If I told you that the air in a corporate office building filled with PhD holding climatologist and atmospheric scientists felt positively electrified, you might think I was a little off. But the truth is that during my visit to energy efficiency company 3TIER, I witnessed an office packed with people truly excited and enthusiastic about their daily tasks. I guess it helps to know your work is reshaping the energy future of the world.
3TIER is an international company providing people with the information they need to make smart decisions about renewable energy. They help people, businesses and governments make decision about what renewable energy project (wind, solar, or responsible hydro) would be most efficient and effective for where they’re located. Basically, said founder and CEO Ken Westrick, 3TIER takes information and tries to turn it toward a decision point, which hopefully ends in the investment in renewable energy. (You can read more about the process here.)
I walked down Capitol Hill to their downtown Seattle headquarters the other day to get a behind the scenes look at how they are quickly building a reputation as the world’s go-to source for renewable energy efficiency expertise.
3TIER started building its home on the cutting edge in the late 1990s, when Westrick began to see clearly the coming demand for the newly burgeoning field of renewable energy. He saw how the combining trends of oil depletion, climate change and energy security were creating ripe conditions for a triad of alternatives in solar, hyro and wind power.
“The train was heading toward the cliff,” Westrick said. “You could see this sort of thing coming.”
Although Westrick saw this growth as a powerful force just waiting to be unleashed, not everyone was there quite yet. In 2001, starting a business that combined using the Internet to map renewable energy potential seemed to many like a poor decision, but to Westrick it was a long term vision.
Now, 3TIER conducts business across the globe from their offices in North and Central America as well as in India.
“The thirst for the type of information we provide is out there,” Westrick said. “Governments and investors want to know, ‘where do I put it? What technology do I need to put in? And how do we operate it?”
What’s really interesting is 3TIER’s ability to take answers to questions like this to leaders in developing countries interested in what resources they could be using. 3TIER is working with these countries to help them see what resources they have readily available, which would allow them to leapfrog over dirty, industrial models of obtaining energy straight to clean, abundant, renewable energy.
3TIER gives governments and business of all sizes, and people from all areas of the world the information they need to start the policy or investment conversation. Through their open and free information source, FIRSTLOOK, they are giving everyone the ability to at least think about and check into the possibility of alternative energy.
“We figure out where’s the best place to put renewable energy projects, help you make it much more efficient in it operation,” Westrick said. "The best place to put a turbine isn’t the windiest spot. It’s the place where it’s windiest when you need it most.”
Westrick said that their clients come to 3TIER for different reasons -- some believe in climate change, some see this as a wise, money making investment, others see it as a way to achieve energy security or to create jobs.
“We are trying to give folks inspiration for policy, investment and conversation,” Westrick said. “I don’t care why they are getting on board, as long as they are getting on board to recognize that we need to do something about this.”
As I was shuttled through the halls of 3TIER headquarters, meeting people with titles like director of forecasting and solar resource assessment analyst, I realized this was the future: People working together to solve global problems, making a living out of doing what’s right, solving global problems through collaboration, giving it away when it makes sense to, and using state of the art technology to do so.