Portola Valley combines environmental panels | March 15, 2017 | Almanac | Almanac Online |

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News - March 15, 2017

Portola Valley combines environmental panels

by Dave Boyce

Sustainability — a principle in environmental science use to describe practices not harmful to the natural environment — is a key component of the ethos of Portola Valley government, so it might seem surprising that it's 2017 and the Town Council recently (on Feb. 8) established the Sustainability & Environmental Resources Committee.

It's actually an overhaul that combines the Water Conservation Committee, whose seven members were automatically appointed to the new committee, and four new members appointed on March 8.

Six candidates applied. The new members are residents Meredith McClintock, George Salah, Anne-Laure Strong and Stefan Unnasch.

Ms. McClintock is a 14-year veteran in for-profit and nonprofit sustainability and renewable energy enterprises, she says in her committee application. Asked about trends in the energy industry that could be advantageous to residents and the town, Ms. McClintock noted advances in local energy storage, micro-wind turbines for local power generation, and reclaiming and minimizing water use at home.

Mr. Salah is chief executive of Apparent Inc., which is involved in technology for a next-generation power grid. He spoke about the need to create incentives for people to learn about sustainability in ways that are meaningful, appropriate and accurate.

Ms. Strong is a doctoral student at Stanford University and focusing on decentralization and renewable energy in the electricity grid. "It's very important for me to be involved in my community," she told the council, adding that she has been a resident for just a year and will bring a fresh perspective. Energy audits are the first step to making a home more sustainable, she said.

Mr. Unnasch owns Life Cycle Associates, an environmental consulting firm focusing on fuel analysis, according to the company's LinkedIn page. Among his ideas for improving sustainability in town:

• A community investment in covered parking, with solar panels on top, at the Alpine Hills Swim & Tennis Club.

• Educating the public on how to successfully reintroduce native plants. "It's very hard to get some of these things to grow," he said.

• Species extinction. He mentioned the impact on his property of a "heat storm" in and around 2009. "My slender salamander population was completely wiped out," he said. "Hundreds and thousands of them, they're gone."

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