While many of the policy decisions that shape our energy future are made in Washington, almost all of the important work of actually developing and deploying the innovative and advanced technologies we need takes place in labs and at universities across the country. That’s why the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) recently partnered with Arizona State University and the Kauffman Foundation to organize the inaugural Southwest Energy Innovation Forum. The event brought together scientific researchers in universities and national labs, executives from industry, investors, and federal, state and local government officials to collaborate and discuss how they can advance energy innovation in the region and across the nation.
If there was one over-arching theme throughout the forum, it’s that energy innovation isn’t just happening in traditional hubs like Silicon Valley – it’s happening all across the Southwest. During breakout sessions, attendees from across Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada, Colorado, Utah and California discussed the opportunities and challenges for developing, scaling and deploying energy technologies in the Southwest, focusing on three areas where the region is seeing significant activity: solar photovoltaics, advanced fuels and energy storage.
The technology showcase also highlighted some of the exciting research that’s happening across the region. One of the potentially groundbreaking projects came from OPX Biotechnologies, a Colorado company who is utilizing their proprietary genomics tools to make a low-cost biodiesel-equivalent fuel from renewable hydrogen and carbon dioxide. An impressive undertaking in and of itself, but even more so when you take into account the primary byproduct of this breakthrough electrofuel: water.
That’s just one of the breakthrough technologies in development in the Southwest that could fundamentally change the way we use energy across the nation, but those technologies can’t make a real impact if they never make it to market. That’s why ARPA-E and the Department of Energy will continue to help bring together key leaders in policy, research and industry to spark the connections that can foster new partnerships, new companies and new organizations to help us find solutions to critical energy, environmental and economic challenges.
John Schueler is a New Media Specialist with the Office of Public Affairs.