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Lab News -- August 19, 2005

August 19 , 2005

LabNews 08/19/2005PDF (650KB)

President Bush visits Sandia, signs sweeping energy bill

By Bill Murphy

Seated before a huge sky-blue-cloud-and-silver photograph of a Sandia solar collector array, President George W. Bush signed the Energy Policy Act of 2005 into law last week at Sandia’s Steve Schiff Auditorium. He said the bill’s provisions will make America less reliant on foreign energy sources, encourage more environmentally friendly energy usage, promote nuclear, solar, and other alternative energy sources, boost the nation’s recovering economy, and keep the American homeland safer and more secure.

“The Energy Policy Act of 2005 is going to help every American who drives to work, every family that pays a power bill, and every small business owner hoping to expand,” the President said.

The energy bill is a massive and sweeping document; in its 1,724 pages it addresses the huge, interrelated web of issues that constitute “energy” in a 21st-century economy.

“After years of division and debate, Congress has passed a good bill. It’s my honor to come to the great state of New Mexico to sign it,” Bush told an audience of VIPs, White House guests, national and local media, and some 100 or so Sandians, many selected by lottery, to attend the historic signing. Bush previously had promised Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., that if the senator could shepherd an energy bill through Congress, Bush would sign the bill at Sandia in Domenici’s hometown of Albuquerque.

“Thanks very much for the warm welcome. I appreciate you treatin’ a neighbor from Texas so kindly,” said President Bush to the standing room only crowd as he entered the auditorium. “I’m really proud to be here with the men and women of the Sandia National Laboratory.”

President Bush’s visit was the first to Sandia by a sitting president since his father, George H.W. Bush, came to the Labs during the 1992 presidential campaign.

Bipartisanship at its best

In 18 minutes of prepared remarks before the signing, Bush praised the bipartisan nature of the effort, singling out Domenici, Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., and U.S. Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, for special thanks. Domenici is chairman of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources; Bingaman is the ranking minority member. Barton is chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee and chaired the House-Senate conference committee on the energy bill.

“The bill is the result of years of effort,” Bush said. “It is the result of good folks coming together, people who have made a commitment to deliver results for the American people. This bill launches an energy strategy for the 21st century, and I’ve really been looking forward to signing it.”

‘Once Pete makes up his mind’

“I appreciate Pete Domenici’s leadership on this bill. You know, he’s the kind of fellow, when he makes up his mind to do something it’s hard to stop him. And as Pete said, he’s worked on a lot of energy bills in the past; some of them were signed by presidents and some of them never made it to the desk. But he’s been dogged in his determination to get a bill done, and he found a really fine partner in Joe Barton.”

Domenici, who has been working toward this culminating moment for years, came out onto the stage with President Bush and introduced the president as being the indispensable factor in the successful passage of the bill.

“It’s been a long time coming, but today we finally have a national energy policy,” Domenici said. Domenici also noted the bipartisan nature of the bill. Addressing Sen. Bingaman, who was seated on the stage with other dignitaries (including Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman), Domenici said, “You and I, Jeff, were able to resist intense partisan pressure in the Senate. We pledged to work together, and we kept that pledge.”

President Bush also noted Bingaman’s vital role: “Jeff Bingaman gets a lot of credit, as well. He knows the subject matter in the bill, and he’s a proven leader on issues such as conservation and efficiency and renewable fuels and research and development. And, Jeff, I, like Pete, want to congratulate you for a job well done, and thank you for being here.”

In a news release issued concurrently with the bill signing, Bingaman said, “I am glad to see this legislation signed into law. It represents significant progress and it gives me hope that in the months and years ahead that we can make even greater progress . . . towards national energy security.”

A balanced bill

Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman, whom President Bush praised as the right person at the helm to advance the provisions of the bill, said at the time of the bill’s passage, “By encouraging greater efficiency, increased energy production in an environmentally responsible way, and encouraging investment in our nation’s outdated energy infrastructure, this bill takes a balanced approach and embodies the right priorities for the American people.”

President Bush in his remarks echoed the theme of balance. Addressing the nation’s multifaceted energy-related issues, he said, “required a balanced approach. And that’s the spirit that Pete and Jeff and Joe took to the floors of their respective bodies. They recognized that we need a comprehensive approach to deal with the situation we’re in. In other words, we need to conserve more energy; we need to produce more energy. We need to diversify our energy supply, and we need to modernize our energy delivery. And so they worked hard and listened to a lot of good ideas, and they’ve taken really important steps [with this bill]. . . .

