A big announcement on a small island recently made a few headlines, but deserved more. Thermal Energy Partners LLC of Texas has been contracted to provide services for the construction of a 10MW geothermal power plant on the island of Nevis. The project is in the final design stages. Here is the little hidden gem of this project - this geothermal plant will allow the island to become 100 percent reliant on zero emission renewable power generation. If only every nation and every project were this easy!
Yet even geothermal has its opponents. In Iceland they are preparing to blend geothermal plants into the landscape. In Hawaii, volcanic lava nearly took out the Puna Geothermal Energy plant, as some residents took to social media hoping it would. In Italy, the new government is seeking cuts in geothermal energy.
Perhaps taking a page from Thermal Energy Partners LLC’s success in Nevis, along with utilizing basic tactics in working with stakeholders and residents in the area where these geothermal plants will be located, is all that is needed. These tactics can be as simple as.....
A Project Website
Create a website just for the project to explain the process of geothermal energy, disseminate facts and dispel rumors. A website is also a great way to have residents ask questions, submit letters of support, and communicate with the energy development team of experts.
Leveraging Social Media
Creating accounts with the intent of granting the community quick access to facts, graphics and answers to frequently asked questions is an efficient way to identify and engage with supporters. Additionally, social media is an easy way to keep stakeholders informed. Launching social media in a timely manner allows you the chance to control the promoted message rather than being forced to react when opposition arises. Social media is no longer just about Facebook either. Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram are often used now to promote projects.
Hold Community Open Houses
To explain geothermal energy to skeptical residents will take a public education campaign, and no better place to start this than with a community open house. An open house allows the development team to showcase the process of geothermal energy development. It is a great way for one-on-one communication with residents and those who live nearby who may feel they are impacted the most.
A Door-to-Door Effort
For those who do not have access to the internet, door-to-door campaigning will be the most effective method of relaying project information, especially those who live near the proposed geothermal plant site, and may have stronger feelings on the project. Neighbor to neighbor communication is vital.
Utilizing Direct Mail
While social media campaigns will still reach an important audience, it is imperative to account for those that will benefit more from physical mailing. Direct mailing is cost effective when targeted to specific demographics- i.e. invitations to public hearings or open houses to supporters once they have been identified. Sending a direct mailer that corrects myths and clarifies misconceptions could sway those who have not taken a stance in your favor. "Snail mail" may be old, but it can be very useful.
All land use is local. Building support from the ground up is often a good way to have these projects approved in a timely and more cost-efficient manner.
Al Maiorino started Public Strategy Group, Inc. in 1995. His firm has developed and managed multiple corporate public affairs campaigns in a variety of industries such as gaming, cable television, retail development, auto racing, energy and residential projects. Additionally, his firm has worked on projects in twenty-six states and three countries.
Oh, and Thermal Energy Partners did none of these things mentioned in the article. It isn\'t a matter of convincing the public, it\'s a matter of convincing financiers. Totally different thing. Totally.
This is just a PR ploy. Thermal Energy Partners doesn\'t have the money to build this. They\'re out looking for financing. It\'s been going on for 10 years. The system is too small (10MW) to be efficient, so there are no takers.
Hope for small nations
Nevis has been talking about this for some time now. But they don’t have the money to accomplish this goal.