LightWorks Blog

ASU and the AZ Science Center Spotlight the Future of Energy

published February 26, 2013, 11:59 am

On January 24, 2013, ASU students, faculty, researchers, and members from across the Phoenix metropolitan area attended a public event titled “The Future of Energy: Brown, Clean, or In Between?”. The event included booth displays by the Arizona Energy Consortium and the university community, a compelling panel discussion, and a dinner reception. The event was hosted by the partnership of Arizona State University and the Arizona Science Center.

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From left to right: ASU President Michael Crow, Moderator Eve Troeh, Mark Jacobson, Peter Byck, and John Hofmeister. Photo taken by Gabrielle Olson, ASU LightWorks.

After welcoming remarks from Chevy Humphrey, President and CEO of the Arizona Science Center, ASU President Michael Crow introduced the panel discussion by providing important insight about the future of energy:

“If you plan to be here for the indefinite future, we must find a way to produce a different kind of person, a different set of ideas, and a different set of ‘stuff’ to think about our energy future in a different way.”

In order to produce the successful solutions we wish to see, we must toss political positions aside and come together to generate ideas that will benefit future generations. Deciding the route for our future energy policy is not easy--Should we go full scale renewable energy? Stick to fossil fuels? Invest in a mixture of both? Regardless of how one wishes to answer those questions, it is time for the critical discussions to be made. This was the goal and purpose of the Future of Energy panel discussion, hosting the opinions of three very different panelists.

The Panelists:

Mark Jacobson
Director, Atmosphere/Energy Program, Stanford University

Mark Jacobson believes that the first step for our transition is to start today. The energy future he envisions is a full conversion to clean energy by the year 2050. He breaks down the divisions noting the transition should ultimately be 50% wind and 50% solar. When asked if natural gas, an in-between option, would be an acceptable energy plan, Jacobson said, “Natural gas still puts out CO2. Why would we start there?” In terms of the future of energy, Mark Jacobson believes in an energy system that will reduce our carbon footprint.

Peter Byck
Director and Producer, Carbon Nation

Peter Byck believes that the future of energy will need to initiate a coming together of communities. Byck said, “I want to go to a low carbon community as quickly as possible”. Byck noted that corporations and communities have a more similar role in succeeding in that goal than most people might think. Byck’s view is that we are not polarized as a country in terms of the energy issue and that if we are able to see past that then we are able to really get some great things done in implementing clean energy.  

John Hofmeister
 Founder, Citizens for Affordable Energy. Former President, Shell Oil Co.

John Hofmeister looks at energy as an operator. Unlike Peter Byck and Mark Jacobson, Hofmeister sees the shortcomings of renewable energy. He noted that there are two shortcomings, “a fundamental lack of information and a lack of someone in charge”. Hofmeister believes that transitioning into full use of renewable energy would be more difficult to pull off right away without regulation or natural gas. Hofmeister said, “We need time and time is the solution for many of these problems”. Although Hofmeister believes there are shortcomings to renewable energy, he does believe that we should be talking about it.

Here is the full video coverage brought to you by ASU Global Institute of Sustainability:

Future of Energy: Brown, Clean, or In Between? from Sustainability @ ASU on Vimeo.

Although all the panelists had different views about how to define our future of energy, the general consensus was that Arizona, as well as the rest of the nation, must make a conscious effort to incorporate renewable energy initiatives into the discussion. Whether it is for energy security, a cleaner and more sustainable world, or for coming together as a community, the research and development of renewable energy technology will need to be seen as an option for our future of energy.

Written by Gabrielle Olson, ASU LightWorks

Additional Information:

https://asunews.asu.edu/20120116_energyfuture
http://sustainability.asu.edu/events/rsvp/future-of-energy
http://www.flickr.com/photos/asulightworks/sets/72157632643379096/

Spotlight on ASU Research at ARPA-E Energy Innovation Summit

published February 5, 2013, 1:13 pm

The Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy (ARPA-E) is hosting its fourth annual Energy Innovation Summit in Washington D.C. on February 25-27, 2013. The event is designed to collect esteemed individuals involved in the energy community- researchers, entrepreneurs, investors, corporate executives, and government officials- to engage in sharing ideas to develop and deploy next generation energy technologies. The summit is a unique opportunity to discuss innovative energy solutions that will fit the world’s future needs.

“This unique forum will help facilitate the partnerships necessary to bring game-changing technologies to market quickly, which is critical to securing America’s global technology leadership and creating new jobs.”Steven Chu, Secretary of Energy.

The summit is separated into three days which will consist of technology discussions with ARPA-E program directors, multiple panel sessions, and networking programs. Check out the full agenda here. Each year, the summit also hosts the Technology Showcase which features cutting-edge technology developments. The showcase enables participants to converge with research organizations and companies that are positioned to transform our energy future.

Arizona State University is one of the proud research organizations participating in the Technology Showcase at the 2013 ARPA-E Innovation summit. This year ASU will be showcasing LightWorks, which will be representing all supported initiatives, as well as projects specifically focusing on cyanobacteria, carbon capture, and Fluidic Energy, an ASU spin-out company working in battery storage. Preparation for this event was supported by ASU's Office of Knowledge Enterprise Development.

Booths in the Technology Showcase:

Carbon Capture:

Carbon capture is an energy efficient and cost effective process that captures carbon dioxide from prominent emission sources, such as a coal-burning power plant. ASU is advancing the method of carbon dioxide capture by using electrochemical reactions used to capture and release carbon dioxide. This process has the possibility of reducing energy and cost requirements significantly as well as enabling a solution to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. This research was recently awarded a grant from the U.S. Department of Energy.

Cyanobacteria:

Through revolutionary technology, cyanobacteria are used as photosynthetic biocatalysts to convert solar energy and carbon dioxide into feedstock for biofuels. This process enables cyanobacteria to secrete fatty acids which produce a larger biomass. The biofuel produced then can be used as jet fuel, gasoline, green diesel fuel, and even bioplastics. Four years ago, ASU was awarded a $5.2 million dollar grant from the DOE to develop this research for two years


ARPA-E Grant Recipient - Cyanobacteria for Solar-Powered Biofuels from ASU Research on Vimeo.

Booths in the Partner Pavilion:

Battery Storage:

Fluidic Energy, an Arizona State University spin-out company, will be showcasing their innovative technology focusing on battery storage. The company aims to develop high energy density batteries with ultra-long run times at a lower energy cost. Fluidic Energy targets on advancing the most effective, safe, and sustainable battery technology.

High-energy batteries address the issue of battery energy and energy storage needed for low-cost and long-range power for hybrid and electric vehicles. This research aims to develop an electric vehicle battery which would allow a distance range better or comparable to a gas-powered vehicle. Through the development of energy storage technologies, the hope is to reduce the need for imported oil to power our vehicles. Battery storage technology won a $5.1 million grant from the DOE to continue development of this research over a two year period in 2009.

