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Aaron Larson is the executive editor of POWER. POWER is a B2B media brand focused on the power generation industry. It covers all generation technologies, including nuclear, coal, natural gas, wind, solar, hydropower, geothermal, and more. POWER magazine was established in 1882—the same year Thomas Edison opened the first central power station in New York City. Today, POWER is the only power-industry brand that offers a printed publication, digital media options (https://www.powermag.com/), and in-person events. He makes content decisions, writes and edits articles, and speaks at events.
Can you tell us what types of stories, trends or issues are on your radar now?
The power industry is experiencing dramatic changes. For most of the past century, coal was the dominant fuel source powering the electric grid. That has changed. Over the past few years, environmental and climate change concerns have put pressure on the coal industry, leading to hundreds of plant closures. Furthermore, the oil and gas industry has implemented advanced hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling techniques, which have increased the availability of natural gas, resulting in steep price declines. Therefore, gas-fired generation has taken over as the leading source of power in recent years. Wind and solar energy are also growing dramatically, as costs for both have decreased. Pairing intermittent renewables with battery storage has allowed these systems to be deployed as dispatchable resources, which can be used to more-closely match demand requirements. I expect the trend toward more distributed energy resources to persist. I also expect new digital technology tools to continue to be developed and installed at power plants, thereby increasing efficiency, reliability, and resiliency. I’ll be tracking it all and reporting constantly on the evolving power landscape.
Describe the craziest or most fun story you have written.
I think one of the more interesting projects that I have written about recently was completed at a hog farm in North Carolina. The owner installed covers over the lagoons that contain the pig manure, which allows the anaerobically produced methane (biogas) to be captured and used as a power generation fuel. The solution eliminates about 85% of the swine farm odors; prevents rainwater from entering the basins, which reduces the liquid-waste burden; and precludes the methane, which is a far more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, from being released directly into the atmosphere. The microgrid includes a 180-kW biogas-fueled generator set, a 20-kW solar panel array, a 100-kW standby diesel generator, a 250-kW/735-kWh battery storage system, and control technology to make it all work. The innovative system won POWER’s 2019 Distributed Energy Award (see https://www.powermag.com/distributed-energy-award-goes-to-unique-hog-farm-microgrid/?printmode=1).
What story or stories are you most proud of?
Every year POWER recognizes a number of notable power facilities with a variety of awards. I always enjoy writing articles about the winners, which highlight each project’s special achievements. This year, I collaborated with Senior Associate Editor Sonal Patel and Associate Editor Darrell Proctor on the Plant of the Year story about an Egyptian Megaproject (https://www.powermag.com/interactive-content/2019-plant-year-egypt-megaproject/). I’m also proud of a couple of Top Plant stories I wrote: one about a Hawaiian solar-plus-battery-storage project (https://www.powermag.com/pv-peaker-plant-a-model-for-solar-plus-storage-projects) and the other about a dam stabilization project (https://www.powermag.com/successful-dam-stabilization-project-improves-safety-and-reliability). But I think I take the most pride in my “Speaking of Power” column, which is published at the front of the magazine each month. I always try to write about a topic I feel is important to the industry. A recent example is “The Clean Energy Conundrum” (see https://www.powermag.com/the-clean-energy-conundrum/?printmode=1).
What elements or characteristics do you look for in a story?
I am always interested in innovative solutions to common power plant problems. I like to write about lessons learned and best practices that readers can potentially use in their own facilities.
How long have you been in journalism and how did you get started?
My path to the media business is kind of unique. I began my career in the U.S. Navy nuclear power program. I spent 13 years in the Navy, working much of that time in the engine room of an aircraft carrier. After I left the Navy, I worked several years as a maintenance supervisor at the Quad Cities station—a two-unit commercial nuclear power plant. I followed that with a six-year stint as the operations and maintenance manager at a biomass power plant in Minnesota. I then worked at a coal plant for about a year. I wasn’t really looking for a new job. However, I was a regular subscriber to POWER magazine and one day, while I was reading the magazine, I noticed an ad for a technical editor. I decided to apply, and I got the job. I’ve been with POWER for more than six years now and still enjoy the challenge.
Finish this sentence: If I am not reporting, I am …
Doing home improvement projects.
What advice do you have for PR people that want to pitch you?
Send me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org). I’m always looking for new and interesting ideas. I usually try to respond in some way, so if you don’t hear back from me, try again. I don’t mind follow-up emails.
Any pet peeves with PR people?
Not really. I truly appreciate the help I receive from all my PR friends.
Tell us a little about yourself (family, interests, hobbies, background, etc.)
I’ve been married for 28 years, and we have two now-adult boys. I like to go walking, cycling, beaching, boating, and traveling. I’m a sports fan and follow all the Minnesota teams. I like to learn, listen to podcasts, watch documentaries, complete home repairs, and cook (sometimes). I’m also vegan and farmed 600-acres for 15 years in addition to my full-time jobs. I did give up the farming last year, however.