The EnergyPath toward Renewables
by Joanne Ivancic* (Advanced Biofuels USA) EnergyPath. It’s like nothing else. Funded by a lawsuit settlement more than a decade ago, EnergyPath has become the region’s largest sustainable energy event, attracting industry professionals, policymakers, and academia from across the United States.
Scholarships enable people with a wide range of interests and ages to participate, meeting the Sustainable Energy Fund’s goal to increase the knowledge of and passion for sustainable energy in the leaders of today and tomorrow. Including, this year, a number of people transitioning from careers in fossil fuel energy.
It starts with three days of EnergyCamp with opportunities for hands-on experiences such as installing solar panels, in addition to classroom activities.
And, as in the case of Advanced Biofuels USA’s Wednesday exhibit, a chance to put your head under the hood of a 2002 car to learn how it was converted to use E85.
I think almost everyone attending stopped by to take a look and many stayed for in-depth conversations about
- how the conversion was done,
- observed improved performance,
- mileage differences with greater that E40/E50 blends,
- the importance of the octane characteristics of high ethanol blends,
- the difference between biodiesel and ethanol and between compression engines and spark-ignition systems,
- the solvent properties of ethanol and need to change fuel filters if using high ethanol blends after years of zero or low ethanol fuels,
- the difference between the price of 87 octane regular, E15 (blue in photo), high octane E85 (yellow in photo) and comparable 93 octane premium at a Harrisburg-area Sheetz that day (with E85 $1.00 less than comparable premium),
- where they could buy this fuel for their cars (we had a computer handy to look up E85 and E15 locations near their homes),
- and much more.
With storms raging through the mountains to the east and west of DeSales University where EnergyPath took place, but never shutting us down, this outdoor exhibit proved quite successful. Thanks again to the folks at Fuel Flex International for donating the conversion kit as their way to support our flex fuel educational efforts.
EnergyPath Conference Program
After EnergyCamp comes a day of concurrent sessions by experts, plenary sessions, and an awards dinner with keynote speakers. Break-out lectures included topics from “Advanced Biofuels: Transportation, Cooking and Energy Storage,” which I presented, to “Solar Photovoltaics 101,” “Deploying Energy Storage: Economics, Regulations and Technology” and Combining Technology, Beauty and Meaning in the New SEF Net Zero Office Building” or “Small Wind Mythbusting: What You Need to Know Before Buying a Small Wind Turbine” and “Moving EV’s to Mass Deployment.”
In other words, this event is not just for C-level renewable energy leaders, or dedicated to financing big projects. It’s renewable energy in all its forms where the rubber meets the road or the electrons meet the extension cord.
As they say, EnergyPath has something for everyone. For those who want to learn more about renewable energy, for business owners who would benefit from learning energy efficiency techniques to save money on energy bills, for those looking to start an energy business or start a career in the energy industry or looking to give new hires a crash course in sustainable energy. As one attendee said, “It is like attending a mini-college course in energy effectiveness.”
In past years, I met people from around the world. One year an Advanced Biofuels USA student intern from Nigeria received a scholarship to attend for the week. He couldn’t say enough about the value of the experience.
Expo and Science Fair
On Thursday, along with the concurrent sessions, the venue is bustling with an Expo area with information booths from nonprofit organizations, universities, energy companies, energy service providers, utility representatives, solar and lighting equipment and supplies, government agencies and a science fair for high school and middle school competitors with cash prizes.
With interested attendees coming to the Expo throughout the event, we got to talk with people with a wide variety of motivations for being a part of this event.
We shared educational resources with faculty from regional universities and with K-12 teachers.
We were happy to talk with a number of people leaving the fossil energy industry who were looking to continue their careers in renewable energy. We were happy to talk with them about renewable liquid fuels.
Students, home-owners, business professionals and families of science fair contestants stopped by, all interested in how to lower their carbon footprints and considering biofuels as an option.
Located as part of the Expo, the science fair competitors also fielded questions through the day. Awards were presented at an evening dinner.
High School Division Middle School Division
1st Place – $1250 1st Place – $1250
2nd Place – $750 2nd Place – $750
3rd Place – $250 3rd Place – $250
The winners of the EnergyPath 2018 science fair and the names of their projects:
1st place: Marjorie Romero, Wilson Southern Middle School, “Stepp N’Save”
2nd place: Cody McBride, McBride Homeschool, “Revolutionizing Dryer Technology with Piezoelectric Transducers”
3rd place: Susan Deering, Avon Grove Charter School, “Hydroelectricity from the Sky”
1st place: Sathya Edamadaka, High Technology High School, “RMPC: A Novel Cost-Effective Approach to Raising Photovoltaic Efficiency Through Turnable Plasmonic Nanostructures”
2nd place: April Pivonka, Camp Hill High School, “Optimizing Hydroponic Plant Growth and Energy Usage with LED Spectral Manipulation”
3rd place: Katherine Comisac, Susquenita High School, “Stepping into the Future: Piezoelectricity in Action”
Although there were no biofuels-related participants, Anya Damdin of Northside Elementary got close, bringing her “From Trash to Gas: Biomass Energy” experiment. She wondered if organic biomass might make more biogas when decomposing than nonorganic biomass. Using examples of both types of food waste examples in bananas, potato peels and carrot peels, and using cow manure collected at a relative’s farm for a common source of microbes to break down the materials, she determined that there really wasn’t much difference.
And so it goes with scientific inquiry. She still learned a lot about designing and executing an experiment; and about describing her work to judges and to the attendees who toured the science fair exhibits with poise and confidence. She was also able to talk to exhibitors who were experts in biogas as a source of renewable energy for power, heat and transportation. She gathered additional information about biogas and renewable natural gas (RNG) and, along with her family, was able to see her experiment in the larger world context. Not all benefits of such an experience can be monetized.
Every region, every country, should look at the Sustainable Energy Fund’s EnergyPath camp, conference, expo and science fair as a model to expand real-life, realistic understanding and use of renewable, sustainable energy sources. It is certainly a lot of work, but the results could exceed expectations.
*Joanne Ivancic serves as executive director of Advanced Biofuels USA.
Photos by JIvancic except ** by BEgolf-Fox