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For some, life is greener on their side of the fence

August 13, 2010
Las Vegas Strip
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An increasing number of homeowners in Nevada have something to smile about every month — their power bills. This is especially true during the heat of summer, when air conditioning drives energy use sky high. The number of solar-powered homes is steadily growing, signs that the industry is heating up as the price of renewable energy continues to come down. Overall, interest in green building, energy efficiency and clean power has never been greater. The paradigm shift that was once but a glimmer in the eyes of a few is gaining momentum while transforming our homes, our communities and our lives.

New companies are starting up and many established companies are shifting toward sustainable strategies to remain competitive in the changing economy. Practically any business can benefit from implementing green practices or by providing greener options to customers. Nowhere is this more evident than the greening of the Las Vegas Strip, as more and more major hotels adopt green programs to improve their bottom line.

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Many have asked me how to get involved and, more specifically, how to get a green job. Even with the shift we’re seeing, there is a delicate balance between economic potential and hard reality. Businesses try to anticipate future trends but may not be ready to hire quite yet. The key is to be ready when the opportunity presents itself. The good news is that there are more educational and training opportunities than ever before.

With so much information available to anyone with a computer, it’s not hard to get started. Organizations like the American Solar Energy Society, the U.S. Green Building Council or the Residential Energy Services Network are just a few of hundreds of quality online sources of good information and ideas.

Degrees and certifications are also available. Online courses are becoming more prevalent. The College of Southern Nevada and the University of Nevada, Las Vegas offer various classes, from beginning solar energy concepts to green building for contractors and advanced degrees in renewable energy engineering or architectural design. There are also industry-specific training programs available, especially for solar.

Southern Nevada will host the National Clean Energy Summit 3.0 on Sept. 7 at UNLV’s Cox Pavilion. This year’s theme is “Investing in American Jobs” and will include high-level industry leaders, policy experts, investors and public officials. If you want to be involved in the new green economy, this event will provide a big-picture overview of current and future trends. It’s also a great networking event that can help you position your business, plan for future home energy upgrades or map out a new career strategy.

Don’t overlook the many local organizations that focus on sustainability issues. Many offer regular programs and special events designed to educate our community about the benefits of green buildings, solar energy, electric vehicles and more. One of the absolute best ways to kick start the process of finding a green job is to become an active member, attending meetings and volunteering with the organization. You’ll make new friends with similar interests, some with considerable expertise and experience. This type of networking is invaluable.

I will post links to all of these organizations on my website, but there’s one in particular that I have room to mention here. Solar NV is a nonprofit that promotes clean, renewable energy in Nevada. It provides educational meetings every month and has some special events that are coming up (see solarnv.org for details). First is its annual Renewable Energy Leadership Award Banquet and Silent Auction on Saturday, Aug. 28. This year’s award recipient is Commissioner Rebecca D. Wagner of the Public Utilities Commission of Nevada .

Solar NV also produces the Southern Nevada Solar Home tour every year. This year’s tour will take place on Saturday, Oct. 2 .

And that takes us full circle, right back to those fortunate and visionary homeowners who thank the sun every time their power bill arrives in the mail.

Steve Rypka is a green living consultant and president of GreenDream Enterprises, a company committed to helping people live lighter on the planet. For more information and links to additional resources relating to this column, or to reach Steve, please visit http://www.greendream.biz.

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