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Advanced Energy group gathers with clean tech entrepreneurs

Marc Lefkowitz  |  09/20/10 @ 12:00pm  |  Posted in Clean energy

The Advanced Energy Generation 2019 group gathered with 100 business leaders at the Ohio Aerospace Institute for a brainstorming session on what the region needs to improve the climate for new clean energy tech businesses. Break out sessions focused on "smart grid" and energy storage technologies, wind, solar and energy efficiency/biomass.

I sat in on the smart grid session led by Dave Karpinski of NorTech, an economic development organization. NorTech formed its Energy Enterprise as "a hub of activity," Karpinski said, "we try to inventory what's happening in the region and set a game plan."

The session was attended by academics and energy company entrepreneurs mostly in early stage of development (i.e. they have a good idea, but need seed funding or intellectual capital or both). The conversation heated up around two topics:

  • Do people really want a smart grid?
  • How do we position Northeast Ohio to gain an advantage in smart grid / energy storage?

"FirstEnergy will tell us that no one wants a smart grid," one participant remarked.

But real-time information on energy use drives conservation which leads to more money in your pocket, replied a FirstEnergy engineer present, and saving money is more effective that me telling you to conserve.

"What this region should focus on is energy storage and leveraging the knowledge we have in fuel cells (as storage) at Case, NASA and in this group."

Current roadblocks to building energy storage or distributed generation:

  • We still need a backbone of energy supply because of the intermittency of renewables
  • There's no 'price signal', i.e. "How much do the electric utilities have to pay to buy back your electricity before storage tech becomes viable?"
  • Regulations get in the way instead of easing the creation of markets.

Other comments:

"In 2003, the (Cleveland area) black-out drove regulatory change..."

"We need a coalition of users to do an experiment with smart grid tech–real-time data and time-of-day pricing."

"AEP is doing just that."

"Where would be a good site here?"

"How about NASA?"

"There is a plan to convert NASA's West Campus to a microgrid, a (smart grid) in a controlled setting. But, that's a long time frame."

The wrap up from the sessions led to the following action items:

  • Roadmap / Templates:NASA Sustainability manager and 2019 AEG co-leader Linda Sekura will contact experts at NASA, at Energy Institutes, and other session attendees, in order to develop a template for a smart grid and "new grid" that will give subsequent sessions a structure and a shared vision to work toward.

    This template will detail all of the energy/fuel technologies that are feasible in our region, including technology components, plus any new and novel ideas that came out of the sessions. (For example, Dave Nestic from NorTech listed 14 diverse forms of biomass energy expertise in their breakout room. Several other forms were not represented: Our region has numerous small businesses focused on niche technologies such as microinverters and photochemical energy storage.)

    The template will also be populated with each organization's name and capabilities/expertise to fill those technology niches (along with NASA/Energy Institutes and Corporate Sustainability Network resources to support). We can show connections and networks, and possibly industrial ecology opportunities, where one organization's waste is another's fuel or raw material. Nortech's work and database (of over 500 organizations) will be valuable in this pursuit. Information from ongoing sessions can grow the template and develop a detailed roadmap. - Next sessions: Will be announced after the Summit. The Summit will also bring two days of added information, members, and ideas.

  • City of Cleveland – Vacant Lands-Alternative Energy: Most pertinent here are the ReImagine a Greater Cleveland Pilot Projects that were the result of many meetings among stakeholders. The Pilot Projects themselves are being supported by our AEG group, but also the two Pilot locations were the result of an intersection of solar and wind maps, along with vacant lands located in "opportunity areas" where the City wants to focus – the Springhill Landfill and South Marginal Road and East 55th.

    Cleveland City Planning has at least a dozen maps, showing more "opportunity areas" outlined for Greenspace, Urban Agriculture, Stormwater, and other initiatives – along with maps for ideal solar, ideal wind, and vacant land locations.

    These should prove useful as we plan for a new energy infrastructure. We can gain support from other SC2019 breakout groups and initiatives (focused on the preceding topics), and potentially pursue collaborative projects and funding that will benefit many stakeholders, increasing our potential for success.

  • Also note the existing large-scale projects that could benefit from alternative energy installations include the Flats East Bank, Innerbelt Bridge, Midtown TechPark, and near the proposed Opportunity Corridor. Also discussions with utility companies, zoning regulations, financial incentives, and the intended "Green Energy 101" website that is a one-stop shop for information on permits, incentives and technical assistance on alternative energy installations.

SC2019 Summit 2010 – Sept. 22-24

  • If you are going and you were involved in the Advanced Energy Generation group in 2009, email Linda who will put together a list and email to everyone else who responds.
  • Energy Expo – Sep 24: Open to the public. The AEG will have a dedicated table. Putting together posters (and handouts) that show current projects in the area – including a proposed 400MW waste-to-power project and the Lake Erie Wind Farm / LEEDCo along with a sign-up sheet and ways for the public or other energy-related businesses to get involved.
  • Film at intro: Representatives from all breakout groups were filmed, and that production will be used as an introduction to the Summit to give a status of our projects, and aid new attendees in orientation.
  • Summit "Action and Resources Guide has been released to those attending. It's a toolkit for groups, a listing of the sustainability focus year-by year (renewable power is the community focus of 2013.

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