Within minutes of checking into the first sessions at the Future of Everything Festival in New York City, critical information for CVEP and the future of the Coachella Valley began to flow. Gretchen Watkins, CEO of Shell, and Invenergy‘s Michael Polsky shared the stage during a session titled Powering the Planet. Eventually, the topic of wind power came up.

Windmill Graveyard

Shell is investing in offshore wind platforms, but Polsky, who heads the largest renewables company in the country, dropped a bombshell about the future of existing wind turbines like the ones in our San Gorgonio Pass. I asked him about the current usefulness of these older turbines. He answered, “any wind turbine that was installed prior to 2007 is obsolete and not even worth maintaining and certainly not worth repairing if it breaks.” He followed that up by saying that such windmills should be demolished and replaced with new ones… but only if the financial metrics worked out. He added that places which were once competitive for wind power under old rules may not be anymore.

The bottom line to the Coachella Valley is that we may soon have an ever-growing graveyard for obsolete wind turbines at our western gateway. What will become of these landmarks, once cutting-edge, but now at the edge of obsolescence?

On a brighter note, Watkins stated that natural gas is the best bridge fuel to a future of 100% renewable. Both speakers agreed that the elimination of fossil fuels by 2030 (as some are calling for) is absolutely impossible. They agreed that it will more likely happen within 30 years. Battery technology and energy management were cited as the keys to make that transition. This is good news for the power and battery technology companies in the Palm Springs iHub.

A Side Note on Education

Here’s a useful fact for current students to ponder. Through the first 4 hours of the conference, every CEO speaker has an undergraduate degree in some kind of engineering. So there you have it: if you want to be a CEO, study engineering and don’t bet the farm on obsolete technology.

Check in often for the next update from the Future of Everything Conference.