LightWorks:

The LightWorks initiative of Arizona State University will be showcasing a variety of energy-related technologies focusing in the area of renewable energy and liquid transportation fuels. LightWorks’ multidisciplinary effort aims to leverage ASU’s unique strengths, particularly in development of artificial photosynthesis, biofuels, and next generation photovoltaic. Recently, ASU won a $15 million grant from the DOE to lead the first-ever national algae testbed. The testbed, Algae Testbed Public-Private Partnership (ATP3), is led by LightWorks’ director Gary Dirks.


AZ = Algae (AzCATI) from ASU Research on Vimeo.

Through our leading-edge research, Arizona State University has many things to discuss at the Technology Showcase at the ARPA-E Innovation summit this year. The summit is a great opportunity for ASU to connect and engage in developing next generation energy technologies with researchers from all around the United States. If you would like to learn more about the summit visit http://www.arpae-summit.com/ for more details.

Written by Gabrielle Olson, ASU LightWorks

Understanding, Engaging, and Creating an Energy Narrative

published December 20, 2012, 10:37 am

Throughout the month of November, a number of ASU groups joined forces to talk about narrative and its place in the energy discussion. Among these groups were ASU LightWorks, Project Humanities, Institute for Humanities Research (IHR) and Energy, Ethics, Society, and Policy (EESP). LightWorks Director, Gary Dirks, has long expressed a need for the development of an energy narrative, but part of that comes with first understanding what a narrative is, how it operates, and what it looks like.

EESP group discusses energy and narrative. Photo by: Sydney Lines, ASU LightWorks.

Discussions began with an exploration of narrative purpose. Narratives are complex webs of multiplicities that are based on filters of one’s own perspective, cultural-historical situation, gender, education, and general experience in and with the world. But narratives also connect us as human beings because many stories are culturally cross-cutting, at times even transcending limitations of space and time. This is, for instance, why Shakespeare continues to be read, studied, performed, and adapted. It should also be noted that what makes an effective narrative has little to do with validity of the content, because the truth is present in the experience. A great example of this can be seen by examining propaganda.

Photo credit: Wikipedia

The anti-Japanese WWII propaganda poster above reveals a national narrative about patriotic duty and uses racial stereotypes (both physically and linguistically) to reinforce culturally perceived oppositions of the time, but this doesn’t make it true. What matters here is that regardless of fact, it prompts people to care in some way, whether positively or negatively, about what’s being said. (It is also interesting to note the company logo in the lower right hand side of the poster, which speaks volumes to the way energy is and has been intertwined with politics, society, and culture.)

Gary Dirks gave Greenpeace’s “I Vote 4 Energy” parody video as an example in the energy space because it “deconstructs the underlying narrative of the [original] advertising campaign.”

I Vote 4 Energy Video

 

The parody only works when we understand the underlying narrative put forth by the American Petroleum Institute. Part of what these collaborative talks are aiming to do is get people to understand narrative so that we can begin to construct our own. Even here when I use the terms “we” and “our” I construct narrative because the language intimates a group for which this narrative should matter.

Neal Lester, Director of Project Humanities, said “The way a story is organized is a narrative in its own.” Ultimately, people can look at the same set of facts or data and draw different conclusions, thereby producing different narratives from the same source material. “Narratives can offer possibilities,” Lester said. “But not necessarily change the world.” People have to care about a particular narrative in order to make it meaningful.

Dan Gilfillan, Director of IHR, suggested that good narratives are ones that are believable. He looked at Aristotle’s philosophies on mimesis and stated, “We can think of the World Wide Web as sort of blowing open the box on notions of representation, but it’s still the same thing as the way early television or early radio worked. When we call the web ‘new media’ it’s really not all that new.” Gilfillan argued that placing ourselves in these mimetic representations helps us to orient ourselves and our experiences in the world. We order the world through our stories and experiences; they just take different shapes with new technologies.

Ultimately, as many speakers noted, narratives are heavily intertwined with language, culture, community, and identity, which all come with their own set of nuances.

Clark Miller, Director of the EESP program, said that we have created an unsustainable way of living and that we need a narrative that speaks to this. Miller notes that we need to find ways to say things like, “You can’t drive a hummer anymore,” the underlying point being that it is socially irresponsible. We have to find ways to build new narratives in order to make fundamental changes.

A common confusion that presented itself at the talks was the notion that narrative is somehow synonymous with facts and/or truths. Content can be true or false, but narrative is simply the tool used in content delivery. Narrative is a piece of literary architecture—the same way a book is simply the material holding cell for a variety of content. Stories are constructed. Whether or not they are true is what readers, listeners, and viewers must be able to determine for themselves from experiencing the narrative.

One participant argued that “Clean Coal” is an oxymoron and simply not true, so this somehow makes the narrative not credible and not worthy of acknowledgment. This is where it becomes imperative to understand the way narrative works. It doesn’t matter if “Clean Coal” is factually untrue. If the group constructing the “Clean Coal” narrative convinces enough people to care about their story, their narrative survives in the cultural space. The opposition must create a counter narrative that convinces more people than “Clean Coal.”

There are a plethora of narratives in the energy space. “Clean Coal” and “Energy Independence” are just two that come to mind. Each of these narratives speak to specific values and ideas that have been appropriated into their respective stories. However, these narratives can change. They change when other groups join the discussion and contribute to the narrative, when the socio-cultural environment shifts, and when the majority demands it.

Intel Futurist Brian David Johnson and Gary Dirks discuss energy narratives and how to begin thinking about the future and the implications of our energy choices.

LightWorks also supports a new Social Sciences Initiative at ASU that seeks to bring together the Humanities and Social Sciences in the Energy System Change. Learn more about this exciting new initiative here.

Written by Sydney Lines, ASU LightWorks

Additional information:

https://asunews.asu.edu/20121114_energynarrative

http://us.tomorrow-projects.com/2012/12/conversation-with-gary-dirks-of-lightworks-light-inspired-research-in-renewable-energy/

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/01/05/i-vote-4-energy-video-spoof-api_n_1186400.html

Transitioning into a Sustainable Energy Future: A Lecture by Distinguished Scholar, Dr. Arun Majumdar

published December 19, 2012, 10:55 am

On October 19 Dr. Arun Majumdar presented a lecture titled “A New Industrial Revolution for a Sustainable Energy Future” as part of the Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering Distinguished Scholar Lecture series. Many students, staff, professors, and researches in the field gathered to listen to Dr. Majumdar’s lecture. The lecture focused on how the United States’ Industrial Revolution had historically impacted energy technologies and how the theory of transitioning to efficient solutions can be applicable to how we will use and shape our current energy resources. Through his research, Dr. Majumdar has led a phenomenal career in paving a path to the future of sustainable energy technologies.

2010 Southwest Energy Innovation Conference
Photo of Dr. Arun Majumdar speaking at the 2010 South West Energy Innovation Conference. Photo by Tom Story, ASU News.

The Industrial Revolution was a period when improvements in agriculture, manufacturing, mining, transportation, and technology sparked an era of social, economic, and cultural growth. The transformation of lifestyle made during the Industrial Revolution is arguably the most important human transition since the domestication of plants and animals.  Dr. Majumdar noted the Industrial Revolution in his lecture as being “From horse power to horsepower”. The main mode of transportation in the 1800s was the use of horses and carriage. Due to innovation and support for transportation production, the transition from the horse to the automobile took place between the 1890s to the 1920s. In the span of only 30 years, the use of technology and innovation had influenced a change that has affected the way we see transportation forever. People transitioned to a better solution that provided a more efficient approach to production. Dr. Majumdar asked the audience:

“What are the better, cheaper, faster solutions that we have today?”

