For Immediate Release – March 28, 2018
For her efforts in educating the public about sustainable energy, Windustry founder Lisa Daniels will be honored in April by the International Wolf Center.
Daniels recently learned she would be the 2018 recipient of the Center’s Leader of the Pack award. The award recognizes people make extraordinary contributions to the natural world.
Daniels will be honored at the Center’s Howl at the Moon Gala, which is Thursday, April 19, at Midland Hills Country Club in Roseville.
“It was all quite a surprise,” Daniels said. “I’m very honored to have been selected.”
International Wolf Center co-founder Nancy Gibson said Daniels exemplifies the qualities the Center had in mind when it started doling out the award.
“Lisa’s nomination was one that required no debate,” Gibson said. “When we looked over her resume and her accomplishments, we all knew immediately she’d be a perfect fit for the award. Her commitment to the environment, and to educating the public about renewable energy, fits perfectly with the reasons why we started giving out the Leader of the Pack award. It’s a way for us to celebrate people like Lisa who are leading the way to a healthier planet.”
For the first 10 years of her career, Daniels didn’t have an enviable day-to-day job. As personal computers quickly started appearing on desks at offices across the United States, someone needed to be on hand to walk people through the chaos. Daniels was one of the brave souls who worked as a systems analyst in the 1980s in California.
“That’s sort of aging me,” Daniels said with a laugh.
While her day job was navigating Windows 3 and new office software, her personal time was spent volunteering at a variety of non-profits. She learned about appropriate technology like wind and solar power, fuel efficient cookstoves and beekeeping for villages developing countries.
On a personal vacation, she was introduced to her future husband. He had a law practice operating in Minnesota and Daniels made the decision to join him here. As she settled in, she began to find plenty to do with area non-profits. One thing led to another, and she found herself working on a project to educate farmers about wind energy.
“When I moved to Minneapolis I soon married, became a stepmom of two young boys, and mom to a daughter, now all adults, doing great things out in their communities and forging their own paths in the world. I had time at home. I had time to think about my new role in life and the things that were important. Although trained for a career business I felt then, as now, an intense sense of urgency and need to stimulate action on critical environmental matters.”
Daniels began work with a variety of women’s and environmental groups in the Metro area. With a baby at home there were time off hours to investigate, read and inquiry. Daniels quickly arrived at a focal point that has motivated her for the past 25 to 30 years; that being the basic credo that while human-caused climate change was writing a prolific script for our future, the danger was equally correctible by human effort. Moreover, our production and use of energy is the primary force behind the majority of climate change emissions. At the very heart of energy production lay electrical generation-a double-edged sword which had brought about tremendous positive social change in the twentieth century but with its massive negative impact tearing at the heart of our environment. Renewable energy was, at the time, in the “whole earth catalog” phase of development. There was relatively little commercial deployment of wind. Solar was an expensive novelty. However, wind power’s tremendous potential with positive change existed.
Daniels formed Windustry, a 501(c)(3) non-profit and began work in several key areas. First was the area of policy change-on state and federal levels-which included an effort to level the playing field so that wind could participate and compete equitably with coal and non-renewables. Then came public education-and Daniels’ outreach ranged from what she calls her “barn-storming days” meeting with, landowners, community leaders, government agencies and wind energy developers throughout the US to develop an equitable relationship between developer and farmer-which paved the way for wide spread development of wind. Her work is primarily in Minnesota and Midwestern states. However, it has taken her, as an advocate, nationwide.
In recent years her advocacy has extended to solar and electrical storage-a key element for the electrification of transportation. Minnesota-and other key Midwestern states (the Saudi Arabia Wind) have moved from relatively minimal participation of renewables in the power grid to a point where now Minnesota’s power grid is about 25% renewable power.
The policy arguments have been nuanced-often landowners and legislatures did not want to hear about climate change. They did want to hear about “locally grown” energy and broadening the base of Minnesota agriculture to energy production.
“When I moved to Minneapolis, I wanted to have a day job that was all about making an environmental difference and working in clean and renewable energy was the place I wanted to work.”
“Our farmers are bright and entrepreneurial, but they had no idea what all of this meant,” Daniels said. “This was where Windustry worked to put together information and tools so that they could analyze what this meant and what to expect if they were going to have wind turbines on their land.”
Daniels helped farmers study the economics at play and, at times, even assisted on contracts.
“We didn’t give people advice, but we gave them the tools so they could make better decisions for themselves,” she said. “We felt that it was only fair to have a balance of information on both sides of the decision-making process. Landowners in the rural communities needed more information, and that’s where Windustry really began its work.”
Daniels grew up in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, and settled in California after college. Her interest in alternative energy stemmed from a simple curiosity.
“I just wanted to learn more about it,” she said. “I started looking around and I realized I didn’t really know all that much about how we got the energy system that we have. Who makes the decisions? Why were we using coal burning power plants instead of wind turbines and solar power?”
It turns out the answers to those questions were challenging and often times mired in politics.
“I had no idea wind was going to be so political,” she said. “Working on energy is probably the most politically regulated industry there is. Or, at least, it’s right up there with healthcare. You think you are going to be working on the environment and working with wind energy and you end up working at the legislature and with elected officials. You end up working on public policy. That’s not what I expected.”
THE INTERNATIONAL WOLF CENTER: Founded in 1985, The International Wolf Center is a Minnesota-headquartered educational non-profit organization. Its mission is to advance the survival of wolf populations by teaching about wolves, their relationship to wildlands and the human role in their future. The Center educates through its website wolf.org, educational outreach programs, International Wolf magazine, and a beautiful interpretive center in Ely, Minnesota with its live ambassador wolves and exhibits.
Chad Richardson, communications director
Chad Richardson, communications director
International Wolf Center
Office: 763-560-7374, ext. 225