Sustainability “LEEDer”

February 9, 2012

The whole idea behind the creation of The Lugar Center was to research and develop technologies that would enable us to be a more self-sufficient, sustainable society; a society that would not deplete the earth of its natural resources faster than it could replenish those resources.  So, let’s talk about sustainability.  Better yet, let’s talk about a local leader in sustainability—The Efroymson Conservation Center, The Nature Conservancy’s state headquarters, located in downtown Indianapolis.

The Efroymson Center generously opened their doors to our research members this January for our annual Lugar Center retreat and what a treat it turned out to be!

After we discussed what we’ve accomplished in 2011, where we stand today, and our goals for the future, we were fortunate enough to get a personal tour of this innovative “green” facility.  It’s green roof, native landscaping, unique storm water management, geothermal heating and cooling, recycled and locally grown building materials, natural light, energy-efficient raised flooring, and availability to alternative transportation make this center a leader in conservation and sustainability as well as an engineer’s dream.

The Center often refers to their building design as “hoping to achieve LEED platinum certification.”  LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design and platinum certification is the highest achievement to be awarded from the U.S. Green Building Council.  In order to do so, they must get at least 52 of the possible 69 points awarded for sustainable site development, water efficiency, energy efficiency, material selection, indoor environmental quality, and innovation/design process.  They’ve estimated they have achieved 55.

The Efroymson Center, Indianapolis’ 2010 Sustainability Award winner, truly is a shining star in responsible, energy-efficient building design and construction.  It’s time we all take their “LEED.”

To learn more about The Efroymson Conservation Center, go to: http://www.nature.org/ourinitiatives/regions/northamerica/unitedstates/indiana/greenbuilding/efroymson-conservation-center.xml

Look What Fall Blew In

October 28, 2011

September and October turned out to be a busy, yet exciting time for The Lugar Center; a whirlwind of educational events, live demonstrations, and great networking opportunities, all in our very own, great big “green” backyard.

And it’s probably been an even more exciting for me, The Lugar Center’s new communications intern! Before climbing onboard the renewable energy train, I’d worked as an intern in public relations, labor, and even university publications. As a student, I felt it was my job to explore all my options in order to find the best career fit for me. I think I can finally say, mission accomplished—I believe I may have found my niche!

Renewable energy is such an exciting field to be in right now! Between The Energy Summit we attended at the Indianapolis Museum of Art, The Freedom documentary we helped host at University Place Hotel, the solar energy demonstration we did for Indy’s Solar Tour and Eli Lilly’s annual Energy Day—it’s been an exhilarating and inspiring fall for me and for The Lugar Center!

Now, don’t get me wrong, as a Liberal Arts student who lacks a lot of scientific background, there’s a bit of a learning curve. But, I know my eyes are not the only ones being opened and it’s exciting to see people learning, growing and becoming part of the solution to America’s energy crisis. I’ve seen that the possibilities are endless in this rapidly growing field, even if you are not an engineer or scientist. It’s going to require a plethora of talent from a variety of disciplines to secure a sustainable renewable energy future.

I’ve learned so much in such a small amount of time here at The Lugar Center. I’ve always been an avid recycler; some may even have called me a little obsessed about recycling. I really didn’t know how else I could make an impact on reducing my energy consumption. However, after attending the pre-screening of the Freedom documentary, I started using ethanol to propel my vehicle. And it feels great to know I’m doing my part to support local farming, cut the “oil” umbilical cord that’s been wrapped around America’s neck for far too long, and reduce the toxic chemicals being emitted into our air, while saving money at the same time. Those same people who called me an obsessive recycler can now call me obsessive about saving energy!

There are so many things we can do to conserve energy and reduce our carbon footprint here on earth. So, what are you waiting for? Hop aboard this incredibly efficient, renewable energy train and help us make the necessary changes to keep this planet beautiful!

Recharge Your Battery

September 12, 2011

Join us as we welcome the new semester with renewed energy at the 3rd Annual Lugar Collegiate Energy Summit on Friday, September 16th!  Discover what others are doing in the field of renewable energy and environmental policy while networking with other students, businesses, and community leaders who care about the environment as much as you do.

This year’s Energy Summit will be held at the Indianapolis Museum of Art from 10-4:30.  Featured workshops include: Energy Solutions: Moving from Idea to Reality; Energy and Beyond: Bring Sustainability to Any Job; Public Policy: Current Issues in Energy Policy; and Strengthening and Growing Your Club.  Five student groups will showcase their energy projects and Senator Richard Lugar will be the keynote speaker for this special event.

The Summit is open to all college students free of charge with walk-up registration beginning at 9:30 am. Meals are not included.  However, lunch will be available at the Nourish Café in the IMA and adequate time will be allotted for off-campus lunches.

