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Summit urges going green

The local captains of industry and government met this week in Bremerton to learn about and discuss how new technology will help to offset the energy burden, and what Kitsap County’s role will be in developing those solutions.

“Energy prices are hitting people in the pocketbook, so they are looking for options,” said West Sound Utility District Plant Manager John Poppe. “We tried to consolidate a lot of the available information and present it in a fast-track format.”

While no topic was discussed in depth, the dozens of participants received primers about fuel cell technology, geothermal energy, biodegradable fuel, “green electricity and solar power, among others. They also heard about how banks treat alternative energy investments, and incubation strategies — such as the Port of Bremerton’s Sustainable Energy and Economic Development (SEED) project.

Some specifics, like the proposal to use excess methane gas from the West Sound Headquarters to heat the Retsil Veterans’ Home, were also discussed.

“We have some real unique opportunities in the county,” said North Kitsap Commissioner Steve Bauer. “We have a terrific legislative group that is creating a good environment for energy development. And we can create our own opportunities for the SEED project, rather than waiting for those opportunities to come to us.

“There is a need to create a test bed for alternative energy development and it could be here,” Bauer said. “It won’t happen overnight, but we have the local interest and the capacity to accomplish this.”

Bauer recommended this summer’s sustainability festival, scheduled for August 2 and August 3 in Hansville, as a means to educate the public about the topic.

“People aren’t well informed about the issue of sustainability,” he said. “We want this to be more than just a one time thing. When people think about sustainability, we want them to think about Kitsap County.”

U.S. Rep Jay Inslee (D-Bainbridge Island), who was originally scheduled to attend the conference, instead appeared in a prepared video. He compared the current situation to World War II, when Washington supplied military hardware, and to the space race in the 1960s.

“Today we have the capacity to lead the world by providing the arsenal of clean energy,” Inslee said. “This can start right here in our county. We have tremendous intellectual power in Washington that we can put to work in order to create new solutions. What Kennedy did in the 1960s with space we will do with clean energy. And the Evergreen state will be permanently green in our pockets as well as our hillsides.”

Inslee was neither the first nor the last of the featured speakers to tout the economic potential of clean energy. State Rep. Larry Seaquist (D-Gig Harbor) differed with the cliché that the next Bill Gates would emerge from alternative energy field. Instead, he predicted that energy had the potential to hatch several people who would be as wealthy and influential as the Microsoft founder.

“Today there is a different kind of ecology,” Seaquist said. “It’s an ecology of people with a lot of different skills who collaborate. It’s not just one technology or just one plant. When you talk about sewage you talk about cross connecting to hydrogen. Everyone today is looking at these interdisciplinary, inter-technology kinds of things, (wanting) to jump right in and create entirely new categories.”

Seaquist, who helped to organize the summit, hopes to bring all the involved parties to a roundtable in the next few weeks and discuss specific applications and maintain the momentum.

“Every time you look at the gas pump and see a number that approaches $4, it’s not just pain,” Seaquist said. “It’s an opportunity, because those numbers have the potential to make us rich.”

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