A Report from EnergyPath 2015: NetZero
by Joanne Ivancic* (Advanced Biofuels USA) Pennsylvania and the Mid-Atlantic area is fortunate to benefit from funds derived from a settlement approved by the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission during the Commonwealth’s electric deregulation proceedings. As part of its educational mission, Sustainable Energy Fund has organized and hosted the EnergyPath Camp/Expo/Conference for nine years.
Energypath is the region’s largest sustainable energy event attracting industry professionals, policymakers and academia throughout the region, across the United States and from other countries. The goal of Energypath is to increase the knowledge of and passion for sustainable energy in the leaders of today and tomorrow. Success in achieving these goals was evident in the animated and intense participation of EnergyCampers to lingering good-byes on the last day of the conference and expo from students, faculty, professionals, speakers and exhibitors.
Three days of hands-on experience in solar, wind, biomass, sustainable energy, micro hydro and passive building design precede two days of conference and expo.
Advanced Biofuels USA’s information booth had nearly constant visitors, with many substantive conversations taking place about subjects from types of feedstocks and fuels to how climate change will affect agriculture. Students and professionals shared fascinating thoughts about how traditional decisions based on past-focused common knowledge will be transitioning to forward-looking decision-making based on projections of climate and weather changes and the attendant agricultural evolution.
Claudia Silva Santisteban (left) shows off the GoPro camera she won for best video, starring Alicia Rubio (right).
To get an idea of what EnergyPath meant to two participants, take a look at the winning video, “What Sustainable Energy Means to Me” made by Claudia Silva Santisteban as part of the hands-on Energy Camp activities. As she describes it:
– Conservation: The most sustainable kind of energy, is the type of energy we conserve!
–Educational: One of the most important aspects of sustainable energy is education. If nobody knows about how to be sustainable, that is not sustainable energy!
–Innovative technology: Sustainable energy is always seeking ways to become more efficient, more affordable, and more accessible.
–Natural: Sustainable energy involves living in conscious and intentional manner, respecting nature, and our society.
-And best of all sustainable energy the future! The improvements we make today, will promote our survival, and prosperity for generations to come!
The second day featured a high school and middle school student science fair. With prizes up to $1500, more students should have participated, as in previous years. Those scholars who did show posters covered topics from the comparative combustion properties and efficiencies of banana peel briquettes to reducing the radar-disruption effects of windmill blades.
11-year old Prithvi Parthasarathy keeps his audience enthralled describing his banana peel briquette research.
Due to its strong financial foundation, SEF offers many scholarships to participants and Advanced Biofuels USA has gratefully benefited from the opportunity to present sessions on advanced biofuels, and from donated exhibit booth space, as well.
Although many in older generations might feel jaded, cynical and just plain depressed about the pace of change, and resistance to transitioning to a truly renewable sustainable future; so many participants in EnergyPath 2015, particularly those of a younger generation, expressed hope, optimism and a view of the future that included the conscientious innovations, developments and breakthroughs that they touched, studied and saw in action at this event. To those of us who have been struggling, such optimism was invigorating and inspiring. It’s great to mix with a different crowd once in a while, to have a change from the corporate, political maelstrom of business conferences.
Next year Penn State will host EnergyPath 2016. For more information, check the http://energypath.org/ site and watch Advanced Biofuels USA’s conference calendars. What you can do? Attend! Join the Science Fair!
The PowerPoint used for the standing-room only advanced biofuels sessions can be downloaded here: http://advancedbiofuelsusa.info/biofuels-basics/primer/
University of Scranton’s Loyola Science Center, location of many conference presentations at EnergyPath 2015.
Brendan Gibbons of the Scranton Times-Tribune covered both days of the event: READ MORE / MORE
*Joanne Ivancic, serves as Executive Director of Advanced Biofuels USA. She also served as a lobbyist promoting advanced biofuels research and production on Capitol Hill and with executive agencies. She has observed the development of advanced biofuels’ research and financing for more than fifteen years. From 2010 to 2015 she was voted one of the Top 100 People in Bioenergy by Biofuels Digest readers and editors.
Photos by J.Ivancic
Technology No Silver Bullet for Africa’s Farming Challenges, Says Entrepreneur
by Dinfin Mulupi (How We Made It in Africa) Africa is seeing a surge in mobile phone-based solutions promising to revolutionise the agricultural industry. Technology entrepreneurs have developed mobile platforms offering a variety of solutions, including online livestock and produce exchanges, weather forecasts, market prices data, and access to insurance, financing and extension services.
It seems like the perfect intersection: millions of people in Africa have mobile phones, the majority of the population is involved in agriculture, and there are multiple problems in the industry to solve. But many of these solutions have struggled to meet expectations and remain unknown to the majority of rural farmers.
“Some people think technology is a silver bullet for the challenges in agriculture. But technology is not a stand-alone solution,” says Calvince Okello, founder of M-Shamba, a platform that provides farmers in Kenya information on crop production and farm management.
“Its success depends on other things, including the attitude and discipline of the farmer. There are people who farm because they don’t want to let their land lie idle, or because all their neighbours are farming, or because farming is what their family has done for generations. The way they go about farming is different from that of serious, passionate farmers who know what they are doing. So the farmer’s attitude and motivation does matter.”
“If you went to the internet now and searched ‘maize farming’ you will get thousands of pages on how to grow the crop. But how sure are you that the information is the best for you? Our information is customised to the farmer’s specific location and ecological zone. A farmer growing maize in Western Kenya has different needs from one growing the same crop in the Coast because they experience different rainfall patterns and temperatures, and varying infrastructure networks.”
He says it is essential for tech entrepreneurs building solutions for agriculture to really understand the farmer’s needs. Young techies, Okello adds, should also be true to themselves and evaluate whether they really want to be entrepreneurs.
“It needs courage, perseverance, resilience and sacrifice,” he says. READ MORE