So you want to stage a revolution? First thing you need for these times is a blog, supported by a flurry of social-media hype. The U.S. Department of Energy has deployed that strategy in its attempt to revolutionize the energy economy.
The mission of its new Energy Blog is to help “create a new, clean energy economy that will spark job creation and reduce our dependence on oil, while cutting our greenhouse gas emissions,” Energy Secretary Steven Chu said in his launch of the blog which provides links to his Facebook page as well as an array of energy-related Twitter-Flickr-YouTube links.
Media gimmickry aside, the blog does provide a forum for following Minnesota-related energy projects in a larger context.
Energy at home
One project to watch is DOE’s $30 million Energy-Efficient Housing Partnerships initiative. Chu noted in announcing the project that “Home energy efficiency is one of the easiest, most immediate and most cost-effective ways to reduce carbon pollution and save money on energy bills, while creating new jobs.”
The University of Minnesota is one of 15 partners DOE has chosen for this bid to make our homes more energy efficient.
The Minnesota piece of the project is a public-private “NorthernSTAR” partnership, which leads research into retrofitting existing homes or building new homes with several integrated criteria: energy efficiency, durability, indoor air quality and low environmental impact.
The Minnesota-led team focuses on developing and deploying new energy efficiency strategies for cold climates. No surprise there!
Squeezing potential from plants
Another interesting project is led by our neighbors at University of Wisconsin — Madison and Michigan State University. This Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center is exploring various approaches for converting sunlight and assorted plant materials — wood chips, grasses and farm residues like corn stalks – into biofuels.
This research takes the Midwestern farmers’ potential contribution to new energy sources several giant steps beyond ethanol from corn. The scientists are analyzing and breeding everything from rutabaga to switchgrass with an eye toward producing starches, oils and other substances that could be converted into fuels.
Chasing dark matter
Then, of course, there is the search for dark matter and other physics experiments at the Soudan mine site in Northern Minnesota. Scientists working on one experiment there set the stage a few months ago for news of a major breakthrough. They reported detecting two signals from what could be the mysterious particles believed to function as invisible glue that binds the universe. See MinnPost’s story here.
Part of that experimental quest for dark matter may be moving to a deeper site in Ontario in order to cut interference from cosmic rays, the BBC reported last month.
We’ll see what Energy Blog has to say about that development. Meanwhile, there is ample reason to watch for news from Soudan.