The University of California, Davis, has been awarded $3 million by the California Energy Commission to speed the transfer of renewable-energy advances from research laboratories to homes and industries. According to a press release that came out April 15, “The new California Renewable Energy Collaborative will become the administrative center for three existing programs focused on biomass, geothermal, and wind energy, as well as a new fourth program that will focus on solar energy. Other renewable energy sources, such as hydropower and ocean energy, may be addressed in the future.” Bryan Jenkins, UC Davis engineering professor and director of the UC Davis Energy Institute, will lead the new California Renewable Energy Collaborative. “This new center for collaboration will help energy researchers and specialists from many different sectors work more effectively with the end users of their products – the state’s consumers and energy providers.” According to Jenkins, the efforts of the previously established biomass, geothermal and wind collaboratives have been instrumental in shaping policy and guiding research to help the state meet its goals for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, decreasing reliance on petroleum, and continuing growth in renewable energy. “Establishing a central collaborative home will help coordinate critical research and policy missions among the state’s agencies, industries, and the public for meeting the challenges facing California in the transition to a more secure and sustainable energy sector,” Jenkins said. For the last six years, UC Davis has been administrative home for the biomass and wind collaboratives. According to the press release, the campus leads the nation in many aspects of environmental research and education – particularly renewable energy, climate change, sustainable agriculture, energy efficiency and conservation, and advanced transportation technology and policy. The university’s renewable-energy projects include new sources of bioenergy, advanced photovoltaic materials, solar thermal systems, and enhanced wind turbine design and efficiency. No doubt research dollars need to be invested in renewable energy, and this is a good step in the direction of converting new concepts into commercially viable products. The primary objective of the collaborative is to help California move forward the most promising and cost-effective renewable-energy initiatives by assessing resources and technologies and by identifying barriers and opportunities that affect commercial success as well as regulatory, economic, and financial constraints that stand in the way of commercialization. The collaborative will advise the California Energy Commission on strategic planning for renewable energy development; and will disseminate best practices and research findings. The plan is for each collaborative to be governed by a board with representatives from commercial trade associations, including utilities, private industry, and investors as well as noncommercial representatives from universities, state and federal agencies, local government, public interest associations, and environmental groups. Ken Krich, assistant director of the California Institute for Energy and Environment said, “This pioneering agreement will establish a new level of coordination and integration among the renewable-energy technologies and will accelerate the state’s pivotally important renewable energy initiatives.” Meanwhile, California, which has an enormous energy demand, is still resistant to developing its oil and gas resources offshore, and there is little indication that this will change. A small concession can be found in the statement made by Farrokh Najmabadi, director of the UC San Diego Center for Energy Research, who said, “Energy security and economic prosperity requires deployment of an array of energy technologies that are economical and have minimum environmental impact. Collaboratives like this one play an important role of bringing together academic researchers, commercial end-users, and state regulatory agencies.” It’s hard to tell if the “array” includes oil in gas, but I’m an optimist. To find out more about the collaboratives, click here.
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