“The bill I sign today is a critical first step. It’s a first step toward a more affordable and reliable energy future for the American citizens. This bill is not going to solve our energy challenges overnight. Most of the serious problems, such as high gasoline costs, or the rising dependence on foreign oil, have developed over decades. It’s going to take years of focused effort to alleviate those problems. But in about two minutes, we’re going to have a strategy that will help us do that.”

Touring solar facilities

Before signing the energy bill, the president received a tour of Sandia’s solar tower facility and a briefing from Labs Director Tom Hunter about Sandia’s energy-related work.

“We just had a fascinating tour of the [solar] facility,” President Bush said. “It was a little quick, but I learned a lot, and I want to thank Tom Hunter for his hospitality and his enthusiasm for the projects that go on here, and his praise for the people who work here. . . . I know full well that the work you do here keeps our military strong, it keeps our nation competitive, and our country is really grateful for your dedication and for the fact that you lend your expertise into helping Americans.”

Under the overall leadership of Les Shephard, VP for Energy, Security, and Defense Technologies, dozens of Sandians from departments across the laboratories worked long hours during the previous week preparing for the president’s visit

.“There just couldn’t be a prouder time for Sandia,” Tom Hunter told the Lab News after the signing ceremony. “The president got a glimpse of Sandia, the people, the work, and the commitment we bring to what we do. He’s a president who truly understands the importance of energy and the role it plays in our nation’s security and well-being and its role in the world.

“I couldn’t be more proud of the people who worked so hard to make this day possible. Senators Domenici and Bingaman, of course, have worked toward this for years, and our team of folks led by Les Shephard has helped make this the most terrific day in our history.” -- Bill Murphy

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Pre-ceremony presentation highlights Labs’ energy R&D

By Bill Murphy

Because of security and logistics considerations mandated by the White House and Secret Service, most of the attendees for President Bush’s appearance at the Steve Schiff Auditorium were in their seats some two hours before the 11 a.m. start of the Energy Bill signing ceremony.

Making a virtue of necessity, Sandia’s event planners developed a half-hour presentation for the long-seated audience, highlighting some of the Labs’ energy-related research. Presenters, introduced by Labs Deputy Director for Integrated Technology Programs Al Romig, included Div. 6000 VP Les Shephard and Sandia innovators (as Les called them) Jerry Simmons, Sandra Begay-Campbell, Peter Davies, and Terry Michalske.

Les first offered high-level comments putting the nation’s energy requirements in a Sandia context. He cited some energy-related facts:

Second semiconductor revolution

Jerry Simmons spoke of what he called “a second semiconductor revolution.” The first was the transition from vacuum tubes to solid state electronics. The next, Jerry said — and it is well under way — is the transition from vacuum tube-based lighting to solid state lighting.

In making his point, Jerry noted that part of the long-term solution to burgeoning global energy demands over the next century will be to improve the efficiency of existing technologies. And, Jerry noted, “If you look around for where new energy-efficient technologies could have a big impact, lighting really stands out. About 20 percent of electricity is used for lighting. But fluorescents are only 25 percent efficient, and incandescent bulbs — the Edison light bulb — are only five percent efficient. Lighting is incredibly wasteful! Why can’t we do better?”

He praised aspects of the Energy Policy Act of 2005 that continue support for the Next Generation Lighting Initiative.

Energy needs of tribal homelands

Sandra Begay-Campbell caught the audience’s attention by noting that even today having electric power in your home is not a given.
“I grew up only a few hours drive from Albuquerque and it was an exciting day when one of my grandmothers received electricity for the first time. We made a special visit that night, just to see her shiny new porch light. This basic need for infrastructure and to solve community problems sparked my interest in engineering.

“As I drive hours on rural dirt roads, I am proud to show people who are interested in tribal energy issues the photovoltaic and small wind turbines that provide electricity to many Navajo people. These technologies provide a viable electrification option, which fits in well with the Navajo culture.”

Sandra, a member of the Navajo nation, said she has high hopes that the Energy Bill’s provisions addressing the energy needs of tribal lands will “foster energy development and electrification of Indian country.”

Water and power generation

Peter Davies focused on a subject widely overlooked in discussions about energy — the staggeringly high demands that electricity production puts on fresh water resources.

“Today is a typical day across the United States,” Peter said, “and on a typical day we import about 12 million barrels of oil. On a typical day, we also withdraw about 3 billion barrels of freshwater from our rivers, lakes, and aquifers in order to generate electricity. This water is used in coal, gas, and nuclear power generation plants across our country. This water is essential for power generation. No water, no electricity.”

