Here comes the sun

We’re not fond of taking sides in politics.

But we do like to note when something works.  Especially when that something results in more projects, more PM jobs, and a better outcome for this particular 3rd- rock-from-the-sun.

Today’s Boston Globe newspaper has a short but powerful (excuse the pun) story about how Massachusetts – not exactly the Sunshine State – is tied for second place in the US with Hawaii for the lead in solar projects.  And the reason, at least partially, is subsidies from the government of the Commonwealth.  See the included chart on the left for the top states in the USA, and the chart on the right to see the (cloudy) truth about Massachusetts, in terms of weather.

From the story, here are some extracts.  We strongly encourage you to read the whole thing at the Globe’s site.

Massachusetts is no California when it comes to sun. But that isn’t stopping the solar energy industry from flourishing here.

Massachusetts, better known for long, cold winters, gloomy springs, and gale-driven nor’easters, is undergoing an unlikely solar power boom, attracting solar companies from around the country that are installing systems for homeowners, businesses, and institutions.

Only California has a better solar market than Massachusetts, which tied Hawaii in rankings by Ernst & Young, the Big Four accounting firm that tracks the alternative energy industry. Massachusetts was the only northern state to crack Ernst & Young’s top 10, beating Florida (the Sunshine State), Arizona (home of the Sun Devils), and New Mexico (sun symbol on the state flag).

Here’s an example of one success story:

SolarCity of San Mateo, ­Calif., a six-year-old installation company with 1,800 employees nationwide, entered the Massachusetts market in early 2011. The company installs solar panels at no cost to customers, then sells them power generated by the system, which SolarCity continues to own. The company is then able to take advantage of federal and state subsidies.

Ed Steins, SolarCity’s regional director, said the company already services more than 800 residential and commercial buildings in Massachusetts and has tripled its local staff to 45 from 15 since September.

Among SolarCity’s customers is Tom McDougall, 53, of Whitman. SolarCity installed a 6-kilowatt system on the roof of McDougall’s two-story Colonial. Since the system began operating in February, McDougall said, he has cut his electricity bills in half, paying SolarCity about $60 a month for electricity, compared with the $115 a month, on average, that he paid his utility.

Analysts at Ernst & Young, which does the comparative study of the states, has good insight on the story.


Again, from the story:

“It’s not a matter of how sunny it is,” said Michael Bernier, a senior manager at Ernst & Young. The “thing Massachusetts has been really good at is setting up an environment that helps renewable energy projects get done.”

That environment starts with New England’s traditionally high energy costs that can make photovoltaic systems more competitive here. Meanwhile, the falling solar panel prices, which have plunged more than 50 percent in the past two years, have combined with solar-friendly local policies to make solar installations even more attractive to homeowners and businesses.

So, perhaps the ‘environment’ – in this case, the business/political environment – has a more profound effect on solar projects that previously thought.  If that’s the case, as a project manager, you ought to be at least considering the support of regulations and incentives to bring more solar power to your state or territory.



The message has been clear, powerful, and repeated.

The facts are indisputable.

The logic is impeccable.

We cannot keep taking resources from the planet – resources that took hundreds of millions of years to produce, use them for a few minutes, and discard them haphazardly.

Most people “get” that. And so, you would think that in a place like the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, a center of thinking, home of top colleges like Harvard University and Boston College, people would really get it.  Smart people.  Educated people.  Pro-environment.  Knowledgeable. Aware of their surroundings.  They’ll be leaders in this area, of course.  Of course they will.  Right?


The sad truth is: they don’t get it at all. Take Newton, Massachusetts. Newton!  This is a town in which 75% of the electorate voted for President Obama. So you would expect that it has a high, and increasing rate of recycling, because the folks there are aware of the environment, aware of the little things they can do to make things better. Right?

Um, no.

Look at the chart below.


I’d say that even those of us with limited mathematical skills can see that in the decade past, Newton’s recycling rates have dropped significantly.  And the picture is almost as embarrassing across the entire Commonwealth.

Here’s a chart from today’s Boston Globe (see the whole story here) which shows the stunning rate at which recycling has improved in green-aware, eco-friendly Massachusetts:


Not so good, eh?  10 years of awareness, programs, projects, and we’ve increased by 1%.  ONE PERCENT!
Put this up against San Francisco, where recycling rates are like Newton’s take on Obama: 75%.  That’s truly pitiful.

So why this rant, and why – of all places – on a project management blog?  Well, one of our points is that Project Managers should give back to the community.  And it looks like we really can make a difference.  Remember the contrast between San Francisco and Massachusetts?  Oh come on, of course you do, it was only a few sentences ago!

Have a look at this page – Project Recycle – an effort of the State of California.  It looks like if we combine the talents of project managers with leaders in the community we can increase awareness effectively and put programs in place to get people out of their bad habits and doing the right thing.

If you’re in Massachusetts, take this as a challenge and DO SOMETHING about it.  Actually, EarthPM has been getting visited increasingly by people all over the world.  So although this is incredibly embarrassing for Massachusetts, you could be in Belize or Lithuania or Malaysia, South Africa, or Belgium, India, or Argentina.  It doesn’t matter.  Find out how your own community is doing in this area and see if you can lend a hand from a project management standpoint to get some more effective recycling action.  It sure seems like words are not enough!  And when words aren’t enough, project managers are the ones who should be able to take words (ten YEARS of words in this case) into action.

Oh.  And if you are wondering about those facts mentioned up front in this posting, see this interesting article which happens to come from California.

Why Recycle?


Who’ll step up?  We’ll send you a box of Fig Newtons* if you do…

*Fig Newtons were invented in Newton, Massachusetts.