Although traditional energy resources like petroleum and coal were important to innovation during the Industrial Revolution, times have changed, and the shift from nonrenewable resources to renewable resources is taking place. Dr. Majumdar explained that the transition from the horse to the vehicle is much like the transition that needs to be made from nonrenewable resources to renewable resources. The energy system that the United States’ has supported for more than 200 years is creating an economic dilemma as well as presenting an even more apparent environmental impact on our earth. The need for better, cheaper, and faster renewable energy options is greater than it has ever been.

Some of the goals that Dr. Majumdar discussed to forecast the future of sustainable energy are achieved through higher efficiency rates. In regards to solar energy, Dr. Majumdar highlighted the Department of Energy’s SunShot Initiative. The SunShot Initiative’s plan is to reduce solar energy to a dollar per watt by 2020, which would ultimately make solar energy a cheaper alternative to traditional gas. Also noted was the Department of Energy’s goal on developing a more efficient and lighter engine for vehicles which consumes less fuel but still can go from 0 to 60mph in under five seconds. Dr. Majumdar explained that the transition to sustainable energy innovation and policy will improve the rate in which we utilize our transportation future.

Research and development for breakthrough clean technologies can enable new learning curves. In short, a learning curve is the rate at which productivity and efficiency affects an economy’s learning process. The learning curve is represented in a graphical representation that breaks down the overall changing rate of learning retention from the average individual. Through the innovation of energy researchers and the funding of projects dedicated to clean energy alternatives, the learning curve of Americans can increase to a broader approval of a sustainable energy future. “It is always hard to predict the future,” said Majumdar. “But the hope is to have multiple options”. 

This lecture gives us the opportunity to discuss the pressing issue of transitioning from nonrenewable resources to renewable energy resources. The transition into the New Industrial Revolution will define the ways in which we utilize research and development to work toward benefiting our future economic, social, and cultural growth. Dr. Majumdar closed in saying,

“The capacity for the United States to innovate is absolutely spectacular. What we need is increased funding for sustainable policy and clean energy standards... If we don’t change the direction soon, we will end up where we are inevitably heading!”

Written by Gabrielle Olsen, ASU LightWorks

Additional Information:
http://engineering.asu.edu/semte/seminars/mae/Majumdar%20Seminar%20Flyer01.pdf

http://energy.gov/articles/top-9-things-you-didn-t-know-about-alternative-fuel-vehicles

LightWorks Inaugural Lecture Series: Assessing the Electric Vehicle and the Direction toward Transportation Sustainability

published December 11, 2012, 9:32 am

On Monday, November 19, 2012, LightWorks kicked off its Inaugural Lecture Series with Ford Motor Company’s Executive Technical Leader of Energy Systems and Sustainability, Dr. Michael A. Tamor. The event operated as a three-pronged unit with a seminar, workshop, and lecture spanning over the course of the day.

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Dr. Michael A. Tamor presenting his final lecture. Photo by Sydney Lines of ASU LightWorks.

Dr. Tamor began the session with a seminar titled, “Global Vehicle Usage Studies: Who Can Really Use an Electric Car?” He gave an overview of the attractive qualities of the electric vehicle (EV) including its silence, efficiency, and zero-emissions. However, these attractive qualities come with a more limited use range and longer “refueling” time than traditional vehicles. Dr. Tamor ran through a series of tables and graphs of a variety of cities worldwide that indicated very similar patterns in terms of the way we use transportation. He noted that we can conclude with relative certainty that the limited range of EVs will likely prove too inconvenient for wide adoption, and for those who are willing to use EVs despite this inconvenience, batteries must be unrealistically priced for the economic return. In light of the universality of vehicle usage, this becomes a powerful indicator for how transportation will evolve in the developing world. Dr. Tamor noted that perhaps the vehicle most likely to achieve widespread use is the plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV), which operates by both battery and traditional fuel and thus provides compromise for EV limitations. Although the PHEV may have advantages in travel range and electrification potential, it depends on the driving patterns of the individual to decide whether or not a PHEV is right for them. Dr. Tamor provided a list of questions that can estimate whether an individual will choose between purchasing an EV or a PHEV by simply identifying the amount of distance traveled.

  • How many miles do you drive annually?
  • Roughly how many days per year do you use your vehicle?
  • How many days do you commute?

Between the PHEV and the EV, an electric vehicle may be the most desirable option for an individual living within close proximity to where they most often commute. Also, a PHEV can never pay for itself the same way an EV can because of its use of 100% electricity. An individual might be able to simply plug their EV into their home solar panels and ultimately save more money than they would with a PHEV. Although a more clean and efficient option, the answers from individuals surveyed show that the majority of people simply travel too far to actually benefit from an EV. “The trouble is you have to ask what a vehicle can do for you,” Tamor said. “Sometimes buying an electric vehicle is not going to be necessarily cheaper.”

Following the seminar, participants gathered in a workshop titled, “Envisioning a Sustainable Transportation Future in 2050.” Groups were paired off to discuss trajectory end points. Odd tables were asked to describe a pivotal event, experience, or conversation in 2012 that crystallized the nature of the sustainable transportation challenge and to consider that moment in terms of how it reflects current transportation leadership, choices, and trajectories. Even tables were asked to describe the main ways they imagined 2050 would look versus 2012, specifically in terms of transportation leadership, choices, and trajectories made over that period. Groups reported their findings, and solutions were collected for use in further studies.

The reported findings and solutions made by the workshop groups generated similar results. Odd tables agreed that green policy initiatives and the wide acceptance of renewable energies has been an important step forward on the nature of current sustainable transportation leadership. The converging of electrical and transportation networks, use of dynamic charging and upgrade of electrical infrastructure has been a pivotal point in 2012 to solidify the United States as being sustainably conscious of transportation. Even tables argued that our world in 2050 would be possibly more EV friendly due to the impact of climate change and urban sprawl becoming less evident. A city 38 years from now may incorporate a design that allows people to be in closer vicinity and incorporates more public transportation options. Workshop participants agreed that in order to reach broader sustainable transportation leadership there would need to be a national cultural and social shift. Along with vast public support, current and future leadership must lead the United States’ transportation sector into a sustainable system that relies on renewable energy funding and policy initiatives such as a Carbon Tax, Open Fuels Standard Act, and implemented fuel standards. As a reflection on the future of Arizona, workshop participants agreed that the transition to solar and algae biofuels would be the likely source of energy in the South West due to abundant sunlight.

