Steelcase Walks the Green Walk, Buys Naming Rights to Wind Farm


TreeHugger is always on the lookout for companies willing to back up their green talk with a little green walk; at a time when "going green" is more popular than ever, it's easy to get bogged down in marketing double-speak and greenwashing. Today, green office furniture company Steelcase strengthened its case as a green company embracing real green ideals and walking the walk. And they might have just helped to raise the bar for green business in the process.

They announced that they'd be buying a bunch of wind power, and, as green as that is, it isn't the interesting part. John Deere Renewables, the wind-energy development unit of Deere & Co., is building a 10 megawatt wind farm in Panhandle, Texas -- it'll be up and running in May -- and Steelcase is buying all the energy generated there for at least five years. Not only that, they're buying the naming rights to the wind farm, paying an undisclosed premium for the right to name it Wege Wind Energy Farm. That's right, just like AT&T; Park in San Francisco, where the Giants play baseball, except it's a wind farm.The wind farm, which will now be named after Peter Wege, the son of the founder of Steelcase, Peter Martin Wege, and a prominent environmentalist in Michigan, where the company is headquartered, is expected to generate 35,000 megawatt hours of electricity each year -- enough to power 2,925 homes -- and will be equivalent to eliminating 61,639,900 pounds of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

The power expected to be generated by the wind farm on an annual basis also represents approximately 20% of the power Steelcase facilities require in the U.S. and equals more than three times the energy necessary to fully power the Steelcase global headquarters building in Grand Rapids, Michigan for a year. With this commitment, Steelcase becomes the largest purchaser of U.S. wind power credits in the office furniture industry, and helps push the company closer to the goal of reducing its carbon footprint by 25 percent by 2012. It also joins the Environmental Protection Agency's Green Power Leadership Club.

Still, the most interesting thing about this story is the precedent Steelcase is setting by what amounts to purchasing the naming rights to the wind farm. While it's impossible to say how this will play out for the company -- it could represent a sea change in the way green business is conducted in this country; alternately, nobody will care that eight wind turbines in Texas have somebody's name on them -- it's certainly a gutsy, forward-thinking move by a company best known for making awesomly comfortable, awesomely green office chairs and talking big about big steps in sustainability.

So, we wonder: will this catch on? Will naming rights start being a standard part of new renewable energy projects? Installed wind power capacity in the United States increased by 45% in 2007, according to the American Wind Energy Association, so if it continues to grow even at a similar pace, there will be lots of opportunities. What will be the next one on the list? ::Steelcase via ::Prime Newswire

See also: ::How to Get Green Like Steelcase, ::Steelcase Joins EPA Climate Program

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