From Scott Carlberg

On Independence Day 2020 it seems like a reasonable question – what creates energy independence? The answer has changed over the past several decades.

I cut my energy teeth during the 1970’s oil crisis, and while working at a petroleum company. That is when oil = energy. Or, energy materials were energy. Stuff that would get you dirty if you messed with it. Oil, coal. Our nation was hurting for one, oil. We said we were the Saudi Arabia of another, coal.

Battle lines were drawn over the control of commodities. Possession or access to fuel was a major definition of energy independence.

Not so much now. Energy independence relies on a different resource, much more valuable. Our minds. Neat thing about that, we control how much we develop our brains, creativity and how we work together.

Some examples of people and organizations that contribute to our energy independence:

New power resources

Rich Deming is CEO of Power Resource Group says, “North Carolina enjoys the economic benefits of an extensive agricultural infrastructure. That also means there is animal waste, an unavoidable byproduct.” Deming’s company uses waste for power. In Farmville, NC, a biomass facility, left, is fueled by poultry litter (waste). The plant consumes more than 200 tons per day of fuel and generates 1.7 Megawatts of electricity. Part of that system is shown to the left. (Our blog)

Better wheels

The future of clean public transportation has a home in Greenville, SC. Proterra, a leader in the design and manufacture of zero-emission, heavy-duty electric vehicles, is forging the future of electric buses with its east coast operations and manufacturing facility. Proterra’s electric buses (photo, right) offer real performance, with nearly twice the horsepower of a standard diesel bus and five times better fuel efficiency. (Our blog)

Harnessing energy data

Brunswick Electric Member Cooperative, headquartered in Shallotte, NC, is using software that analyzes and learns from weather data to more efficiently position equipment and crews before severe weather hits. Wake EMC, based in Wake Forest, NC, is in a pilot study for a cyber-security tool that can detect anomalies in system operations.

Blending solar and data science

Florida Power & Light Company and Florida International University are building a commercial-scale distributed solar power facility that will generate electricity be an innovative research operation. The goal of this project is to blend high performance computing, distribution management, and solar energy.  The project will have more than 5,700 solar panels and will help train students to be future energy professionals. (Source)

Using oceans for energy

The Coastal Studies Institute is in Wanchese, NC, is where oceanographers and coastal engineers are exploring how to harness the power of the Gulf Stream.  “The Gulf Stream is a powerful, warm body of water that originates in the Gulf of Mexico and flows northward off the Atlantic coast. Traveling at a speed of approximately 5 miles per hour, the Gulf Stream has more power than all of world’s rivers combined, transporting nearly 2.5 billion cubic feet of water per second off of Cape Hatteras.” (Source) (Our blog)

New business/customer models

With Duke Energy’s Shared Solar program in South Carolina, customers, including low-income residents, can participate in renewable energy without installing panels on their roof. The Shared Solar program allows customers to subscribe to the company’s solar installations in Anderson County, and then reap the energy savings created by their portion. (Source)

Energy efficiency

The Medical University of South Carolina applies its good thinking to saving energy. In 2009 MUSC made its first run at energy efficiency. That resulted in more than two-million kilowatt hours saved and $2.5 million a year. (Our blog)

Independence – energy independence – is up to all of us. How we think and do. ECC cited an article, To Remain Relevant, Utilities Should Start Thinking Like Tech Companies. The author nails an important point: Let go of the past. Bravely think ahead.

This Independence Day let’s dedicate ourselves to develop our most important source for energy independence – our minds.