The final lecture, “Sustainable Personal Transportation: The Re-electrification of the Automobile,” concluded the series with the question of whether or not personal automobiles have a place in a sustainable transportation future. Dr. Tamor noted that the public often willfully accepts as fact that automobiles are less efficient than other modes of transportation, and that EVs will reduce green house gas emissions and contribute to the acceleration of clean electric generation. Dr. Tamor challenged these conceptions by discussing the limitations of battery storage and introducing a number of non-traditional fuels to continue to study for vehicular use. Among these, he highlighted hydrogen fuels and natural gas, which he noted has become greatly available due to new fracking technologies—though he was sure to note that depending on whether or not this remained what he called a “sustainable” fuel rested on its environmental impact.

The Inaugural Lecture Series seeks to engage with experts in a wide variety of energy-related fields. The event contributed to the discussion LightWorks hopes to continue on our energy future, a large part of which is affected by our transportation choices.



Written by Sydney Lines and Gabrielle Olson, ASU LightWorks

Additional information:

http://magazine.asu.edu/blog/technology/who-killed-electric-car-maybe-everybody

Complex Systems Theory: The Role of Invention, Sustainability, and Innovation in Societies

published December 6, 2012, 11:06 am

On November 15 the Dean of the School of Sustainability, Sander van der Leeuw, spoke at the Tempe Center for the Arts about complex systems theory on the role of sustainability and innovation in societies as part of the distinguished Wrigley Lecture Series. The lecture focused on the evolution of human minds and how people have historically worked together to improve societies through the role of invention and innovation. 


Sander van der Leeuw is one of the 2012 United Nations Champions of the Earth. Photo by Anick Coudart of ASU News.

Through Complex systems theory, van der Leeuw suggests that the study of evolution within societies cannot be separated from the study of environmental change. Sander van der Leeuw focused on three specific phases of human innovation: the subject of matter, energy, and information.

  • Energy and matter cannot be shared but are necessary for survival.
  • Information can be shared and shaped to evolve new ideas.
  • Problem solving increases information processing capacity.

In other words, humans cannot share energy and matter but are able to harness it by transforming the organization of their environment. By transforming the environment, there is a need to innovate new ideas to adapt into a new environment thus broadening humans’ availability to information by sharing and evolving new ideas together. Problem solving increases collective cognitive development and allows a society to move from one direction into a new one that makes up the environment fit for their current way of life. This new way of life is a different, more complex system made in order to keep up with an environmentally changing world. An example of the transfer into a more complex system would be the transition of people moving from hunter-gather lifestyle to a point where people settle into a specific area. People choosing to settle in one spot needed to develop different tools to survive. They accelerated their inventiveness and made tools alternative to ones that they had already made. The invention of agriculture and harvesting tools made it easier for people to control their food in a consistently changing environment.

Currently, humans are in a geologic period that some geologists and sociology scientists call the Anthropocene. The Anthropocene is an epoch that marks the extent and evidence that human activities have had a considerable global impact on the Earth's ecosystems. The purpose of Sander van der Leeuw’s lecture is to think about the types of innovation that will need to happen in order to keep up with a rapidly changing environment. Although humans can never predict what is going to happen in the future, with the use of sustainability we can practice planning and design to prepare for change.

Preparing for change is, in other words, forecasting into the future. As sustainability-conscious people, we must be able to boldly ask questions such as: What sort of future would we like to see in the year 2050? What are our current energy needs and how are they going to change? What are scientific projections of climate change and how can we build systems that start making a positive impact on the environment? Simply being aware and asking these questions can help society tremendously and benefit the continuation of research and development within  sustainable science fields.

“In the core of societies we need to be more innovative,” said van der Leeuw. “Innovation drives organization.”

The collaboration of people organizing to communicate energy problems is a great opportunity taking place here at Arizona State University. Continuing workshop efforts like the recent LightWorks Inaugural Lecture Series “Envisioning Sustainable Transportation Trajectory- System 2012-2050” workshop and the upcoming Energy Club workshop on the Water-Energy Nexus will greatly help in planning for future needs on a regional to international level. Societies will depend on these innovative thinking groups to envision and plan for a new environment that benefits us all.

Written by Gabrielle Olson, ASU LightWorks

Additional Information:
http://researchmatters.asu.edu/stories/connecting-sander-van-der-leeuw-2272

Clean Energy, the Great Convener: Director Peter Byck Says We Are Not as Polarized as We Think

published November 20, 2012, 9:25 am

Last month, film director Peter Byck visited ASU Tempe campus to speak to an audience about lessons learned from touring and filming his documentary Carbon Nation. Byck toured the nation and interviewed over 300 people (only 61 people were actually used in the movie) to speak on behalf of climate change solutions. In his findings, Byck supported evidence that both liberals and conservatives in the U.S. are not polarized on the issue. In fact, there is vast agreement across the political spectrum when it comes to supporting clean energy initiatives and energy efficiency.


Carbon Nation Director Peter Byck in the edit bay. Photo by Carbon Nation.  

Carbon Nation boldly claims that the documentary is a “climate change solutions movie—that doesn’t even care if you believe in climate change.” When reading that over, it may seem a bit confusing. How can the film focus on climate change, but not care if viewers actually believe in climate change? Despite scientific research proving for it, it is indeed a fact that climate change skepticism is still alive and well in the U.S.

Peter Byck became a strong believer in climate change in 2007 after seeing previous presidential candidate Al Gore’s documentary film An Inconvenient Truth. For a long time, Byck could not believe that others would disagree with scientific evidence supporting global warming and climate change. He, like many people who approach the seemingly polarized subject of climate change, points out the differences between the yeasayers and the naysayers, as those who believe in climate change are liberals and those who do not are conservatives. That claim may still stick today, but Byck found something even more interesting regarding climate change while conducting his research for Carbon Nation. Although there may always be dispute when it comes to Americans regarding climate change as a “real issue,” Byck found that an overwhelming amount of people who did not believe in climate change did in fact believe in climate change solutions. The relationship that the U.S. has in supporting clean energy and energy efficiency initiatives is truly an optimistic one. “Currently, 90% of Americans want more solar energy,” said Byck. “People think we are not in agreement with each other, but we already are.”

The agreement that people have in climate change solutions is precisely the focus of Carbon Nation. Instead of giving viewers an element of scare tactics that climate change is taking its course (cue before and after pictures of Greenland), he examines climate change solutions of alternative energy producers and energy efficiency experts across the nation. The core of this film is made up of the people he interviews, ranging from a rural Texas wind farmer to multi-millionaire Sir Richard Branson and just about everyone in between. These people tell a story that concludes that even if you do not believe in climate change, at the end of the day reducing carbon usage and its emissions is simply common sense. Although Carbon Nation is an inspiring look at the many recent advances in clean energy and green technologies, this film above all leaves viewers with a feeling of national collectiveness and that climate change solutions and energy efficiency initiatives are indeed bipartisan issues. 

 

Written by Gabrielle Olson, ASU LightWorks

Additional Information:

http://www.carbonnationmovie.com/

http://www.npr.org/2012/08/24/159998666/carbon-nation-tackles-climate-change-by-ignoring-it

Arizona Solar Summit III: Game-Changing Efforts to Propel Arizona’s Leadership in a Growing Solar Industry

published November 6, 2012, 10:24 am

The Arizona Solar Summit III took place October 9-10, 2012 at ASU SkySong hosted in partnership with ASU LightWorks. The summit’s participants included a collective group of distinguished panelists all focused on highlighting game-changing efforts regarding Arizona’s position of leadership in the dynamically growing solar industry.

