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We’ve got 40 entries for the 51st State — now, where’s yours?

By K Kaufmann

Launching a visionary initiative such as the 51st State is always a leap of faith.

The idea that the Solar Electric Power Association (SEPA) could create a public forum for ideas that transcend current regulatory and political battles over the integration of solar and other forms for renewable energy into the United States’ power system was exhilarating, but also a bit daunting.

Final 51st State

Could people get enough outside their own frames of reference to envision a clean, affordable, reliable and resilient energy system built from the ground up, as if for a hypothetical 51st state with no rules or regulations? Would they make the time to develop detailed proposals of how their ideas might work?

They could, and they have said they will.

Dec. 17 was the first deadline for people to fill out a short form on the 51st State website letting us know they would take part, and so far, 40 groups and individuals have said they are in.

We are not naming names yet, but the range of participants is what we had hoped it would be. Geographically, we have tentative entries from at least 18 states — three entries came in with no location — the District of Columbia and Australia. As might be expected, the highest number from a single state come from California — a total of nine — but regionally, the East Coast is ahead with 11.

The Midwest is well represented with Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio and Wisconsin accounting for seven, while other Western states — Arizona, Colorado, Oregon, Utah and Washington — have a total of seven, or nine if we stretch to include the two from Hawaii.

The spread of organizations could also act as a catalyst for intriguing and unexpected synergies of ideas. The list includes major utilities, industry trade groups, top universities and research centers, environmental advocates and several well-respected consulting firms and energy think tanks.

It’s a good start, but we know that we — and all of you — can do better. Even if you missed the Dec. 17 deadline, you can still submit a proposal. The final deadline is Feb. 27, which means you’ve got more than two months. Go to the 51st State website and check out the guidelines.

We also want folks to get creative, to crowdsource and share ideas that can bounce and build off each other. We don’t want only policy and industry insiders, experts, and techno-nerds working on this.

We want artists, activists and ordinary people who pay their electric bills every month. If you’ve got an idea for an infographic or a video, maybe even — yo! — a 51st State rap song, you can post it here or on our SEPA 51st State Facebook page, or tweet us about it on our @SEPA51st Twitter feed.

After Feb. 27, we will post all the proposals and ideas we get on the 51st State website, and an Innovation Review Panel of top energy thought leaders will review them to pick several for further development. On April 27, we’ll be sharing our findings with hundreds of industry executives at a special 51st State Summit as part of SEPA’s Utility Solar Conference in San Diego.

Any great, crazy or amazing idea you’ve got, we want to hear it. As is often said, the only bad idea is the one you don’t put out for the world to see.


K Kaufmann is SEPA’s communications manager. She can be reached at