COLUMBIA — Running a computer network on grass clippings; using rotting garbage to power a city; connecting distant windmills to homes in Columbia: these goals were once science fiction.
The fifth annual Advancing Renewables in the Midwest conference will update attendees on the progress toward making environmentally friendly electricity a reality.
What: Fifth annual Advancing Renewables in the Midwest conference
Where: Anheuser-Busch Natural Resources Building, 1111 Rollins St., and the Bond Life Sciences Center, 1201 Rollins St., MU
When: 7:30 a.m.-5 p.m. Thursday
Registration: $75 for professionals working in energy or energy-related field and $50 for nonprofessionals such as students and people working in nonprofits and non-energy-related fields. A $25 late fee is being assessed for registrations this week.
For information: advancingrenewables.org
The conference will bring together engineers, entrepreneurs, scientists and policymakers Thursday in the Anheuser-Busch Natural Resource Building at MU. Speakers will explain the roadblocks to renewables as well as the opportunities in Missouri for wind, solar, biomass and other renewable energy industries.
The conference can also be a networking opportunity for people with diverse reasons for attending, said Connie Kacprowicz, utility services specialist for Columbia Water and Light, a co-sponsor of the event. Sustainable energy production was once largely the concern of environmentalists, she said. Now, energy independence and economic opportunity are becoming common reasons for interest.
Mark Templeton, director of the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, a co-host of the event, will begin the conference with a session on Missouri’s energy future in general, but later sessions focus on a variety of themes.
The presentations on economic opportunities will be one of the conference’s most important aspects, Kacprowicz said.
“More money leads to faster development,” she said. She said she thinks that by bringing together a diverse group of experts, the conference can inspire others and move projects forward.
Chris Chung, CEO of Missouri Partnership, an industrial advocacy group, will speak directly to the interests of Missouri industry in his session, "Developing Renewable Manufacturing Projects." Another session will focus on a data center fueled by grass biomass energy.
Smaller scale, decentralized power production may be the future for utility industries, Kacprowicz said. Larry Mansueti of the U.S. Department of Energy will present what is being done to update the electricity grid to ensure reliable service while still embracing renewable technology.
Missouri has a climate similar to Germany, a world leader in solar energy, yet the state produces little solar energy. The Midwest’s race to catch up will be the focus of a session by Tom Nicholas of the Solar Electric Power Association.
Other sessions will focus on climate change and energy efficiency in the home.
Columbia Water and Light, MU's department of soil, environmental and atmospheric sciences and the state Department of Natural Resources are hosting the event.
Registration will remain open until the event, and walk-up registration is welcome. Last year, there were 175 attendees.