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Moderator Bud Annan, consultant of ASU, introduces the Site Visit Panel. Panelists from right to left: Giancarlo Estrada, Attorney, Ellen Zuckerman, Arizona Program Associate of the Southwest Energy Efficiency Project, Lori Singleton, Director for Emerging Customer Programs at SRP, John Shepard, Senior Advisor of the Sonoran Institute, and Michael Neary, Executive Director of AriSEIA. Photo by Sydney Lines, ASU LightWorks.

Day 1: Game-Changer Site Visits

The key theme of the summit circulated around game-changing efforts that encourage the growth of solar availability in Arizona. On Day 1 of the Solar Summit III, participants and industry leaders had the opportunity to visit sites across Arizona that have been continuing to implement solar energy into their communities. Visitors were able to explore firsthand the ground breaking ideas taking place. Game-changer site visits included the downtown Phoenix/Vistancia area, ASU Tempe campus, Gila Bend, the community of Eastmark in Mesa, and a pre-summit visit to a variety of solar sites in Tucson. The Game-Changer Site Visits aimed to provide visitors with an insider look at solar opportunities each site envisions for their area.

The visitors were then gathered together at the end of the day for a reception and dinner under the SkySong shade structure. Visitors were able relax and discuss important ideas with members from the solar industry, as well as to take part in the featured sustainable car show. The sustainable car show’s most impressive highlight was the solar powered Tesla roadsters. These extravagant hybrid cars, powered by either solar or natural gas, were being charged by Joseph Hui’s Monarch Lotus. The Monarch Lotus is an innovative solar charging structure that uses a new form of solar panels, made up of polycarbonate blades formed around an aluminum spine instead of the conventional photovoltaic panels that you see on rooftops of homes and buildings. Hui has great plans in taking the Monarch Lotus solar structure to fulfill primarily philanthropic efforts. The goal is to ensure people meet their basic needs of clean energy, water, transportation, and habitat, to progress toward a cleaner and greener planet.

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Joseph Hui explaining the Monarch Lotus solar power structure at ASU SkySong. Photo taken by Sydney Lines, ASU LightWorks

Day 2: Panel Discussions

The second day of the Solar Summit III focused on panelist discussion. Panels of the summit included discussion of current game-changing projects in Arizona cities, the progress made from the previous Solar Summit, and the vision to further develop solar initiatives taken from the views of an array of acclaimed panelist members and moderators.

Site Visit Panel

The Site Visit Panel consisted of representatives from the previous day site visits. These panelists led a discussion on what they were most impressed with at each site and specifically highlighted what they learned and saw.  

Moderator Matt Miller started off the panel by asking: What did you see and what were your expectations from the tour?

Attorney Giancarlo Estrada took part in the Gila Bend visit and said, “Expectations were fully met.” Gila Bend has implemented new solar technologies such as thin film and solar thermal as well as large-scale utility projects including the Cotton Center, Paloma solar projects, Solana, and a new 32 MW development. Estrada said that learning how solar implementation has affected Gila Bend was what he most took away from the site visit.

Ellen Zuckerman, Arizona Program Associate of the Southwest Energy Efficiency Project, took the Eastmark visit tour, a mixed-use community in Mesa close to the Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport. “At first I was a little skeptical, but I was overall pleasantly surprised by their good thinking,” Zuckerman said of her expectations of the visit. The homes in the Eastmark community have been planned to be easily oriented into the grid, which would make solar integration easy in this community. Zuckerman also remarked on the availability of open space, use of shade to make walking more desirable, and the recycling initiatives within the community.  

The next question was What are your recommendations for continuing sustainable solar integration into cities?

“We need to take advantage of our universities’ expertise,” said Lori Singleton, Director for Emerging Customer Programs at SRP. Singleton visited the ASU Tempe campus site visit and was very impressed with what she had learned from the visit. ASU Tempe campus site visit showcased the variety of solar projects taking place at the university. Projects included the PowerParasol installation, Decision Theater, The Sustainability Solutions Initiative, and the National Science Foundation-funded solar engineering research center and graduate degree program. “Utilities should look to universities to utilize their expertise in energy to help create a roadmap,” Singleton said.

John Shepard, senior advisor of the Sonoran Institute, said, “There’s an ample role for local governments to get involved.” Shepard visited the Tucson site, which showcased the University of Arizona’s Tech Park Solar Zone, Davies-Monthan Air Force Base, Armory Park del Sol, City of Tucson solar sites, and Pima Country Roger Wastewater and Solar facility. Shepard remarked that the impression he received from Tucson is that Southwest Arizona is a “laboratory for solar.” Shepard said that in order to sustain that position, it is important to incorporate local solar policy into our cities.

Michael Neary, Executive Director of AriSEIA, believes that the incorporation of policies will be the determining factor in continuing statewide solar integration into Arizona’s cities. Neary took part in the Phoenix/Vistancia site visit, which highlighted the integration of solar in commercial and residential rooftop settings. The site tour visited Arizona’s first net zero office building, the APS Chase Field installation, and SheaXero energy efficiency homes. “We need to understand the value of solar to the grid and to the long run,” Neary said. “Arizona will be solar leaders by developing strong solar policies.”

Mayoral Panel

The Mayoral Panel focused on current game-changing efforts that each mayor has implemented in their cities, as well as what new opportunities they see for solar and what they mean in terms of economic development. Each mayor also discussed what they envision for their city, in terms of sustainability and solar initiatives, and what the challenges are in doing so. The mayors of this panel included Mayor Georgia Lord of City of Goodyear, Mayor Scott Smith of City of Mesa, Mayor Greg Stanton of City of Phoenix, and Mayor Doug Von Gausig of Town of Clarkdale. 

Check out our “Surveying the Mayors: Two Recent Panel Discussions Outline Sustainability and Solar Initiatives in AZ” blog to read more about the mayoral panel discussion.

Working Group Panel

The Working Group Panel consisted of leaders from four working groups, with Gary Dirks standing in for Ardeth Barnhart: Supply Chain, Applied Research Collaborations and Pilot Projects, Policy and Finance, and Building the Narrative. Each panelist was led by moderator Gary Dirks of ASU LightWorks who focused questions on reviewing the previous solar summits and discussing current progress and findings within each working group. 

Building the Narrative, headed by Jeff Luth and assisted by solar graduate Jamie Kern. Luth noted a general lack of participation from the community in the solar discussion. “Solar advocates are generally preaching to the choir,” he said. There need to be vastly more people involved. Luth suggested the creation of an umbrella organization for collaboration in these talks to broaden the understanding that solar is technologically and commercially viable. “Arizona should be more informed about how solar fits into the energy mix,” he said. “We have to get together.” Kern recommended developing a coherent, easily understood solar narrative. He highlighted education and called for the unification of voices saying, “Solar is neutral, non-partisan, and a contributing factor to the future of Arizona’s economy.” While he highlighted education initiatives at ASU, he also noted that the greatest challenge is educating policymakers on solar policy tools. Renewable energy, and solar in particular, are not new discussions. Kern showed a clip from Bell Lab’s 1956 film “Our Mr. Sun” (available at the end of this section). Kern talked briefly about the Solar Decathlon as a way to show Arizona solar expertise and market Arizona as a brand.


