It’s been a way long time since I posted a Weekly REDEW – our “Random Economic Development Email of the Week” feature. So, to celebrate its long anticipated return, here’s a double shot: two random emails that I received today, both about events that discuss our use of energy and/or dealing with the consequences thereof. First, there’s “JOIN US – Fundamentals of Carbon Capture and Storage – June 14th in Richland, WA!” Second in number but not in importance is “OriginOil To Discuss Commercial Successes at National Algae Association Conference.”
Is it significant that I’m receiving all of these emails about energy events, or purely coincidence? What are the implications for Washington’s clean energy economic development? And what stream of consciousness ramblings will it inspire? It’s all here in the Weekly REDEW!
Let’s start with the carbon sequestration thing, because it’s something I started noticing way back in the Recovery Act days. In fact, it inspired one of my favorite post titles “Here Comes Carbon Capture (and Mole People?)“. After discounting the possibility that carbon capture will cause earthquakes or battles with mole people from the center of the earth, I pointed out that – surprisingly for a region that doesn’t rely on coal for its electricity – Washington is a growing leader in carbon capture and storage. In fact, EOS Alliance – which got one of those ARRA grants I was referring to – is the driving force of this effort, along with Pacific Northwest National Lab (is there anything they don’t do!?!) and the Washington Society of Professional Engineers; apparently, all three have come together to form the Carbon Tech Alliance (nice tagline: “Your source for best practices in CCS science and technology”).
Let’s come back to this in a moment. First, let’s talk about why I’m getting emails about the “Algae Growing, Harvesting, Extraction Technologies and Networking Conference” from the National Algae Association, which is apparently based in “The Woodlands, Texas.” Leave it to Texas to have a place with it’s own article, like The Batman and The Calculus (my favorite examples of words that are required to have “the” in front of them, which few people know). Speaking of nice taglines, by the way, the NAA’s is “Home of the Algaepreneur.” Awesome.
But anyway, my first theory of why I’m on this email list was that Climate Solutions/WSU/Boeing/Port of Seattle added me (and many others) because of the work that their coalition is doing as part of the Sustainable Aviation Fuels Northwest. The feedstocks that they’re investigating include algae (as well as camelina, forest residuals, waste materials, sugar and others). Or maybe it’s the exciting work going on at the University of Washington on algae research and commercialization. Or maybe it’s the combination, if you get my point, which is that there’s a lot of algae biofuels stuff going on around here.
So, what have we learned today, children? “Lots of activity going on in the clean energy space here in Washington” is not news. But what’s important is that we balance our focus with our diversity. That is, I’ve talked a lot about how great it is that the Clean Energy Leadership Council‘s report focuses our state on three main areas of potential clean energy competitiveness – energy efficiency, biofuels (like the algae stuff above) and smart grid/transmission of intermittent renewables. I honestly believe that, with limited resources, we can’t be competitive in the global economy in all things clean energy. So, we pick some likely winners and we put all of our resources towards those.
But, of course, there’s going to be plenty of other stuff happening. We’ve got interesting solar assets, between companies like REC Silicon producing the world’s second most silicon for photovoltaics and projects like Teanaway Solar Reserve. We use a ton of wind energy here in the state. And Snohomish County PUD is doing great geothermal and tidal energy projects. And now this whole thing on carbon capture that’s popping up. How do we be encouraging to this broad swath of activity while also saying, “Good luck, but all our investment is going elsewhere!” It’s a delicate balance. And an important one.
In the meantime, I’ve got to learn to hit that “unsubscribe” button more often…