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Energy Scholars Attend Summit

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Jocelyn Tan, a junior majoring in electrical engineering, and Mindy Nguyen, a senior studying biochemistry, investigate fuel cells at SCU’s Latimer Energy Lab, a multidisciplinary laboratory focusing on renewable energy research. They recently attended the Silicon Valley Energy Summit (SVES) to broaden their understanding of local green tech endeavors and network with a diverse group of clean energy initiators, enactors and enthusiasts. Following is an account of their experience.

Reaching the stars ain’t easy, but one way to get closer to them is by attending summits, such as the one hosted annually by Stanford University’s Precourt Energy Efficiency Center.A convention of “more than 500 investors, regulators, researchers and others dealing with energy economics and environmental impacts," the Silicon Valley Energy Summit (SVES) was a practical, yet innovative, discussion of upcoming technologies, governmental regulation, and energy policy.

Last April, we initiated an interdepartmental project focused on developing energy efficient fuel cells for transportation. With the prospect of applying our experiences to future endeavors, we deemed our conference attendance to be vital.Thus, we were both thrilled and humbled when we stumbled upon the potential exhibited by many energy-focused organizations.

Keynote speakers included former U.S Secretary of Energy Dr. Steven Chu and former New Mexico Senator Jeff Bingaman. In his inspiring speech, Dr. Chu discussed the current energy situation, federal energy policy, and the dire need for sectors to implement energy saving strategies in their respective industries.

As one of the largest energy conferences in California, representatives from major tech corporations, such as Facebook, Oracle, Juniper Networks, alongside several prominent SVES sponsors, including Noble Americas, SRI International, and Sustainable Silicon Valley were also present. A vast majority of the presentations focused on the corporate end of the energy movement (which, as non-business majors, was initially difficult for us to follow).

The "Electric Vehicle Charging Stations for Corporations" presentation provided up-to-date information on electric vehicle charging at various companies. Topics of discussion included the number of charging stations implemented and their level of usage and popularity. Although we’d hoped that the talk would be more technically driven, we enjoyed learning what each company had to bring to the table.

The "Entrepreneurs and Innovation" presentation featured executives from startups that have become influential leaders in the cleantech industry, including HEVT (a company invested in building a new class of high-performance, highly efficient, reliable and affordable electric motors), Hara (whose objective is to create software that assists companies in collecting, analyzing, interpreting, and acting on energy and resource data), Ibis Networks, and EtaGreen. In the seminar-style presentation, representatives answered questions about triumphs and challenges encountered in establishing a successful, energy-focused corporation. Most vital was the advice gleaned to grow such a business. According to chief executives Michael Pfeffer and Adam Simpson, "knowing what the people want—and need—is critical. Be persistent, yet versatile. Don’t be afraid to change courses if the journey or destination seems unfeasible. One mistake corrected early on will save you a great amount of time and energy in the future."

The summit was an invaluable experience for scientists, entrepreneurs, future CEOs and eco-warriors, alike. Energy efficiency is a contentious, yet indispensable topic, and the summit’s speakers made clear its overarching influence on global sectors. We strongly encourage anyone interested in learning more to attend next year’s conference!

Submitted by Jocelyn Tan and Mindy Nguyen.

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