With Earth Day just behind us and Arbor Day tomorrow, it seemed like a good time to discuss the myriad of sustainability initiatives in northern Arizona, which are both on the ground and in the skies.
In Flagstaff, many of these green efforts are centered around Flagstaff Pulliam Airport.
Both commercial airlines that operate at the airport – American and United – are working towards reducing their carbon footprint through the use of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF), which has the potential of providing the power of traditional jet fuel but without being refined from petroleum.
Last month, United Airlines Ventures announced an investment in a biotech firm to commercialize production of SAF. American Airlines, in addition to working towards SAF solutions, is also making more of their onboard service products out of sustainable materials. This includes exploring solutions to make their planes weigh less through lighter seats and paints.
Getting to the airport also is more eco-friendly thanks to the Mountain Line GO! Airport service. It’s an on-demand, flexible transit service pilot program that provides connections between anywhere in the Flagstaff city limits and the airport. The shared riding service allows passengers to book a ride in real time or up to 14 days in advance.
The City of Sedona also launched a new transit system recently, the Sedona Shuttle. The operation will have routes to four of Sedona’s most popular trailheads: Cathedral Rock, Soldier Pass, Dry Creek and Little Horse. These new routes will certainly help reduce traffic congestion as well as provide a more sustainable transportation option for residents and the millions of visitors who come annually.
Earlier this month, the AES Corporation ramped up construction of the Chevelon Butte Wind Farm, a planned 477-megawatt wind energy project located about 20 miles south of Winslow. The first phase of the project will be the 57 turbines on what was – and will continue to be – a working livestock ranch. The first phase of the project is expected to be fully operational next summer.
The project is also sensitive to northern Arizona’s unique “dark sky” characteristics, essential for our local observatories. The site will feature a radar-activated lighting system that enables federally required turbine lights to turn on only when low flying aircraft are in this remote area.
Meanwhile, a couple of weeks ago I had to the pleasure of participating in a roundtable with U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm, elected officials from throughout Navajo County and utility representatives. The group discussed possible green initiatives and economic opportunities in the wake of the closure of coal-fired power plants in the region.
Navajo County Supervisor Jason Whiting said during this meeting that biomass as the result of forest thinning might be a possible source of future energy. “It’s expensive, but it’s a way to help our forests and it’s another way to produce energy,” he said.
As we work towards a more carbon neutral future, it’s heartening to see the wide array of sustainability efforts in our region and the many collaborations between the public and private sector to achieve this important goal for our planet.