Clean Energy Focus
by Kevin McCullen
KENNEWICK -- Energy experts, researchers, business leaders, farmers and politicians are converging in Kennewick for a conference focused on developing clean energy sources to help rural economies.
The 10th Harvesting Clean Energy Conference runs today through Tuesday at Three Rivers Convention Center, where organizers have scheduled workshops and sessions on everything from the future of hydropower and electric vehicles in agriculture to transforming crops and farm waste into energy.
The goal of the conference is to promote rural economic development in the Northwest through clean energy development and production, said Rhys Roth, one of the conference organizers and director of strategic innovations at Climate Solutions, a Northwest nonprofit focused on promoting practical and profitable solutions to coping with global warming.
"We'd like to see clean energy and clean energy technology become job-creating pillars of our economy," Roth said. "There's a broad range of technologies that hold the potential for economic development: Solar, wind, hydropower, biomass and solar."
He said the conference is geared to farmers and ranchers, agricultural landowners, food processing companies, energy and agricultural companies, representatives of state and local governments and more.
Richard Wynne, director of geopolitical and policy analysis at Boeing, will deliver the keynote address Monday morning on the potential role agriculture could have in developing renewable energy sources for aviation.
"That could have an enormous impact," Roth said.
Other sessions will explore the future of solar technologies, wind farms and transforming wood and food processing waste into energy.
Rep. Jay Inslee, D-Wash., will speak today at a congressional leaders forum on ways to advance economic development through clean energy.
Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Wash., is to speak Monday.
The annual conference, which rotates among Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Montana, was last held in the Tri-Cities in 2002. The scope of the sessions has grown considerably since then, as have the number of sponsors.
Pacific Northwest National Laboratories is one of the major sponsors this year. Some of the others include the Benton and Franklin PUDs, Bonneville Power Administration, Energy Northwest, Infinia and the Tri-City Development Council.
One of PNNL's key research and development missions is to increase U.S. energy capacity and reduce dependence on imported oil through research of hydrogen and biomass-based fuels and to reduce the effects of energy generation and use on the environment, said Gary Spanner, manager of PNNL's economic development office.
PNNL researchers will be presenters at a session on biochar -- charcoal prepared from biomass that is used to generate energy and improve the productivity of soil.
Researchers from PNNL also will speak on a panel on smart grid technologies, a system designed to improve power delivery and reliability and increase efficiency by using intelligent, two-way communication technologies.
Members of the Tri-Cities Tea Party plan to rally outside the conference from 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. today to advocate for production of all forms of energy, including oil and nuclear, said coordinator Leon Howard.
Registration fees for the three-day conference are $110 for individuals and $190 for professionals, Roth said.
For more information about the conference, go to www.harvestcleanenergy.org.
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