Renewable energy conference sparks ideas

The electricity in the air was palpable at last week’s 2009 Southwest Renewable Energy Conference at the High Country Conference Center. Leading energy experts, activists, policy-makers and business owners gathered to exchange ideas regarding the theme, “Integrating State and Federal Policy with Technology to bring Renewables to the Grid.”

Many policy-makers spoke at the conference, including Marc Spitzer of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, Kristin Mayes, chairwoman of the Arizona Corporation Commission and state Rep. Lucy Mason.

“I want to be the cheerleader to say we need to keep going,” Mason said. “We’ve got to wean ourselves off of fossil fuels and create policy to generate conservation—policies that will help grow a new economy in this state using the natural resources we have available like wind and solar. At a time when we are struggling so hard in our state budget, we have the opportunity to grow our state revenues like never before.”

Kristin Mayes Lucy Mason
Kristin Mayes, chairwoman of the Arizona Corporation Commission and state Rep. Lucy Mason talk energy last Friday.

The two-day conference was jump-started by pre-conference sessions on topics ranging from wind and solar power to increasing renewable energy on tribal lands. There was a tri-university roundtable discussion in which Tom Acker, director of Sustainable Energy Solutions, represented NAU.

Friday morning, William Auberle, professor of civil engineering, construction management and environmental engineering, greeted conference attendees and introduced NAU President John Haeger.

“This conference is a reflection of the energy transformation that we are seeing across the United States and the world,” Auberle said. “Students at Northern Arizona University are living sustainability, and it is Dr. Haeger we have to thank for that.”

Haeger then shared with the crowd why NAU was the best place to host the conference. “Northern Arizona University is one of the greenest campuses in the country,” Haeger said. “You will find four LEED buildings on campus, and we are looking to build more in the future.”

State Rep. Chris Deschene, made opening remarks Thursday night and welcomed J.D. Sitton, president and CEO of Infinia Corp. Infinia offers the world’s first solar power generation system suitable for automotive scale manufacturing.

Randy Udall, former director of the Community Office for Resource Efficiency, was Thursday’s keynote speaker. At CORE, Udall helped to partner with electric utilities and local governments, which led to Colorado’s first solar energy incentive program, the world’s first Renewable Energy Mitigation Program and some of the most progressive green power purchasing programs in the country.

Don Robinson, president and CEO of Arizona Public Service explained the utility’s progressive efforts to bring sustainable energy to Arizona.

The event culminated in a free “green jobs” panel that was open to the public. Local business owner Andy Kruse, vice president of Southwest Windpower, participated and Billy Parish, founder of Energy Action Coalition and a resident of Flagstaff, gave Friday’s keynote address.