Renewable Energy/Energy Efficiency Coordinator, Department of Agricultural Resources
From helium tethered wind turbines to a fold up, battery-driven electric “City Car” that has individual motors for each wheel, to new advanced capacitor storage, to underwater ocean water storage for offshore wind to…. I could go on for far longer than this blog space would allow. Yes, I get easily excited over these creative, clean, earth-friendly technologies and ideas but, many people would agree with me that MIT’s Annual Energy Conference has become the premier, completely student-organized energy event of the year. With a global audience of businesses, start-ups, entrepreneurs, clean technology companies, distinguished guests, government leaders, professionals, alumni, faculty and students, the 6th conference again reached the “SOLD OUT” attendance level – this time close to 1,000 – to focus on confronting limits of all kinds, including our energy supply, food and water, and the political, socio-economic, engineering and scientific challenges and barriers we need to overcome.
The conference opened on a Friday afternoon with parallel panel discussions relevant to current topic issues. This included one on the food/water/energy nexus where a colleague of mine, Kathy Baskin, EEA’s Director of Water Policy, and I were asked to participate and contribute. We were able to present the relevant achievements and plans of our own administration, such as the Massachusetts Clean Energy and Climate Plan for 2020, statewide organic reuse/anaerobic digester efforts, and the combining of Energy and Environment under one Secretariat.
The show continued into Friday evening where a confluence of present and future technologies and concepts were on display for free – a night I look forward to each year! This year again there were over 100 presenters and 1,500 attendees – a great opportunity to see and converse with some of the most creative cutting edge minds in the world. Featured also was a Friday night ceremony at the JFK Library, where many MIT Students were recognized for their outstanding energy and entrepreneurial efforts and contributions already in progress. Congressman Edward Markey was the keynote speaker discussing his 35 years of public service committed to cleaner energy and environment, past and current political challenges, and potential barriers that lie ahead.
Saturday was the main course for the conference, led off by an eye-opening, extremely relevant keynote address from Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus, who shed light from our military’s perspective of the imminent need for our country to invest in and create new alternative energy technologies. This was followed by morning and afternoon parallel panel discussions on a variety of topics including emerging markets, strategic materials, military leadership, and electric charging infrastructures. Lunchtime showcased MIT’s entrepreneurial capability by presenting “lunch-time pitches” on each stage of the innovation pipeline: idea generation, commercialization and deployment. New inventions and ideas were pitched to us in a very short amount of time with a chance for follow-up questions. This fast-paced format left you in awe about incredibly creative new ideas! The afternoon keynote speech was from James E. Rogers, Chairman, President and CEO of Duke Energy, who shared with us some of Duke’s clean energy ambitions, including implementing a solar roofs program in which Duke works with its entire customer base to install cost- and energy-effective roof-mounted PV systems. The conference closed out Saturday afternoon with a very informative and promising panel discussion of various present and next generation biofuel technologies and strategies.
After nine long months of planning, in conjunction with MIT’s 150-year anniversary, this year’s MIT student organizers left us all feeling there’s much energy, creativity and determination willing and able to help solve our future energy, water and food needs. This as we look forward to a projected nine billion world population by 2050. CONGRATULATIONS MIT STUDENT ORGANIZERS! I already look forward to next year’s conference!