Applied Research Collaborations and Pilot Projects, headed by Ardeth Barnhart (presented by Gary Dirks).  Dirks highlighted the UA SolarZone as an impressive collaborative project between academia and industry. “It showcases how multi-sector collaboration can bring projects to fruition,” he said. It exemplifies how R&D is a driver. Dirks took the opportunity to talk about how and why R&D is so crucial to technological innovation. “Continuity in R&D is critical,” he said. “The commercialization of test labs gives us important insight on what to expect from various technologies.” Along with the UA SolarZone, he also highlighted the ASU Solar Testing Lab as another successfully collaborative space. “I cannot stress how important commercialization test centers are.”

Supply Chain, headed by Bud Annan. “How do we even define the solar supply chain?” He asked. “We need to determine that first.” Annan expressed the need to consistently organize and publish data. We need to get a handle on how far the supply chain reaches, and we need long-term measurement standards. He suggested the state supply $250,000 for a three year study to learn about and determine the supply chain strengths and gaps in Arizona. The findings would be published as neutral, public data. “Arizona is capable of doing this,” he said.

Policy and Finance, headed by Eric Fitzer. “How do we, in Arizona, differentiate our energy mix?” asked Fitzer. Arizona has to determine how to make that transition and market itself. A photon-based economy must export solar, which requires new transmission to different markets. “Team up natural gas and renewables to achieve utility scale clean generation and export capabilities,” he said. “When you look at natural gas and renewable energy together, that’s the future of utility scale.” Fitzer recognized Gila Bend as a perfect pilot project for this scenario because its location is prime for a testing area for this kind of energy transmission. Arizona should find out what the California utilities need. Again, this group highlighted the need for collaboration.

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From left: Bud Annan, Eric Fitzer, Jamie Kern, and Jeff Luth. Photo by Sydney Lines, ASU LightWorks.

Women Changing the Solar Game Panel

Representing the final panel discussion for the day, the Women Changing the Solar Game panel discussion hosted a choice assembly of distinguished women panelists who have each assisted in implementing solar initiatives in Arizona: Sandra Kennedy, Commissioner; Leisa Brug, Energy Policy Adviser to Governor Jan Brewer; Barbara Lockwood, General Manager of Energy Innovation at Arizona Public Service; Joy Seitz, Vice President of Business and Policy Development, American Solar; and Maja Wessels, Executive Vice President, Global Public Affairs, First Solar. The panel began with Bud Annan at the podium, showering the women with accolades as they each received an award for their roles in advancing solar in Arizona.  The panel was then led by moderator Kris Mayes, Faculty Director of the Program on Law and Sustainability at ASU College of Law. Mayes led the panelists through discussions of what opportunities they see for solar in the future, the challenges and possible solutions for current initiatives, and the economic influence the solar industry has in Arizona.

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Joy Seitz receiving her “Women Changing the Solar Game” award. Left: Maja Wessels, Sandra Kennedy, and Leisa Brug. Far right: Kris Mayes. Photo by Sydney Lines, ASU LightWorks.

Leisa Brug made sure to note that in Arizona we have a governor who is very supportive of solar and clean energy. Brug, who is on the Governor’s Solar Task Force, mentioned that her group is currently working on a master energy plan for the state. She highlighted the Governor’s Renewable Tax Incentive as having drawn in many solar opportunities to Arizona.

Commissioner Kennedy, who is currently up for re-election to the Arizona Corporate Commission, stated her strong support for Arizona solar and renewable energy. “I would like to change some of my colleagues’ minds about solar being too costly because we know that’s not true,” she said.  

First Solar’s Maja Wessels said that we need to figure out how to integrate solar power as one of our traditional sources and talk about it as a traditional source because it is here to stay. “In the not too distant future we won’t need subsidies, but we still need policy,” she said. She argued that we need to raise our Renewable Energy Standard (RES) since we are already nearing the current 15% standard.

APS’ Baraba Lockwood said that the next phase of utility needs to incorporate solar safely and securely into the portfolio. She also recounted a story from the MIT clean energy forum she attended. A woman from South Africa wanted to incorporate solar because it is shown to cause a 70% reduction in the number of women who die in childbirth. “We’re lucky to be having the solar conversation,” she said. “Solar is in demand all over the world.”

Mayes made a point to note that the Arizona RES runs out in 2015, but we may not reach grid parity until 2020. “We need gap fillers,” she said.

Lockwood and Wessels both agreed that utilities should be able to rate base solar. Georgia Power is already doing this in a state with no Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS).

Commissioner Kennedy and Joy Seitz both emphasized the need for education and civic engagement. Support solar? “Vote.”

Conclusion

Gary Dirks and Todd Hardy made closing remarks. Hardy mentioned that there will be new working groups to arise out of the summit discussions, which will appear on the AZ Solar Summit website as they are formed.

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From left: Gray Dirks and Todd Hardy. Photo by Sydney Lines, ASU LightWorks.

Dirks made a point to mention that 50% of Arizona’s current energy mix comes from transportation fuels. He highlighted the new ATP3 partnership as both a necessary collaboration between industry and academia as well as a way of branding Arizona as the go-to test-bed. He emphasized the importance of reducing our carbon footprint, analyzing and determining the environmental and climate effects of our energy choices, and supporting R&D as a way to accomplish those needs.

The underlying themes that have continued to arise in these summits on both solar and sustainability is the need for an educated community who engage in civic activities and educated leadership who can make informed decisions for Arizona. There is a pressing need for continued and expanded collaboration between various groups: government, university, industry, and the community.

Written by Gabrielle Olson and Sydney Lines, ASU LightWorks


Slideshow of Solar Summit III Flickr photos taken by Sydney Lines, ASU LightWorks

Additional Information:
https://asunews.asu.edu/20121012_solarsummit

http://asulightworks.com/blog/arizona-solar-summit-spring-2012-breaking-through-barriers-solar-future-southwest

http://azsolarsummit.org/

Captain Wayne Porter’s Darwinian Moment and a National Narrative of Strategic Adaptation

published October 31, 2012, 1:06 pm

On October 25, 2012, ASU’s School of Sustainability hosted a lecture by Captain Wayne Porter, USN, where he discussed his piece, “A National Strategic Narrative,” co-authored with Colonel Mark Mykleby. (Access article PDF).

 

Colonel Mark Mykleby (middle left) and Captain Wayne Porter (middle right) receiving the Ellis Island Medal of Honor Award for their work on “A National Strategic Narrative.” Photo Credit: nationalstrategicnarrative.com.

Porter set the stage for his narrative by discussing the current environment in the U.S. Two of the main components directing the narrative are:

  • An increase in global competition for finite resources (soil, food, water, energy, etc), and
  • The influence of markets and culture.

