Mobilizing the ‘outdoor state’

A Boulder nonprofit and an innovative solar company join forces to offer clean energy solutions to outdoor enthusiasts

Snow melting from residential home roof solar panels in sunny winter day against clear blue sky. Background with lot of copy space.

Jeremy Jones was alarmed. The professional snowboarder was watching more and more ski areas closing early, or never even opening at all, because of a lack of snow. With each passing ski season Jones worried more about how climate change was going to affect his passion, his sport, his livelihood. So he decided to do something about it. 

In 2007 Jones founded Protect Our Winters (POW), a Boulder-based nonprofit dedicated to mobilizing the outdoor community on climate. Other pro athletes, dirtbags and die-hards quickly joined the cause to fight climate change and, as the organization’s name suggests, to protect our winters. 

POW’s done a lot to accomplish those goals in the years since Jones started it. In 2020 they reached over 33 million people through a non-partisan voting campaign and met with 32 Republican and Democratic congress members on the topic of climate change, advocating for grid transmission upgrades, promoting incentives for electric vehicles, phasing out fossil fuel subsidies and more. 

Now they’ve teamed up with Palmetto, a company leading the charge toward more efficient sources of renewable energy, to drive sustainability further, faster. It’s an effort that goes well beyond snow sports, says Torrey Udall, POW’s vice president of operations and finance. It’s an effort aimed at shifting American households off of fossil fuel energy by tapping into the ever-growing outdoor community—what POW refers to as the “outdoor state.”

“We believe that outdoor state can really tip the balance on climate,” Udall says. By POW’s estimate, there are some 57 million people participating in climbing, biking, hiking, river sports and, of course, skiing and snowboarding—all of whom have good reasons to care about the environment. 

“78% of that community, of our audience, is conditioned to think, ‘What can I do in my own life [about climate change]?’” Udall says. “We need to offer [POW] members a way to take action … to be part of the solution.”

That’s where Palmetto comes in. It offers a tangible way to take action right at home, to reduce your fossil fuel energy reliance and to invest in the future. The goal is to connect POW’s audience and members with Palmetto’s solar energy services, to educate and incentivize as many members of the outdoor state as possible to make the switch. 

“This partnership, for us, really sits at that intersection of all those things, and we’re so excited about it,” Udall says. 

Palmetto was founded in 2010 with the intention driving a wider adoption of renewable energy and to make it as affordable and accessible as possible. Palmetto sees a green “utility revolution” on the horizon, where our main energy sources are decentralized and renewable—sourced from the sun and wind. It’s a prophecy the company is determined to manifest.

“Based on what Palmetto has deployed so far in terms of clean energy systems, it’s equivalent to [saving] 804 million miles driven on the road,” Jason Conrad, Palmetto’s vice president of product marketing, says, adding that’s equivalent to preventing 359 million pounds of coal from being burned. 

That’s considerable. And it directly equates to savings for homeowners as well. On average in the U.S., homeowners who install solar panels save about $1,500 a year on electricity—roughly $37,000 over the 25-year life of a solar panel. In Colorado, the average starting cost for a six kilowatt solar panel system is $17,000, for which owners receive a $4,446 federal tax rebate. They also increase the property value of a home by a national median of $9,274, according to Greenlancer. 

However, despite those savings, a lot of homeowners are deterred by solar’s perceived complexity, Conrad says. 

“The process of converting to clean energy is not as straightforward as it could be in the U.S.,” he admits, but “one of the biggest barriers to clean energy adoption in the U.S. is really just a lack of understanding.”

Conrad says there are generally three misperceptions that prevent people from pursuing solar energy on their own. A misperception of upfront costs, misperceptions surrounding financing options, and what he calls a general “mystification” of how complicated the whole process of designing, installing and maintaining a solar system is. 

Palmetto’s business model breaks those barriers down in three simple steps: First, they offer a solar savings estimate that calculates exactly how much solar potential your home’s roof has. Conrad explains Palmetto has rooftop data on 84% of the buildings in the U.S., and chances are, your home is one of them. Palmetto then does all of the specific design, engineering and permitting, and works with local solar providers to have the system installed for you. And finally, it provides ongoing support, monitoring and maintenance.

Palmetto’s new partnership with POW connects it with a gigantic pool of environmentally minded outdoor enthusiasts, who may have never heard of Palmetto, but who want to know more about solar power. 

All POW members will receive a 10% discount on Palmetto’s solar services. And Palmetto will be conducting educational presentations at all of POW’s 2022 events, on solutions to address emissions.

“It’s core to [POW’s] mission to work with brands to help accelerate the work and solutions on climate,” Udall says. “We get to work with someone whose business model is built on the idea that we need to get this technology to scale and then we get to offer our members a way to take action.”

It’s all about incentivizing and mobilizing POW members to be part of the solution, Udall says. It’s directly in line with the mission Jones started POW with over 15 years ago: to make the outdoor state the nation’s most influential climate advocates.

“We need all outdoor enthusiasts to join this effort,” Udall says. “The whole mission here is to help people understand that clean energy is not just  people that have a lot of money. It’s not just for people that want to make a statement.”

It’s for anyone who cares about the outdoors and the environment, he says. It’s something that everyone in the outdoor state should be prioritizing. 

Email the author at [email protected].


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