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Aug 202008
 

By Harriet Blake

Nevada Senator Harry Reid joined forces this week with former President Bill Clinton, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Texas oilman-turned-wind-advocate T. Boone Pickens and other notables at the University of Nevada/Las Vegas for the National Clean Energy Summit.

The summit also brought together business chiefs and experts in renewable energy, including speakers from Google and General Electric. Google used the opportunity to talk up its lastest clean energy investment in a new technology called Enhanced Geothermal Systems which efficiently taps the earth’s heat. “EGS could be the ‘killer app’ of the energy world,” said Dan Reicher, director for climate change and energy initiatives at Google.org, the firm’s philanthropic arm.

All in attendance were supporters of renewable energy, and focused the discussion on how to make it happen. A national energy agenda is in the works to bring to both the Democratic and Republican conventions. (So here’s hoping that what happens in Vegas, Won’t Stay in Vegas.)

Two major points were raised at the conference. The first: if renewable energy could be made cheaper, it would become more widespread. And two: renewable energy creates more jobs.

Google’s Reicher said that renewable energy will not be taken seriously unless its costs are reduced to make it competitive with other power sources such as coal. In announcing Google plans to invest more than $10 million to develop technology that will generate energy from rocks below the earth’s surface, the EGS program, he said the goal is to produce one gigawatt of renewable energy capacity, which is enough to power a major city.

The Google announcement on GNS explains the potential power of the new tech method:

“EGS expands the potential of traditional geothermal energy by orders of magnitude. The traditional geothermal approach relies on finding naturally occurring pockets of steam or hot water. The EGS process, by comparison, replicates these conditions by fracturing hot rock, circulating water through the system, and using the resulting steam to produce electricity in a conventional turbine.”

For more info see the website of developer Geodynamics.

Other speakers, such as Keith Schwer, a professor at UNLV, noted that developing wind and solar industries in Nevada means work and stability for all companies involved.

“When we buy domestic, we are creating jobs. Those jobs are local. You are boosting your local economy,” said Schwer.

All participants agreed that they hoped the summit would not lead to more meetings, but to substantial recommendations.

Sen. Reid said one way to make renewable energy a reality is to have the country’s legislators develop tax incentives that will make renewable energy a wise investment choice.

Congress has repeatedly tried, and failed, in recent months to extend soon-expiring federal tax credits for wind, solar and other renewable energy projects.

Reid supports the tax credits, as he notes on his website:
“Congress should pass a long-term extension of tax incentives for private sector entrepreneurs who are standing by, ready to invest billions of dollars in renewable energy and energy efficiency projects.”

He noted that Nevada was an apt locale for the conference because the state utilizes all three major forms of renewable energy: wind, solar and geothermal. “There’s no better place for this summit than in Nevada, the Saudi Arabia of renewable energy,” Sen. Reid told one Las Vegas news source.

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