Porter argued that we are currently undergoing the greatest ethical shift since the Age of Enlightenment. In the Age of Uncertainty, as we now see ourselves, we are positioned in a Darwinian moment in time, and he argues that we need to adapt if we’re going to evolve.

So, what to do about it? Porter says we need to recognize that the model of growth we’ve developed—for example, fossil fuels—“is increasingly difficult to maintain and is probably killing us in the process. We need to develop a new model.”

What is the current Grand Strategy?

We don’t have one.

Where do we start building a National Strategy?

Porter looks to history…

  • 1648 – The Treaty of Westphalia: this document has served as a basis for our international understanding of sovereignty.
  • From 1689 onwards, we demonstrate empiric uncertainty in our universe (starting with Newton) – nothing is deterministic, it’s probabilistic. This uncertainty is the problem with every strategy seen in the Pentagon; strategies are always involved in overcoming a recognizable threat; they are hyper-focused on location, which only allows response rather than prevention.
  • Needs: a values-based strategy focused on opportunity.

What should our strategy look like?

Primary objectives:

  • Prosperity: a state of well-being
  • Security: the freedom from anxiety (economic, pandemic, civic, etc.)

Porter sees these two objectives as wholly interdependent of each other but that this interdependence needs to be seen as a unifying strength. It should be able “to converge interests, people, and cultures,” he notes.

 “It’s the values that characterize us as Americans that constrain us in our energy needs,” he says, “but also empower us and give us credibility when we stick to those values.”

In 2009, Porter was asked to develop a national strategy, but he soon realized that preceding this was actually the need for a strategic narrative. This narrative had to define:

  • Who we are as Americans and as a nation,
  • A kind of unity that was non-political in nature, and
  • An idealistic approach to uncertainty.

“There’s just as much opportunity and hope in uncertainty as there is risk and threat,” he says.

So, what’s the current narrative?

From 1946 to the present, U.S. policy shows the world that we are empowered by military, our governmental system, our values, and unification. Now, Porter states, we need congruence and complimentary domestic policy to have good foreign policy because creating good domestic policy allows us to lead by example.

Porter notes the way post-WWII America differs from the U.S. position in this Age of Uncertainty. “We have excelled across the spectrum of human endeavor,” he says, “and now we are becoming competition averse.” The term “competition” now takes on a pejorative sense when it should be seen more closely to the root of its origins—“striving together.” Porter argues that there should be multiple winners, rather than one winner and multiple losers. Competition needs to be more of a collaborative process. He argues that this is fundamental to what the strategic approach ought to be.

But how do we get there?

Porter asks, “How do we build a legacy with poor national numbers?”

 With a new approach:

  • Education. The only way to reinvigorate new strategy is through education. “We have about the most broken system of education” on the planet, Porter says.” He suggests we start by looking at good models (like Finland and Singapore, for example) and use best practices. He also emphasizes that this is not just STEM education; we need well-rounded individuals who think critically, and these skills are best developed through the arts, literature, and social sciences. Porter cites Sir Ken Robinson’s video on “Divergent Thinking” as a noteworthy critical approach to education (view an animated version below).

         

 

  • Security. This, Porter argues, does not belong to any one department in the government than it belongs to the government itself. “It’s security of values, expression, economic, etc. They belong to all of us as citizens.”

 

  • Renewable Resources. This includes food security, soil, water management, and energy. “We have already far surpassed the carrying capacity of the planet with how many consumers we will have,” he says. “We can take the lead here as Americans in recognizing the shift and need to adapt.” In order to evolve globally as a whole, we need to follow a values-based approach. We cannot simply be residents. “Residency is paying rent. Citizenship is investment in our own future,” he says.

As a general take away from the lecture, Porter seems to say that we all need to step up for the fate of our own future. “The sense of entitlement we develop nationally is not a positive – we can’t live on legacies of old generations,” Porter stated before quoting the Preamble: “We are 'to secure the blessings of liberty for ourselves and our posterity.'” He emphasizes the point that this generation needs to go forth and create a strategy for sustainability and security that is values-based. That is our adaptive requirement for the evolution of a new age.

To lend your voice to the National Strategic Narrative, visit http://nationalstrategicnarrative.com/, a collaborative companion site to Porter and Mykleby’s non-partisan strategy.

Watch Capt. Porter and Col. Mykleby present their article at PopTech 2011.

Written by Sydney Lines, ASU LightWorks

Additional Information:

http://sustainability.asu.edu/events/rsvp/wayne-porter

Surveying the Mayors: Two Recent Panel Discussions Outline Sustainability and Solar Initiatives in AZ Cities

published October 24, 2012, 12:37 pm

In the past month, Arizona’s mayors’ from Phoenix, Tempe, Mesa, Goodyear, and the Town of Clarkdale have actively engaged in ASU organized mayoral panels highlighting their cities’ sustainability and solar initiatives.  

Panel 1: “Sustainable Cities: A discussion with the mayors of Phoenix, Mesa, and Tempe on sustainability.”


From left to right, moderator Rob Melnick, Mesa Mayor Scott Smith, Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton, and Tempe Mayor Mark Mitchell discuss sustainable development in cities. Photo by Cassandra Strauss, Downtown Devil.

Taking place at the state-of-the-art Virginia G. Piper Repertory Theater in the Mesa Arts Center, the mayors of Phoenix, Mesa, and Tempe participated in a panel discussion on sustainability. Moderator Rob Melnick, executive dean of the Global Institute of Sustainability (GIOS), led each mayor into a discussion about present and future efforts to improve sustainability initiatives in their respective cities.

Melnick began by asking each mayor: “What does it mean to be a sustainable city?”

Mayor Smith of Mesa spoke on the economic and environmental benefits of planning and developing his city though a sustainable lens. “[Sustainability] means many different things to different people,” said Smith. “To me, it’s a multi-generational city.” Planning for a city that can be utilized by future generations is an important factor when drafting urban development projects. For Mayor Smith, it is all about common sense and saving money by conserving energy via sustainable development despite one’s placement on the political spectrum.

Mayor Stanton of Phoenix noted that it doesn’t matter how Phoenix ranks in sustainable development across the country. The important point is that Phoenix continues its sustainable efforts. “Every city should do all that they can,” said Stanton. “So the question is, are we doing all we can? We should be able to market this region as a leader in sustainability and entrepreneurship.” Sustainable development for Mayor Stanton is being sure to implement consideration of environmental impact when developing new construction in Phoenix.

Mayor Mitchell of Tempe evaluates sustainability by quality of life. The Mayor talked about the transit system of Tempe and how it has advanced sustainable planning for further development. “The more we work together between Tempe, Phoenix, and Mesa, the more we build a sustainable community,” Mayor Mitchell said. City collaboration leads to a better quality of life statewide, and Mayor Mitchell hopes to continue working together with Mayor Stanton and Mayor Smith to keep sustainable development in Arizona moving forward.

Melnik continued with a question for Mayor Stanton, “Is marketing going to attract people to move here or is it a brand that sounds nice?”

Stanton noted that in order to market Phoenix, the city would also need to deliver. He highlighted intercity collaboration as key to getting sustainability right. He used transportation as an example since the local light rail and Valley Metro bus systems operate throughout a variety of Arizona cities.

