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Top signal spotter Carol Brighton

Sensemaking / Top signal spotter Carol Brighton

What makes a top signal spotter? Find out in our interview with Carol Brighton, top signal spotter of September 2017.

By Carol Brighton / 04 Oct 2017

Signals of change are new ideas or innovations that could change the game for sustainability in the future. Use the Futures Centre as your space to keep track of what's new to find opportunities for a sustainable future.


1) Carol, please tell us a bit about who you are.

A stereotypical tree hugger, I feel so fortunate to live in a beautiful place on the edge of a dune-filled state park, near the Chesapeake Bay in Virginia Beach. When I walk out of my door, I regularly spot ospreys, herons and eagles flying overhead, and am often able to observe dolphin pods swimming just off the beach down the street.

It’s not always a panacea, due to some kind of human interaction, like a ship strike, I’ve also witnessed the occasional sea turtle and marine mammal stranded, and that is beyond upsetting.

Recognizing that there are a myriad of problems that threaten the natural environment that I so adore, instead of harping on the issues themselves, I try to shine a spotlight on some of the very many innovative solutions out there.


2) How did you first start spotting signals?

I randomly stumbled upon the Futures Centre twitter feed early this summer. I am so pleased to be part a platform that facilitates sharing ideas and initiatives that will shape a better future.

I come to the group with a long history of advancing eco-friendly efforts. My first job out of college in the late 1980s was working as an onsite contractor for the Environmental Protection Agency’s Global Change Division. Later, I was a freelance writer published in Popular Science and organized local solar tours. Until very recently I curated a blog on regional sustainable endeavors (


3) Do you scan for a specific area?

I don’t look for news on anything in particular. However, renewable energy and nature-based solutions tend to catch my attention, so I suspect my Twitter feed is littered with tidbits that reflect that interest.


4) Why did you feel that “Abandoned nuclear site becomes solar farm in Tennessee” was a signal of change?

Abandoned nuclear site becomes solar farm in Tennessee

In Hawkins County, Tennessee, a nuclear power plant that was abandoned mid-construction has been converted into a 3000-panel 1MW solar farm, able to power around 100 homes. The conversion is a joint initiative involving Hawkins County Industrial Development Board, Birdseye Renewal Energy, Holston Electric, and United Renewable Energy.

There’s an obvious irony there. A project that went into huge cost overruns trying to recreate the sun’s nuclear reaction is replaced with technology that will instead capture the sun’s already FREE energy.

In addition, the topic hit close to home. Here in Virginia, the utility that serves most of the state, has been considering the construction of a fifth nuclear reactor. While operating reactors across the country are closing down left and right due to cost inefficiencies and there are major issues at the only two projects under construction, it would seem that the wise move would be to officially cancel the project. The company, by the way, owns the lease rights to build a major offshore wind farm.

Faced with the advanced efficiencies being gained in the renewable industry, it is my hope that they can be won over to the alternative side. And they may be. The company has partnered with Orsted, formerly DONG (Danish Oil and Natural Gas), which recently announced plans to exit the fossil business, to reignite a plan to build a twin turbine demonstration project off the Virginia Coast.

Meanwhile, the federal government may be hampering progress. The Secretary of Energy just promised additional funding for one of the nuclear construction projects in trouble, even though pundits contend it is doomed.

In addition, in the name of energy security, Secretary Perry is looking to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to allow charging higher electric prices for coal, nuclear and hydroelectric plants (perhaps because of the difficulty competing with the falling costs of wind and solar).


5) What are your hopes for the future?

I hope that the powers that be, corporate leaders and government officials will do the right thing. With regard to the environment, not to mention other things, America has taken a turn down the wrong road. Maybe it takes getting lost in order to truly find the right path.

Through social media outlets, I hope to inform those in charge of what is possible.



Thank you so much Carol for your inspiring words! Check out Carol's thoughtful and holistic blog on regional sustainable endeavors.

// Become a signal spotter like Carol. Submit your first here.

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