July 25, 2002
An incubator for cutting-edge power projects
By DICK KOENIGS
Northwest Energy Innovation Center
We helped put together the Northwest’s largest solar station.
We’re working with a company intent on harvesting energy from the Pacific Ocean’s waves.
We are searching for opportunities to use animal waste from dairy farms and feedlots to produce methane gas to power generators.
And that’s just a start. Now, we’re looking for more new ideas — perhaps even yours — to produce energy in an ecologically benign manner.
The Northwest Energy Innovation Center began in January 2001 as a consortium of the Bonneville Power Administration, Washington State University, the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory operated by Battelle, and Energy Northwest.
Organizers saw a lot of good ideas in the region. We also saw a lot of people working part time to turn those ideas into reality. But, unfortunately, there was no full-time organization that could efficiently tap the expertise of major institutions in a focused fashion. There simply was no business incubator that specialized in the needs of renewable energy and distributed generation concerns in the Northwest.
The Northwest Energy Innovation Center was born to fill that niche.
Bonneville provided the financial stimulus — first, a $50,000 grant for a marketing study and creation of a business model; and then $450,000 over a three-year period to move that model into real world applications.
The scientific, engineering and business skills of Battelle and Washington State University nicely complemented the project management and operations strengths of Energy Northwest.
This combination of technical insight and operations expertise has helped remake Energy Northwest — once known only as the operator of the region’s sole nuclear power plant — into the nation’s top public power practitioner in the arts of renewable energy. The agency — a consortium of 16 public power entities in the state — now operates a full portfolio of fuel cell, solar and wind power facilities, plus the Packwood Lake Hydroelectric Project, one of the region’s few environmentally benign hydro stations as certified by the Bonneville Environmental Foundation.
The Northwest Energy Innovation Center isn’t designed to fund new advances in renewable energy. We simply don’t have the money. However, we can, and do, leverage skills of our member organizations and individual entrepreneurs into a force far larger than singular contributions.
In all these examples, and others, the Northwest Energy Innovation Center has leveraged limited resources to create pathways toward success. Our goal is to help power technologies that empower people, while touching the environment as softly as possible.
We’re restrained only by imagination and funding. That’s where you come in. The Northwest always has been blessed with intelligent, energetic people. We need your ideas, because only by making visionaries successful will we be successful.
We also are looking for other organizations that might be interested in providing funding or are interested in partnering with us in other ways to help make these technologies available to Northwest utilities and their customers.
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