I was given the opportunity by the good folks at UC Riverside to create their first survey course in energy efficiency and renewable energies for their Extension Program. I was nervous, but I found a great book, S. David Freeman's "Winning Our Energy Independence" to give a great overview without the pain of having to get a technical degree. T
This is what the seven students who attended the course were witness to over the month beginning at 9 a.m. on March 14th, 2009.
Saturday, March 14th:
We met for the first time at the Second Annual Bright Idea Expo. Kudos to Patrick Conlon and the wonderful staff at the Office of Energy Management for putting on the PERFECT event!
After perusing all of the awesome booths and initiating open conversation with the exhibitors, and even getting the chance of hearing Patrick speak on policy and financing issues (AB 811, Feed-in Tariffs, etc.), we moved on to a solar installation in the Coachella Valley. I chose a small-scale, residential installation completed by Renova a month earlier.
Lunch and travel to the Salton Sea region.
Following the solar tour, we moved down the Valley to the Colmac Biomass electricity facility to meet with Danny Stelton for the Colmac facility tour.
One of the musings that came from the class after our tour:
"The Colmac facility. for me, was the highlight of the day. I was so impressed with the technology to use what was once a waste product and with very little emissions, convert it into clean energy. "
Truly, the folks at Colmac don't get enough credit for being a first-to-market concept that makes a clean, sustainable difference in the way that we dispose of our green waste to create green energy. Thank you, Danny, and great job folks!
The day ended with the drive back along 86 S (NAFTA Highway) to the Civic Center parking lot.
Saturday, March 28th:
We met at the corner of Cook and Frank Sinatra Street. Thanks to Ron Willison and the crew at our campus, we had a successful morning watching prep videos for the tour that was about to take place.
10 a.m. - 12 p.m.
The tour moved on to Imperial Western Bio-Diesel where we met with Curtis Wright.
He showed us the magic that goes on within their walls and explained in detail just how this fuel, which is called diesel because of the similar structural properties that it shares with diesel fuel, has the potential of being a clean replacement for diesel powered vehicles of all shapes, sizes and uses. Exciting stuff!
After leaving Curtis we moved further down Valley along the Salton Sea rim, to CalEnergy's geothermal facility. Now, this was an exciting experience!
We were met by Mark Grany and knew that we were in for quite a day. He brought us to a classroom and showed us a PowerPoint overview of the history of CalEnergy in our region. We then showed the class all aspects of the facility’s renewable energy generation. We wound up seeing one of the world’s largest geothermal cap/valves just at the end of the field! The valve is so huge and is holding back so much pressure from below that it needs steel, shock absorber arms to hold it in place!
After this incredible tour from Mark, we headed back to UCR, our heads swimming with so much information and so much excitement for the future of renewable energy in our world!
Monday, April 20th:
We met for the Wintec wind farm tour with Fritz Noble and Steve Avila*
Now, this was truly an experience! After meeting up at the Denny's along the 10 Freeway, we headed, with Fritz as our guide, into his world. These are his wind machines and he knows everything about them...their past and their future!
After hearing that these power plants actually produce a tremendous amount of energy being used in our very own Valley, it made the group question why this fact isn't promoted more throughout our region. Fritz assured us that the relationship with the utility, though most of the time a bit strained, is headed in the right direction so that even more renewable energy farming will occur in the near future.
What a great day and what a great operation the Nobles run!
I think that everyone in the class would agree that nowhere else could they have had exposure to five various, operational, renewable energy technologies in the span of a few hours and all within the same economy. The Coachella Valley has proven to be the Mecca of renewable energy and energy efficiency implementation!