By Betsy Fradd, Washington State University
Finding new ways to increase economic development opportunities and impact energy policies were two of the many topics at the National Extension Energy Summit in Seattle.
Participants from 31 states and the District of Columbia shared their vast knowledge of regional energy issues, climate change, and outreach efforts at the April 7 – 10 conference in Seattle sponsored by Washington State University Extension and Advanced Hardwood Biofuels Northwest (AHB).
Beverly Samuel, USDA NIFA National Program Leader, recognized the valuable role of Extension staff and noted the challenges of reaching diverse audiences. “You are engaging a divided public while also building strong communities,” said Samuel. “Your work is vital to promoting informed decisions and preparing youth for the workforce. Keep identifying unmet needs, know your legislators, and realize each opinion counts in informing public policy.”
Other keynote speakers included Heidi VanGenderen, US Department of Energy; KC Golden, Climate Solutions; USDA Program Leader Bill Goldner; and Wendy Gerlitz, Policy Director of the NW Energy Coalition.
Gerlitz explained how microgrids will impact the future. “These localized energy grids can be disconnected from a centralized grid and operate independently,” said Gerlitz. “Hot water heaters, solar power, and wind energy will all contribute to a self-contained household to meet individual energy needs.”
Over two dozen individual presenters shared information in tracks focused on interactive energy discussions, communicating energy through Extension, and energy from farms and forests. Topics included farm and small business clean energy projects, creating sustainable community energy plans through citizen engagement, and energy literacy for youth. Bioenergy components examined small scale pellet production from forest residuals, mobile pyrolysis, and Extension’s role in building support for wood energy policy education.
“I found the breadth of outreach, education and research activities being undertaken by Extension folks throughout the country to be quite varied and rich,” said Mark Apel, Community Resource Development Area Agent from the University of Arizona. “I really enjoyed the networking opportunities and gained insights into energy education programs that will shape the way I conduct my own program here in southeastern Arizona.”
Representatives from each of the seven Agriculture and Food Research Initiative Coordinated Agricultural Projects shared their experience of working with biofuels to produce sustainable transportation fuels. In addition to AHB, project work from BANR, CENUSA, IBSS, NARA, NEWBio, and subi was presented to nearly 100 attendees.
Conference sponsors included USDA NIFA, GreenWood Resources, and Washington State University Extension. Started in 2013, the National Extension Energy Summit is a bi-annual event focused on public and land-grant universities and their role in finding energy solutions to meet the nation’s energy needs.