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Earth Day a reminder solar power, slimmer forests can help Arizona


PHOENIX — It’s Earth Day, and there are Arizona solutions to improving quality of life for our portion of the planet.

The Grand Canyon State is number one when it comes to heat.

“We have the fifth worst air quality in Maricopa County of any county in the nation,” said Pat Graham, director of the Arizona chapter of The Nature Conservancy.

To counteract rising car emissions, he says Arizona must boost its solar power.

“We already produce the second-largest amount of solar energy in the United States,” Graham said. “Renewable energy — clean energy — does not create carbon emissions.”

But Graham admits Arizona and the U.S. are not holding enough of that green energy.

“Large-scale battery storage is really a critical step to the future for using renewables,” he said, adding private companies are making changes.

“Today, it’s getting economically competitive, so you’re seeing the big utilities start to acquire large-scale storage plants,” Graham said. “Ten years ago, that just wouldn’t have made sense.”

For other clean air solutions, Graham says, look to Arizona’s ponderosa forests that are dense with carbon.

“We have to get on with the business of thinning out those forests, so that we can keep them from being at risk for catastrophic fire.”

And Graham says urban areas could use a few more trees, as long as they’re drought resistant, and not palm trees that drink too much water and produce little shade.

“If we increase tree cover to 25% in those areas, temperatures are 10 degrees cooler in the summer than in the other areas,” Graham said.

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