Sunday, November 16, 2008

Renewable energy? Diversity is key

The acronym DREP is a new one, but Diverse Renewable Energy Portfolio makes nothing but sense.

(Image: A 2002 shot of an active sun, a key factor in any renewable energy picture. Credit: NOAA Space Weather Prediction Center.)

The DREP concept, as I understand it, builds on the recognition that there are perils in choosing one energy source for the future to the exclusion of others. Look at where fossil fuels have gotten us.

Instead, DREP envisions a plan for the future that calls into play multiple sources: air power like wind; water power like wave and ocean thermal and hydroelectric; solar power like photovoltaics and solar thermal; biofuels; and others.

The message for the renewable energy community: lots of eggs in lots of baskets. Don't try to solve the energy problem only with wind, or only with biofuels, or only with solar, or only with ocean thermal. Prepare for the diverse renewable energy future by planning for a Diverse Renewable Energy Portfolio.

The term came up at a remarkable venue last week, a three-day, high-speed planning session for Kaua'i Island's Lihu'e district. It was guided by a Sustainable Design Assessment Team from the American Institute of Architects' Center for Communities by Design program. The team calls itself an SDAT.

Here, a team of architects from around the country, unpaid, arrive to help a community envision its future and work toward putting flesh on the vision. After intense sessions with community members, the team developed an outline—to be expanded in the coming months.

A piece of the Lihu'e vision, described in outline at an evening session Nov. 14, 2008, dealt with energy. The energy component had four main pieces: conservation, education, demonstration and transformation.

Conservation: The first and key piece of any energy strategy is to remove the inefficiencies inherent in the system—building conservation strategies and promoting efficient practices. Included is the commitment to write building codes, and design guidelines to support the energy goal.

Education: To get the community to buy in to the idea—community workshops, training sessions, community events that use energy as central themes, and education programs in schools.

Demonstration: New systems won't be adopted by a large component of folks until they know they work, and preferably until they've seen them work. The local government needs, the SDAT group said, to “walk the walk.” County buildings should be retrofitted or, when built new, built to the highest energy standards. County fleets need to be as energy efficient as possible. The community needs to provide assistance to businesss and individuals in the form of an information clearing house and personnel capable of holding folks by the hand or giving them a helpful push as they move forward.

Transformation: Ultimately, the community adopts every workable technology—solar water heating, alternative fuels for transportation and all the rest—as it moves forward with its DREP.

There weren't many new pieces in this energy discussion, but they were put together in interesting ways. Said former mayor and current County Council member JoAnn Yukimura, the sessions were “provocative—by that I mean stimulating a lot of thinking.”

Learn more about the SDAT program at the American Insitute of Architects' Center for Communities by Design site,

Word Merchant's Note: I was surprised, on Googling and Yahooing DREP after hearing it at the Lihu'e SDAT session, to find it wasn't there.

DREP is an acronym for a number of other things, some of which even have something to do with energy—among them Decentralized Rural Electrification Project and Colorado's Desert Rock Energy.

But the Diverse Renewable Energy Portfolio is a concept that need to be at the forefront in the discussion of the energy future, for Hawai'i and the world.

©2008 Jan TenBruggencate


Anonymous said...

I think we best be getting on with the promise of making America energy independent.Iran just asked OPEC to reduce production by yet another 1.5 million barrels per day.This past year and the record gas prices played a huge part in our economic meltdown and seriously damaged our society.We keep planning to spend BILLIONS on bailouts and stimulus plans.Bail us out of our dependence on foreign oil. Make electric plug in car technology more affordable. It cost the equivalent of 60 cents a gallon to drive an electric plug in car. The electric could be generated from wind or solar. Get with it! Utilize free sources such as wind and solar. Stop throwing away money on things that don't work. Invest in America and it's energy independence. Create cheap clean energy, create millions of badly needed green collar jobs. Put America back to work. It is a win-win situation. We have to become more poractive citizens, educate ourselves and demand our elected officials move this country forward into the era of energy independence. Jeff Wilson's new book The Manhattan Project of 2009 Energy Independence NOW outlines a plan for America to wean itself off oil. We need a plan and we need it now!

Anonymous said...

This event was well attended by many of the community stakeholders and it was good to see quite a bit of participation by various County departments including housing, public works and planning as well as the County's sponsorship.