NORWICH, England - Two years ago, Dam-ian Baker's company employed 15 people, up from its humble beg-innings with four staffers.
Today, the England-based business, Ren Energy, employs more than 55 workers, and Baker expects to at least double that number by January. His growth in business has been the byproduct of an expanding mentality of environmentalism.
But "going green" in the United Kingdom isn't a vision born of grassroots citizens like in Southern Illinois; it's a mandate from the European Union. England has signed on to an EU initiative calling for high levels of the continent's energy output to be created from renewable sources within the next few years.
Baker, whose company specializes in selling and installing a number of energy-efficient home improvements such as groundwater heating pumps and solar panels, estimates similar American companies to be about three or four years behind those in Europe.
He's looking toward a goal of 10 million British pounds - roughly $15 million - in revenue this year. Each year, he's seeing more and more people coming on board with adding major energy-saving elements to their homes.
"It's not going to be a revolution; it's going to be an evolution," he said. "The global market is always changing."
Gone with the wind
To capitalize on energy opportunities, parts of England are finding possible solutions for the future by looking to the past.
Europe, particularly imagery of the area now known as The Netherlands, has long been recognized for its windmills. While the days of the iconic Dutch boys and girls have disappeared, the blowing winds continue to represent opportunities for capturing energy.
The Scroby Sands offshore wind farm was the third offshore facility built in the UK. Constructed in 2004, the 30 turbines on the site provide 60 percent of domestic energy demand for the city of Norwich, population about 140,000, and is only operating at 25.8 percent of its maximum capacity because of ongoing problems with mechanics and access to the site.
Several other offshore sites are in the planning stages, with a Norwegian company working toward a large-scale facility estimated at generating not only energy but an additional 10,000 jobs in the Norfolk County region.
A visit to the more inland Blood Hill allows people to see the other side of wind energy. Built in 1992, these windmills are among the oldest in the UK and don't produce nearly as much energy as their offshore companions, operating at about an 18-percent efficiency.
Those wanting to see a bit of the old ways can still visit sites like Horsey Mill, an old wind pump used, like many others, to drain the low-lying areas of water. Unfortunately, studies have shown this type of mill, even one in the best condition like Horsey, much renovation and upgrading would be needed to use this for electricity generation.
Another area where England appears to be well ahead of the United States is in the realm of recycling.
The best example of the prominence of this environmental act comes from Cambridge, located more inland than Norfolk County.
In the county of Cambridgeshire, 53 percent of waste goes to a recycling facility managed by AmeyCespa, the leading recycling company. Of the remaining 47 percent, called "black bin rubbish," about 20 percent is recovered by a sorting device at the recycling plant.
Counties in England are motivated to implement recycling programs through a tax imposed on the local governments based on poundage of waste taken to landfills.
An alternative to recycling comes in the form of having a waste incinerator, which would burn waste rather than putting it into the ground. Some counties have adopted the technologies, while others are continuing the process.
The city of King's Lynn in Norfolk County currently has a proposal to build an incinerator, but members of the public have mixed feelings on the issue.
That balance prevails as a theme throughout all energy discussion. Whether talking about the effects of maintaining nuclear power stations, establishing wind farms or building an incinerator, everything boils down to cost versus benefit.
"That's one of the big problems that's coming," said Keith Tovey, a well-known energy authority based out of the University of East Anglia in Norwich.