Sun Valley Institute

2016 has been a tremendous year for the Sun Valley Institute, a Center for Resilience. Our accomplishments would not have been possible without your support, your interest, your caring for our community. Thank you for your donations, attending our events (such as the Forum), putting solar panels on your rooftops, and/or helping us define quality of life for our area.  With your help, we have been able to accomplish much in 2016:

Resilient Energy

energy-ketchum-city-hallThe Resilient Energy program of the Institute focuses on building resilient energy in Blaine County to meet local needs as well as to serve as a model and resource to communities elsewhere.  In the face of rising security and environmental threats, other communities, cities and property owners around the world urgently seek to build resilient energy systems that meet their needs. Fortunately, energy innovations are accelerating and now it is possible to build resilient energy systems that meet security and environmental goals, while also being a powerful engine of economic growth: local resources like solar, water, wind, biomass and geothermal have the potential to generate quality jobs while reducing energy prices.  We can leverage these resources and community leadership to be a model.

The Institute’s first energy resilience initiative, Solarize Blaine, was launched in March of 2016 to accelerate adoption of solar, tapping into this powerful renewable resource in central Idaho (just 10% less than Texas!). The program wrapped up in August 2016 with over 230 participants and 36 new rooftop solar installations. The Energy Team conducted three community workshops from April to June and worked hard to get the word out on the benefits of going solar.  Of the 250+ Solarize programs around the country to date, ours had one of the highest participation rates.

The majority of the 36 signed contracts were residential, totaling 191 kW of solar capacity. On top of that we had a few commercial installations, adding 43 kW of solar capacity. Combined, we will bring online five times as much solar electricity in four months as what was added in all of 2015.

Under the Institute’s program, the average homeowner saved over $3,000 on their solar installation compared to what they would have paid independently.  We drove roughly $900,000 of new investment into our local economy.

In addition, this summer we announced Ford Motor Company’s gift of a leased all-electric Ford Focus; we happily get to demonstrate how fun and smart it is to go electric, save money, reduce environmental impacts, and help to build a more resilient energy system for the valley!

The Institute has accelerated a local movement for clean energy in the Wood River Valley.  We are excited to watch this market continue to grow in our community.  Solar will remain a compelling investment for our households and businesses and a powerful potential creator of quality, year-round jobs.  Solar is a big step toward a resilient energy system, with local generation from renewable sources, plus storage and a modernized grid, to robustly support our local economy. The Institute will continue to encourage and support more education and rooftop solar installations in our valley to help us be more energy resilient.

Resilient Food

Founded in 2013, the Local Food Alliance (LFA’s) mission is to create a robust local food system in the Wood River Valley. LFA collaborates with non-profits, schools, businesses, community food providers and farmers, offering a backbone of coordination and support toward common food-related health, economic and environmental goals.

lfa-logo-webLFA is now the food program of the Institute, positioned for even greater collaborative impact by integrating the five key areas of energy, food, water, environment and community.  The new partnership between the Institute and LFA will increase LFA’s reach and capacity to develop systemic solutions for the Wood River Valley.

LFA is building a robust local and regional system by facilitating a shift in school and organizational procurement policies, implementing edible education (gardening, food science, food preparation) programs so families and children can regain control of their health and well-being through more powerful food choices.

LFA works to expand our proven capacity to grow food locally, and to increase local and regional processing, distribution, waste recovery efforts, as well as wholesale and retail access points. This systemic approach offers enormous economic opportunity – jobs in all phases of food systems to create crucial resilience in our community, which currently relies on a tourist economy to the tune of 70%.

LFA organized an over-sold Wood River Valley HarvestFest in September 2016.  The HarvestFest is comprised of a Food Fair, Restaurant Walk and Street Party.  Leading up to the Restaurant Walk, HarvestFest offered a free Local Food Fair at the Wood River Sustainability Center in Hailey, where local organizations and entrepreneurs shared and demonstrated to residents what they are doing to create a resilient local food system. The Restaurant Walk that followed featured 14 Hailey restaurants whose chefs prepared “Harvest Tastes” with ingredients grown by Idaho farmers. This allowed restaurateurs, chefs and diners to experience local food as they never have before.  Topping off the evening was a festive Street Party where participants sampled local dessert, coffee and spirits as they enjoyed music from Kim Stocking!  The event provided education, nourishment, and celebration of valley’s inherent ability to feed itself.