For more information or to register for the event, please visit http://lugar.senate.gov/energy/summit/or call 317-226-5555.

On March 4-5, I had the opportunity to attend the MIT Energy Conference (http://www.mitenergyconference.com/) on behalf of the IUPUI Energy Club, Lugar Center for Renewable Energy, and School of Engineering and Technology.  This experience proved to be extremely beneficial to my academic growth and professional development.  It was also a lot of fun.

The goal of the MIT Energy Conference is to bring together students, faculty, and leaders in the fields of technology, policy, industry, and finance to inform and develop solutions for the tremendous energy and sustainability challenges present on our global society.  The Conference included participation from students and professors, but also included numerous industry executives and government leaders.  For example, we had the opportunity hear from Ray Mabus, Secretary of the U.S. Navy, James E. Rogers Chairman, President and CEO of Duke Energy, R James Woolsey, Venture Partner and Senior Advisor of VantagePoint, Steve Isakowitz, Chief Financial Officer of the U.S. Department of Energy, Jack Baron, CEO of Sweetwater Ethanol, Azad Mohammadi, Energy, Power & Water Team Leader at USAID HRLS-II Program, just to name a few!

The MIT Energy Conference also showcased experts in foreign policy and foreign innovation from India, China, and Brazil, and the United States.   It was this group of speakers that discussed whether the “Silicon Valley” of Clean Technology will form in a developing nation instead of the United States, the longtime leader of innovation and technology.  It was particularly encouraging when this panel confirmed that the chances of the U.S. in maintaining a dominant position (or at least one of the main global leaders) in innovation are very good. 

Another area of emphasis at the MIT Energy Conference was venture capital and the issues facing start-up companies.  There were numerous energy-related start-up companies attending the conference.  In fact, there was a special session called the “Start-up Clinic”, where these companies were able to network and consult with angel investors, venture capital firms, investment firms, and legal firms.  Many start-up companies that presented at this conference have already received considerable funding from investors and are becoming “game changers” in the energy technology marketplace.

The MIT Energy Conference also showcased promising technology and policy approaches that have the potential to achieve critical scale success in addressing our energy challenges.  In addition to presenting the latest and greatest “up and coming” technologies, these sessions highlighted environmental and security concerns that also create an opportunity for fundamental change in the way the world produces and consumes energy. The Secretary of the Navy said that the Navy has been on the forefront of using alternative energies in the military, and will continue to do so by being a leader and driving U.S. energy innovation.  The primary goal of this effort is to end our reliance on imported fossil fuels that threaten our national security.

Lastly, one of the most surprising tidbits of information gleaned from this conference was provided by the CEO of Duke Energy, Jim Rodgers.   According to Mr. Rodgers, the U.S. energy market is going to drastically change in the future because 60% of our electricity comes from coal fired power plants, 80% of which will need to be replaced by 2050 due to aging infrastructure.  Moreover, 80% of that number will need to be replaced by 2030 due to more immediate, short-term problems.  Regardless of your geographical location in the U.S., consumers will likely experience an increase in their energy bills because of the critical need to replace or retrofit these plants. This increase in cost will make it easier for renewable and alternative energy projects to compete with fossil fuels. Utility companies will have to make a choice when building new plants, which includes whether or not to use renewable or alternative energy.  Furthermore, U.S. energy policies will factor into their decisions in the future, an area where much uncertainty still remains. 

Regardless, the U.S. energy market is slowly being forced to change for those reasons mentioned above.  However, this also presents a tremendous opportunity for the  U.S. to become a leader in clean energy technology, innovation, and showcase its entrepreneurial spirit.  This message was especially inspiring to a college student looking toward the future and ready to make a difference!

Jason Cambridge

Vice President, IUPUI Energy Club

The Environmental Protection Agency hosted a video contest with the theme “Our Planet, Our Stuff and Our Choice” in February. The winners were announced yesterday, and the Lugar Center Graduate Intern, Courtney Thornberry and her husband, Chris Thornberry’s entry was awarded the top prize out of 250 entries. Chris is a law student at IU School of Law- Indianapolis. He also owns a production company in Carmel, Green Sky Media. Courtney is a graduate student in Technology, who does research in the Lugar Center labs on fuel cells, as well as interns for the Lugar Center.

The rules of the contest were to create a video that helped to make people aware of the connection between the stuff people use, consume, recycle or throw away and the impact that has on the environment, community and planet. Courtney and Chris took the unique approach of looking at the energy that goes into creating disposable materials and equating that to power usage. By recycling materials, energy is saved that would otherwise be used to create new products.

Watch the commercial here:

Read about the contest and view other winning entries at the Our Planet, Our Stuff and Our Choice Contest website

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