new friends, enjoying the night with us.

AZ ForwardYou can read all about the winners by following the link below but take a minute to read about the coveted President’s Award (Best of Show) – the Solana Generating Station. It is the WORLD’S largest generating station of it’s kind (and I got to be there when it was announced.) Ready for these factoids affirming the judges’ wisdom in making this selection? Read on. Located outside the Town of Gila Bend, Solana Generating Station reigns as the world’s largest parabolic trough plant and is the first solar facility in the nation to produce electricity at night. It spans three-square-miles of retired agricultural land and generates 280 megawatts of solar power, reducing emissions equivalent to the removal of 80,000 cars from the road every year.

There’s more and yes, I was hanging on the edge of my seat as was Mr. Green! Unlike traditional solar-powered plants, Solana continues to produce electricity at full capacity for up to six hours even after the sun goes down using Concentrated Solar Power technology with solar thermal storage. This process helps satisfy Arizona’s peak electricity demand during summer and nighttime hours by storing energy that can be used by APS for its customers as part of a 30-year power purchase agreement. Solana represents a $2 billion investment and is Abengoa’s first utility-scale solar company in this country to begin operation. Pause, take a breath and read again – it’s that amazing.

dianebrossartRead more about Arizona Forward and about the other amazing winners.

One more important highlight? (I can’t help myself) Meet Diana Brossart. She is the powerhouse making great things happen for Arizona and moving Arizona Forward, including this event.

We have asked her to be a judge for our 5th Annual Arizona’s Greenest Workplace Challenge, which starts Monday, October 6th, 2014.