Smith also responded to the question noting that when we talk “region” we’re talking “Arizona.” He said that we get lazy in realizing our fragility, and we need to better learn to live within our means to grow as cities. “We’re talking about lifestyle in a way we didn’t four years ago when I took office, which is good,” he said. “The discussion is changing.”

Mitchell added, “Sustainable cities attract business.”

On the upcoming election, Melnik asked, “What do you sense is the level of concern about sustainability? Is it a powerful concern of your constituents?”

Both Mayors Mitchell and Stanton said that government needs to support sustainability. Stanton said that it’s important for leaders to explain to their constituents why it’s wrong to think solar and other renewable energies are not economically viable.

Mayor Smith added, “Solar isn’t a bad thing, but it has its place.” He also noted that we need to be smart in our solutions. For example, transportation options make economies more self-supporting. Urban sprawl is not sustainable, and making sustainable choices “isn’t conservative or liberal,” he said, “It’s life.”

Melnik asked, “What do you do in your cities to reduce your carbon footprint?”

Stanton said that Phoenix is actively reducing GHG emissions and instituting sustainability in city planning. He talked about Energize Phoenix, extending the light rail, bike-share programs, and incentives for companies that assist with green goals. He also thanked ASU for access to a GIOS adviser.

Smith took a different approach, saying that the city has myriad of planned, smart efforts, and that they create environments that are already sustainable. “It’s not a cop out,” Smith said, “We’re making smart decisions without the vitriol.” Sustainability is an initiative in all new Mesa project proposals.

Mitchell highlighted a few Tempe programs like electricity reduction goals, LEED certified buildings, and green grants for retrofitting, but he also urged leaders to get the word out about sustainability because leaders need help from constituents. He also brought up the need to educate both today’s and tomorrow’s generation.

“Are there cities anywhere on the globe that stand out to you as leaders?” Melnik asked.

Both Stanton and Smith agreed that Denver was a great city to model after best practices. Additionally, Smith added Salt Lake City and Phoenix to the mix, noting that their use of land planning and central downtown area development is key to preventing more sprawl. Mitchell noted that he looks at best practices in cities with great transit systems.

Addressing the relationship between city and state, Melnik asked, “ Are there things that the state has done that have helped or hindered your efforts?”

“Cities have a philosophical difference with the State, “ Mayor Smith said. “The State never created a single city. Cities are formed by people coming together.” Smith noted that sometimes there are territorial issues, and the legislature needs to help make policies that give cities the ability for more economic drive.

Mayor Stanton said that he is not optimistic about the legislature—that its “hyper-partisan” nature creates disconnect. “Bill Agenda 21 sounded crazy, but it went far,” Stanton said. He also said the legislature should provide the economic tools to help build more sustainable cities.

All three mayors expressed the necessity of collaboration. “We need better relationships to make sure there are no unintended consequences,” Mayor Mitchell said.

An audience participant asked, “If you would need to single out one challenge [where we can] help , what would it be?”

“Education,” Mitchell said, “Educating policy makers. We need to communicate with constituents and get the legislature to help with initiatives.”

Mayor Smith reiterated the need to have conversations from a “common sense” approach.

“Push us to be better leaders,” said Mayor Stanton, “Give us your best ideas and challenge us.” He also emphasized the need to continue sustainability efforts despite leadership rather than go back to the old ways when the economy turns around.

A final participant asked, “How do you work to integrate across departments to be maximiz[ing] and not counteractive?”

Stanton said to look comprehensively and plan right. Mitchell talked about cross-training for efficiency. All three mayors discussed interdepartmental collaboration and working to find best practices within their respective units.


Panel 2: “Solar Summit III: Mayoral Panel discusses game-changing energy projects in their cities.”

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From left to right, Mayor Smith of Mesa, Mayor Lord of Goodyear, Mayor Von Gausig of Town of Clarkdale, and Mayor Stanton of Phoenix. Photo by Sydney Lines, ASU LightWorks

Moderator Sethuraman “Panch” Panchanathan, Senior Vice President of the Office of Knowledge and Enterprise Development (OKED), led the mayors of Goodyear, Mesa, Phoenix, and the Town of Clarkdale through questions examining what they envision as both new opportunities and challenges with implementing solar in their cities.  

Mayor Stanton of Phoenix highlighted similar points that he addressed at the previous mayoral panel discussion. The Mayor noted that sustainable thinking is part of every Phoenix initiative and planning progress. “The more we tell the world we are committed to sustainability, the more we benefit our economy,” Mayor Stanton said. Stanton also placed the conversation within a moral perspective. Solar may not be the cheapest option, but it’s “the right thing to do,” he said.

Mayor Lord of Goodyear is in favor of solar development, but she noted that a challenge she sees is the lack of information the public receives. “We need to bring people into the discussion,” Mayor Lord said. “Mayors have a bipartisan, closer relationship [to the people]. I don’t just worry for my party.” The Mayor believes that the solar industry in Arizona needs to better engage the public in order to get the support it needs to enact solar policy.

Mayor Smith of Mesa believes that the way to get people to be engaged and excited about sustainability and solar initiatives is to make the new projects less monumental and more ordinary. “Everybody is in favor of sustainability,” said Mayor Smith. “Nobody is in favor of dirty air or dirty water. It’s about how we do it.” To Mayor Smith, it is a matter of culture change. People should see sustainable implementation as regular, common sense practice. 

Mayor Von Gausig of the Town of Clarkdale explained that although Clarkdale is a smaller town, enacting sustainability initiatives is still very important. “Sustainability and renewable energy projects [are] important for small towns as well as big cities,” said Mayor Von Gausig. Engaging with the community proved to be beneficial in getting traction for sustainable initiatives for the Mayor. “Small town community meetings have been fruitful in advancing sustainable practice and solar,” Mayor Von Gausig said.

A recent Harvard graduate, one of only a few in his class to return to the Phoenix area, addressed the panel. He found that the city was not developing for the new generation in terms of transportation and sustainable development. He called it a “city of our parents.” The issue of urban sprawl came up several times, and as Mayor Smith noted, “We cannot unring the bell, but the conversation is changing.” All the mayors encouraged people to get involved and engaged. How do you create the city of the future? “Go vote,” said Mayor Von Gausig.

All of the mayors shared the view that energy policy is a bipartisan issue, that the narrative around sustainability has become too politicized, and that with the right leadership, public opinion will follow in the right direction. Despite political party differentiation, mayors from both sides agree that sustainable development and implementation of renewable energy is important as well as continuing to work together to create the policy needed to produce more opportunities for our state. 

Written by Gabrielle Olson and Sydney Lines, ASU LightWorks


Additional Information:

http://sustainability.asu.edu/events/rsvp/mayors-forum-2012

http://downtowndevil.com/2012/09/26/31000/valley-mayors-sustainability-phoenix-downtown/

https://asunews.asu.edu/20120917_sustainable_cities

http://sustainablecities.asu.edu/2012/09/28/sustainability-efforts-touted-by-valley-mayors/