Renewable Thinking

California, here we come!
by Alex Osteen -- March 13th, 2013

This past weekend, I arrived to California as part of the Energy & Environment field trip. Every year, the department leads a trip to visit renewable energy companies in the Bay Area. This year about 20 of us have signed up to carry on the tradition and I’ll be doing the blogging for the trip. I hope to share some of the highlights from our visits.

My arrival was a few days early, however, because I wanted to visit the Redwood Forest National Park. After arriving to the San Fran airport on Saturday, I rented a little 4-cylinder Nissan and hit the road. Leaving the city I was passed by a honking parade of naked bicyclists just before crossing the Golden Gate Bridge into wine country. The scenic pastoral rolling hills of Napa country slowly, gradually evolved as Highway 101 wound north. The ravines got steeper, the trees got taller and wilder and the hip hop and cool Latino music on the radio gave way to more and more country music. Crazy city drivers were replaced by country travelers, though in fewer pickups and more be-stickered old two-doors than I had expected. I got into Eureka, California, a quaint industrial-touristic hybrid city in far northern Humboldt County, late that night and checked into a roadside motel (not the Bates, but close).

The next day, I had one of the coolest hikes of my life in the Redwood Forest. “Holy crap, that’s a big tree,” was the first thing that slipped out of my mouth upon stepping into the park. I hiked all day within their excellent trail system and felt like I was back in Disney World’s “Honey, I Shrunk the Kids” attraction. It was quiet and a perfect 60 degrees inside the old growth acreage. I couldn’t help expecting to see a dinosaur jump out from behind a tree, everything felt so prehistoric and majestic. It was a great day in the woods and my inner- Nic School  environmentalist was very fulfilled. Making this pilgrimage to visit these ancient and rare trees had long been on my list of things to do.

A handful of other people on the trip came out to the West Coast early as well, to visit friends here and/or to do some sightseeing. And today, we all met up in our hotel by the Fisherman’s Wharf. Our afternoon was spent walking around the Wharf before diving into an introduction about why we are here in the first place.

California is, hands down, the place to go to see exciting things happening in the cutting edge of the renewable energy sector. And the Bay Area is its hub. This week we will be speaking with professionals who are “in the trenches,” who are making the real-world decisions that are impacting this movement. Through these posts, I aspire to capture some of the interesting experiences and pieces of insight that we garner from this trip.

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