On March, 30, 2011, I had posted a blog called “America’s Next Top Energy Innovator,” which described the Department of Energy’s challenge to spark innovation of clean energy technologies by providing incentives for the start-up companies. Earlier today, I was able to attend presentations at the ISAT Department of JMU as part of the Department’s Senior Symposium. Not all presentations pertained to clean energy projects, but a good chunk of them were. Although none of these graduating seniors had developed their own clean energy companies, I found it so interesting about how much innovation we have right here at JMU.
One particular presentation that I thought was relative to my research of the Department of Energy was one that focused on hydrogen as an alternative transportation fuel and in stationary applications. The project was presented by five JMU Students: Anrew Spurr, Daniel Attard, Ellis Gore, Daniel Knox, and Taylor Moellers.
The presentation began with some background information about the current energy situation in the United States. Currently, the United States is the top oil consumer in the world. Although the U.S. only holds 5% of the world population, we use 22% of the world’s oil. At the rate that we are consuming, domestic oil will be completely depleted in approximately 11 years. To fix this dependency, the group proposed to use hydrogen as an alternative fuel. They had said that hydrogen is the simplest and most abundant element in the universe. That being said, it can be produced into a variety of domestic energy sources such as wind, solar, or hydropower technologies. The group does warn the audience of hydrogen’s drawbacks; it is a combustible gas that requires more careful and technical handling and dispersion. Further endorsing the idea, the group had built a scooter that solely ran on hydrogen energy, which has zero-emissions of any pollutants.
In order to gain further support with the idea of hydrogen fuel cells, the group engaged in many public education and outreach events. One of them being the USA Science and Engineering in Washington D.C., which attracted over half a million people. Another event , which happened to be held at JMU, was a Hydrogen 101 Seminar hosted by the group and ISAT Professor Christopher Bachmann, which was open to the public, in order to help educate the state and local decision makers about hydrogen.
The 5 graduating seniors were provided a $15,000 grant from Virginia Clean Cities, which happens to be sponsored by the Department of Energy.
Overall, I found it inspiring that a group of JMU students had the ambition to create such a project. It just goes to show that conventional wisdom is wrong: you don’t need to be a scientist to innovate clean technologies. Not only at JMU, but across the globe, many students are creating solutions to adapting to energy efficient means.
**NOTE To Professor Holman: This post is NOT part of the required 10 posts. **