Through the development of a more robust and sustainable local food system, we will not only strengthen our resilience through individual and economic health, but also more responsibly steward our local land and resources (energy, water) and their capacity to support us.

Resilient Land & Water


Land and water are vital assets to any community. Surrounded by five mountain ranges, Blaine County is fortunate to be endowed with land that includes a wide range of environments, from aspen forests to sagebrush hills to productive soils for agriculture, all traversed by the Big Wood and Little Wood river systems.

To protect and restore these assets to serve local resilience, the Institute has been working with landowners to evaluate the potential for local food, energy, and housing to generate more income than is currently being produced while benefiting the environment and the broader economy.  This fall the Institute’s Director of Investments, Werner Morawitz, provided a detailed business plan for one landowner to optimize resilience with food and energy production as well as potentially housing.  Along with conservation and water benefits, the property’s financial return can serve as a model for others.

A resilient land-use approach has the potential to create more and higher quality jobs, benefit water quantity and quality, increase energy and food resilience, and address the county’s low and moderate income housing shortage.  Our land is a powerful asset to our community, and how we use our land can contribute to or undermine our resilience.

The beautiful Big Wood River flows through the middle of the county and serves as a major asset for its clean water, high quality fisheries, and agricultural and recreational uses. The Institute is developing innovative investment models that can mobilize new resources to add to ongoing efforts to restore and protect our water resources, which generate so much value – aesthetic, economic, and recreational, for our community.

In addition, the Sun Valley Elkhorn Association requested the Institute’s support in applying for grant funding from the Idaho Water Resources Board for a pilot project to conserve precious ground water from our depleted aquifer through the implementation of “smart” landscape irrigation systems.   The Institute also supported the Galena Ground Water District in application of a federal grant from the Bureau of Reclamation to install smart water systems throughout the Wood River Valley targeting residential homeowners and condominium/townhome associations.

Research, Education, and Outreach

To support our impact at home and particularly far beyond, the Institute is capturing local case studies to share, conducting research, hosting events and speakers, and producing publications.

forum-oren-hesterman-fair-food-networkThe most important of our research, education and outreach programs is the annual Sun Valley Forum on Resilience, bringing together both local and global resilience leaders to inspire, inform and take action.  Speakers share resilience strategies and showcase innovative public-private partnerships, business models and investment opportunities.  The Forum featured the successes and the challenges for all of us to learn about and share in building local and global approaches to accelerate the transformation to resilience.

Our second annual Forum, held last July, focused primarily on two critical levers for impacting resilience: investment and public engagement, featuring over 30 local and global resilience leaders to inspire us, inform us, and encourage us take action. Below is a partial listing of those speakers:

  • Rob Bernard, chief environmental strategist at Microsoft;
  • Paul Hawken, author and Executive Director of Project Drawdown, a broad coalition of experts researching the most effective solutions to climate change;
  • Oran Hesterman of the Fair Food Network, a national leader in sustainable agriculture and food systems;
  • Jim Lyons, Deputy Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Department of Interior on resilient federal land-use policy.

On investment, Forum speakers included:

  • Dana Lanza, CEO of Confluence Philanthropy and former Executive Director of the Environmental Grantmakers Association;
  • Nancy Pfund, Managing Partner of DBL Partners, a leading venture capital firm whose goal is to combine top-tier financial returns with meaningful social and environmental returns;
  • Raúl Pomares of Sonen Capital; and
  • Peter Knight of Generation Investment Management.

On public engagement, Forum speakers included:

  • Leilani Münter, race car driver and environmental advocate;
  • Bob Perkowitz, President of ecoAmerica, one of the foremost leaders in market and opinion research on climate action and climate change;
  • Mina Guli, record-setting ultradistance athlete and water advocate, and
  • Collin O’Mara, CEO, National Wildlife Federation

For a complete listing of speakers and bios and to learn more about the 2016 Forum, please go to

The 2015 Forum was keynoted by U.S. Senator Cory A. Booker and also featured local and global speakers including from the Rockefeller Foundation, INL, NRG, and Solar City. Watch the 2015 Forum Videos.