So what will a more energy-efficient future look like? All month I’ve been highlighting the ideas, insights, and prognostications of the presenters who participated in this year’s Santa Barbara Summit on Energy Efficiency. You heard from leaders in the field of super computing and renewable energy, along with the planning and preparation currently being overseen by a cavalcade of government agencies, lead by the NREL and US DOE. As the last day of the summit drew to a close, three presenters attempted to sum up exactly what we’ve seen and heard over the last two days.
Julie Christodoulou, Director Naval Materials Division for Office of Naval Research began by giving the audience a peak into the energy efficiency efforts current supported by the Office of Naval Research. The Navy’s commitment to energy efficiency research is rooted in a 1916 Appropriations Act, which established the Naval Research Laboratory, to allow for the creation of a lab able to “[Conduct] exploratory and research work … necessary … for the benefit of Government service, including the construction, equipment, and operation of a laboratory”—at the encouragement of Edison, who said the government needed its own lab.
According to Christodoulou, the Department of the Navy’s (DON’s) energy efficiency goals include:
* Energy Efficiency Acquisition: Evaluation of energy factors will be mandatory when awarding contracts for systems and buildings.
* Sail the “Great green Fleet”: DON will demonstrate a Green Strike Group in local operations by 2012 and sail it by 2016.
* Reduce non-tactical petroleum use: By 2015, DON will reduce petroleum use in the commercial fleet by 50%.
* Increase Alternative energy ashore: By 2020, DON will produce at least 50% of shore-based energy requirements from alternative energy sources.
* Increase alternative energy use DON-Wide: By 2020, 50% of total DON energy consumption will come from alternative energy sources.
Of particular concern to the Navy is fuel transportation, which can be a risky endeavor. One way to reduce this danger is to use fewer convoys, which then places a greater burden on onsite power systems aboard Navy ships. Some of this onsite power includes solid oxide fuel cells (for tactical vehicle APU) and towable generators. The Navy is also committed to efficient, low-emission, and low-signature power generation. Towards that end, the Navy is exploring the benefits of renewable energy systems, including “man portable power generation” in the form of backpack solar panels that are both portable and cheap enough to abandon should the need arise. The Department of Navy works closes with the DOE, especially in the areas of R&D, workforce deployment, and the testing and evaluation of cutting-edge technologies
James Dehlsen, principal of Ecomerit Technologies LLC, delivered one of the most commented-upon presentations of the summit. Entitled, “The Role of a Commercial Development Laboratory for Sustainability Technologies Commercialization of Energy Efficient Technology,” Dehlsen spoke eloquently of the need for support—both financially and politically—of clean technologies and renewable energy. Dehlsen pointed to events surrounding the 1970 oil embargo and how rising gas prices and widespread uncertainty about our energy future stimulated US government support for wind, solar, geothermal, and biomass. But that heyday was short lived, brought abruptly to an end about two decades ago when the focus changed to reducing the price—rather than the use—of fossil fuels, and then president Ronald Reagan removed the solar panels installed on the White House roof by the prior administration. The result of this switch, said Dehlsen, was that for the next two decades, on again, off again US policy deterred financial markets and industrial companies from investing in renewable energy technologies.
Dehlsen believes the country experienced a rebound around the time of the new millennium, when strong European government support allowed clean energy technologies to flourish in the EU. Meanwhile in the US, Dehlsen says he has witnessed a transformation over the last decade as the populace began to demand green products, and institutional shareholders began requiring corporate social responsibility. And now, US industrial companies are finally awakening to the global opportunities presented by this new push for sustainability.
According to Dehlsen, contributing to this urgency of sustainability technologies, are the following factors:
* “The next generation machine” in the form of offshore wind
* The sustainable yield of resources now exuded by 505
* Water tables falling, glaciers retreating, and strained agriculture output
* The fact that the US now imports two-thirds of its petroleum oil in peaking range
* The effects of climate change, which are intensifying
* The world population now hitting 7 billion people, with 200,000 more humans added every day
* The number of failing national states increased from seven in 2007, to 15 in 2010
* Expediting innovation from the lab to the market (Ecomerit)
* Format: a private development lab for sustainability technologies
* Process: create IP, vet techno/economic viability, product design/engineering, prototype development testing, certification, commercialization plan
* Present area of interest: marine hydrokinetic energy, bulk energy storage, water systems, green building systems, and CHP
* Timeline: 405 years to product certification, operational start-up, and commercialization
Some key Elements in the market are positive, said Dehlsen, including:
* Entrepreneurial interest in sustainability
* Multinational industrials teaming with venture capital
* Technology development infrastructure
* European and Asian governments providing strong support of industrial participation
But we should anticipate a smooth transition, warned Dehlsen.
“Until we get a consistent policy in place, it’s going to be a struggle for commercialization of American technologies,” he said, “and creating a market to deploy these technologies is a challenge.”
Dehlsen believes that it’s more than just manufacturing, it’s, “the ability to create your own projects” that is key, but that “I don’t think our ability to implement renewable will be where it should be.”