With a name like O’Rourke, it was relatively easy to conceal the truth that my mother was a full-blooded German American. Growing up in the 60’s, I sensed a very subtle stigma about being German, and the association with the crimes of Hitler and Nazi Germany. I don’t recall any holidays like St. Patrick’s Day to celebrate my German heritage. Yet when I first visited Germany in 2001, I found a country rich in heritage and pride.
These days I find myself marveling at what’s going on in Deutschland. As we celebrated the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin wall when so many families were reunited, it’s perhaps fitting that we celebrate this country’s leadership in world-class engineering. Of course, what particularly impresses me is their emphasis on renewable energy. Germany, which is somewhere between New Mexico and Montana in geographic size, led the world in installed wind power capacity until last year, when the US finally surpassed them. However, I find it incredible that Germany, which has the same solar resources as Alaska, had 5,337 megawatts of installed solar PV capacity. This can be compared to the total installed capacity in the US of about 8,775 MW*. Obviously, when you look at our endowment in geographic size and solar energy, we have a lot to do to demonstrate true leadership. Perhaps the fact that they have 700 year old homes with solar panels (while historic preservationists here prefer that we not denigrate our 100 year old buildings with such hideous modernization) has something to do with it.
With 60+ years between now and the atrocities of WWII, it seems we’ve begun to embrace each other more fully. For a touching story that will draw you nearer to this feeling, check out Greg Tamblyn’s beautiful reflection entitled One Day on the Fields of France.
* To put this in perspective, a one megawatt power plant can provide electricity to about 100 homes.