Report on the 2010 World Energy Engineering Congress

I just finished attending the 2010 World Energy Engineering

Congress, which is an annual event in its 33rd year. This year

several thousand fellow engineers from all over the world convened

in Washington D.C. to report on progress in the energy

engineering/management arenas. Of course, there is no way to

summarize the whole event within this column, but I will give you

just a few of the highlights I witnessed. Note that there were 15

different conference subject tracks, with each track containing 16

different presentations. In addition, there were numerous 1 day

seminars as well as an Exposition all occurring at the same time!

In the opening session, New York Times columnist Mr. Thomas

Friedman gave an inspiring speech on geopolitical and economic

opportunities that exist in the energy market. I agree with Mr.

Friedman; that energy technology or "ET" represents the next wave

of economic development... and the persons and countries that can

provide inexpensive and sustainable energy will be able to make

trillions and change their economies as they export those

technologies to other consuming countries... it is truly an exciting

time as the problem is clearly laid out in front of us. Now, we just

have to solve the problem! The remainder of this article describes

the practical solutions that are taking us down this path.

In the lighting technology realm, I saw major lighting brands offering

5 year "no questions asked" guarantees on LED High Intensity

Discharge lamps. Some fixtures were designed to replace "cobra"

type fixtures for street lighting along with reflectors that can direct or

spread the light as the task requires.

I also saw many good demonstrations of LEDs for smaller lighting

systems. As the photo below shows, there are now many different

color choices, which enable LEDs to provide more than their famous

"blue or bright white" colored light.

Within the Combined Heat and Power section of the Expo, I saw

some very cost effective micro-turbines that are factory packaged to

provide electricity and heat with a few simple connections to your

building. These can be practically "dropped shipped" to your

building and installed in hours. If you need electricity and heat (even

domestic hot water), these may be systems to consider. Another

option is the integrated solar PV/Thermal technology as mentioned


There were solar PV panels with integrated cooling mechanisms on

the back-side of the panel that keep the solar PV cells cool and

operating at peak efficiency, while the waste heat can be configured

to deliver free hot water (this could be very effective in

homes/buildings) as you are saving even more energy.

Also there were many demonstrations of new

technology/wireless/internet systems such as inexpensive data

loggers that can collect information from a variety of systems like

pressure, humidity, temperature and many more advanced

functions too.

At the awards banquet on Wednesday night, there were some great

success stories where engineers had saved a company (or

government) millions of dollars via innovative approaches. One

award that really excited me was given to a researcher who had

developed a thermocatalyric process that can convert 1 ton of

plastic waste into 300 gallons of hydrocarbon fuel (at $0.75/gallon).

This has numerous applications to convert the excess waste plastic

that is now existent in our ecosystem. FYI- there is a plastic "gyre"

in the pacific ocean that is larger than the size of Texas! However,

we have plenty of plastic waste on our land that could be used as a

source for this application. Other "waste to energy" solutions were

exhibited on the show floor and included all types of biogenic source

fuels as the photo below shows.

The final keynote luncheon speech to the general audience was

given by Michael Gardner, a Vice President from Wal-Mart. When I

introduced Mr. Gardner, I made reference to the change I had

personally seen in Wal-Mart's suppliers in China, (Wal-Mart wants

all suppliers to report on their sustainability plans, and this has

driven "green" change in the factories and shipping industries).

However, he had plenty to talk about regarding Wal-Mart's success

within the US. They had changed lighting systems not only for their

energy-efficiency, but also where the new lighting systems

produced less heat on produce (thereby allowing the produce to last

longer). Wal-Mart also showcased how LED lighting in parking lots

provided a more uniform distribution of foot-candles, which

customers preferred and felt "safer".

Wal-Mart had taken similar business-based approaches to justify

improvements store-wide. As a company of such scale, they truly

are uniquely qualified to leverage their purchasing power and

volume to drive improvements in efficiency or the cost of a

technology. Several examples were described where Wal-Mart's

approval for an energy retrofit demanded that an HVAC unit be

more efficient... and the manufacturer improved the design to meet

this goal...In return the HVAC equipment manufacturer was allowed

to sell thousands of the new and improved units which went onto

the roofs of Wal-Mart stores. In thinking about Wal-Mart, perhaps

you can leverage the supplier relationships you have to drive

change and develop even better solutions than are available today.

The next World Energy Engineering Congress will be in Chicago in

October 2011. It looks to be an incredible event with much to share

and learn for everyone. I hope you attend and I hope that you also

share your success stories... you may inspire others to greatness


Eric A. Woodroof, Ph.D., C.E.M., is the Chairman of the Board for the Certified Carbon Reduction Manager program and he has been a Board Member of the Certified Energy Manager Program since 1999. He shows clients how to make more money and simultaneously help the environment. During the past 15 years, he has helped over 250 organizations improve profits with energy-environmental solutions. He has written over 25 professional journal publications and his work has appeared in hundreds of articles....

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