Our Countries’ Efforts to Save the Earth

This post is part of an archived series of blogs called The LeVine Line, written by former Ambassador Suzan G. LeVine during her time at U.S. Embassy Bern.

9 August 2015

“We have not inherited this land from our forebears, we have borrowed it from our children.” In other words, we study the past so it can guide us into the future, and inspire us to do better.

–  President Obama quoting an old proverb during his recent speech in Kenya

Last week, President Obama continued his efforts to combat climate change by announcing a landmark plan and ruling by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to curb carbon emissions from power plants.  This follows on many other actions he and the administration have taken including curbing other toxic emissions at power plants, increasing car fuel efficiency standards, initiating job retraining efforts in coal mining communities, creating renewable energy markets by requiring government entities like the Department of Defense to preference renewables, investing in renewable energy innovation and a whole lot more.  I encourage you, in fact, to peruse this site that outlines the efforts and results from the Administration’s ongoing initiatives.  Ultimately, through these actions, the United States will:

  • contribute to the well-being of the planet’s atmosphere
  • improve the health of its citizens
  • increase its geopolitical security
  • increase its prosperity
  • And fundamentally: make the Earth a better place to live for current and subsequent inhabitants
At Mont Soleil Solar you can see wind and sun renewables all together
At Mont Soleil Solar you can see wind and sun renewables all together

It was with that on my mind that I went to visit a center for renewable energy up in the Jura at Mont Soleil/ Mont Crosin that features Switzerland’s only wind park along with one of the first solar plants in Europe.  Here’s the Swiss tourism website with more information on going there yourself.

You see – Switzerland has long been an advocate for protecting the environment and pursuing renewable energy.  In this post almost a year ago.  I wrote about my family’s visit to Grimselwelt and learning about Switzerland’s tremendous use of hydroelectric power.  We were amazed by the concept that the alpine lakes are, in fact, large batteries and were stunned by the beauty surrounding and, in some cases, caused by the dams and funiculars.

It was during that trip that we were invited to check out the other renewable energy vehicles in Switzerland – namely this wind park and solar power plant.

Our overall impressions

It would be too cliché to say we were “blown away” at the wind park or to say that the solar power plant was “enlightening” – so instead, I’ll simply say that it was tremendous to see even more parallels between our two countries in the pursuit of ways to wean us off of carbon-emitting fuels.

Some of the key learnings included:

  • The solar power plant there was the biggest built in Europe when it was created over 20 years ago.
  • The power generated from the wind park can fulfill the power needs for 18,000 households.
  • Because of Switzerland’s size and location – it’s unlikely that wind will become a major energy source.  Thus – the wind park is more about providing the thousands of visitors with a learning experience.
  • The solar plant is currently used to test different types of panels.  Among those we saw were panels from the United States, Switzerland, Japan, and more.
  • The folks who created the wind park and turned it into a tourist attraction gained their inspiration from Steamboat Springs in Colorado where they integrate nature, tech, and tourism.

Here is a photo album of our experience taking you from viewing a way to balance the climate vs. the world in real time, an e-bike type of horse and carriage (I’ll explain more in the photo album whose link is just above), the towers of wind, US photovoltaic technology in Switzerland and more.