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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Energy talk draws a crowd

    Professor Joseph Simmons, head of the materials science and engineering department, discussed energy concerns at the Conservation On Energy town hall meeting hosted by ConocoPhillips at the Marriott Hotel last night.
    Professor Joseph Simmons, head of the materials science and engineering department, discussed energy concerns at the Conservation On Energy town hall meeting hosted by ConocoPhillips at the Marriott Hotel last night.

    More than 200 Tucson business owners, industry experts and concerned citizens attended a town-hall discussion concerning the need to reduce Arizona’s dependency on conventional forms of energy last night.

    One of the main topics of discussion, solar energy is an energy source that Southern Arizona has in abundance, said Dr. Joseph Simmons, head of the UA’s material science and engineering department.

    Tucson receives a high rate of “”solar flux,”” a measure of how much Sun energy reaches the Earth’s surface, he said.

    Based on figures averaged over 30 years, Tucson receives about 7.5 hours worth of sunlight a day, compared to 2.5 hours in Germany and 3.5 in New York, he said.

    Because Southern Arizona is an ideal place to develop solar energy technology, Simmons has joined with other experts to form the Arizona Research Institute for Solar Energy, or AZRISE.

    “”We met with the provost a week ago, and he approved the formation of the institute,”” he said.

    Within the institute, there are between 15 and 20 active projects currently under development at the UA, Simmons said.

    “”Solar energy doesn’t get a lot of research funding these days,”” he said. “”It’s very good that the state of Arizona has decided to step in and help.””

    One thing the state has done, Simmons said, is require that by 2015 all utilities produce 15 percent of their electrical supply from renewable sources.

    A project being developed by the UA’s Steward Observatory Mirror Laboratory uses a large area comprised of mirrors to concentrate solar energy onto smaller solar cells, he said.

    “”You’re transferring cost,”” he said. “”Over the large area you use something that’s cheap, then you concentrate to a small area where you can use something very expensive.””

    Other panelists at the forum said that work needs to be done to improve the energy sources currently used in Arizona and the world.

    “”Solar energy is not the end-all solution for the world, or even Southern Arizona,”” said Katherine Kent, a member of the Arizona Solar Energy Advisory Council.

    One strategy outlined was the need to increase efficient use of conventional forms of energy.

    “”Our cars do not meet Chinese fuel-efficiency standards,”” said Amanda Ormond, principal of the Ormond Group, an energy and environmental consulting firm.

    U.S. automotive manufacturers have not improved the energy efficiency of vehicles since 1989, she said.

    “”Twenty to 40 percent of all heated and cooled air in homes is lost through duct leakage,”” Ormond said. “”We have a lot of work to do on energy efficiency.””

    Alternative energy was also discussed at the meeting.

    Along with conventional energy sources, such as oil and gas, and renewable energy sources, also including wind, alternative energy is one of the three core areas of research and development at ConocoPhillips, said Colette Reynolds, the oil and gas company’s manager of challenged resources.

    In a deal with Tyson Foods, ConocoPhillips has begun taking animal fat and converting it into renewable diesel, Reynolds said, adding that the company is also looking into alternative sources for ethanol.

    “”What we want is all the technology to leave a lesser environmental footprint,”” she said.

    Either through actions by large businesses or by individuals themselves, teamwork and cooperation is at the root of finding alternative energy sources, Kent said.

    “”Our communities need to work together to implement some of the strategies we’ve talked about,”” she said.

    The meeting was held at the Marriott Tucson University Park, 880 E. Second St.

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