Just three percent of that water is actually consumed, Peter noted, but explained that it contains waste heat — a byproduct of the generation process — that must be dissipated.

“The impact of this critical energy-water interdependency will grow in the future. . . . Therefore, we must develop more water-efficient power generation technologies, develop alternative sources of water, and bring on line renewable technologies that do not require water.” The Energy Bill authorizes DOE to carry out research on the issue.

Imagine a hydrogen-fueled future

Terry Michalske discussed the nation’s potential hydrogen future, noting that the transition from fossil-fuel based energy for transportation to a hydrogen-based approach calls for vision, leadership, and commitment. Terry said President Bush has provided the vision for the hydrogen future, while the Energy Bill provides the leadership and commitment.

“Imagine a future where the currency of world energy is measured in kilograms of hydrogen instead of barrels of oil,” Terry said. “Imagine a world where driving your car to work or turning on the lights in your house adds no pollutants to our environment. Imagine a world where every nation can pursue its own energy independence.

“This is the vision of hydrogen . . . but significant technological challenges stand between us and that future.”Terry noted that Sandia is well-positioned to work with industry, academia, and other national laboratories to address those technical challenges; in fact, it is already doing so. “I’m excited by the possibility of using nuclear and solar technologies to produce hydrogen without adding carbon to the atmosphere,” he said. “We may even use nanotechnology to mimic the fundamental processes of biology and convert light directly into hydrogen fuel.”

Following the presentations, a video produced by Sandia’s Video Services Department especially for the event, “Energizing America,” offered more highlights of Sandia’s wide-ranging energy work and provided an overview of many other areas of Sandia research. -- Bill Murphy

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August 8 great day for solar power technologies

By Chris Burroughs

Monday, Aug. 8, was a great day for concentrating solar power technologies, says Sandia researcher Chuck Andraka (6218).

That was when Labs Director Tom Hunter showed off Sandia’s different solar power technologies, and in particular six Stirling Energy Systems solar collector dishes, at the Sandia-operated, DOE-owned National Solar Thermal Test Facility to President George W. Bush. Also on hand for the tour were Secretary of Energy Samuel Bodman and US Sens. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., and Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M.

Taking center stage in preparing for the president’s visit to the solar facility was Chuck, the lead engineer who has been involved from the beginning in planning, constructing, and calibrating the six Stirling units. Filling critical supporting roles were the employees who work at the Solar Thermal Test Facility in Dept. 6218, located south of Tech Area 3. Behind the scenes, efforts by Sandia’s facilities, safety, security, media relations, and graphics arts groups also helped make the presidential tour a success.

The six-dish mini power plant — the largest array of solar dish-Stirling systems in the world — works together to provide enough grid-ready solar electricity to power more than 40 homes. They produce up to 150kW of grid-ready electrical power during the day. Sandia and Stirling Energy Systems (SES), which owns the dishes, worked together over the past several months to assemble and test the state-of-the-art systems.

Chuck says he was recalled early from his August vacation for a “security issue.”

“I had no idea what I was getting into,” Chuck says. “When I arrived, Margie Tatro [director of Energy, Infrastructure, & Knowledge System Center 6200] and VP 6000 Les Shephard told me that the president was coming and they wanted to see Solar Tower activities, and especially the SES dishes. We immediately began a weeklong preparation for the visit. Les was enthusiastic, and that became contagious.”

A Sandia team spent 12-hour days cleaning the mirrors on the dishes, rewriting scripts, moving equipment, and testing operations. They covered safety, security, choreography, press opportunities, and many other angles.

Tom was tapped to give a briefing to the president on the Solar Tower activities prior to the president’s going to the Steve Schiff Auditorium to sign the new energy bill. Margie, Rich Diver, Jeff Nelson (manager of Solar Technologies Dept. 6218), and Chuck wrote and rewrote a script for Tom, who “proved to be a quick and enthusiastic study.”

“He anticipated a lot of possible questions, and we supplied him with a continuous flow of factoid sheets,” Chuck says. “We were faced with two to three walkthroughs per day, each with different challenges such as security, photo angles, technical details, and personnel. It was a joy working with Tom, Les, and Margie throughout the preparations.”

Chuck says Les was the “image man.”

“He insisted on an American flag to be reflected in the dishes,” he says. “On Friday we had one Fed-Exed from Colorado.”
Daniel Ray and J.J. Kelton (both 6218) spent the day hanging the huge flag on the side of the building, keeping safety in mind throughout. Chuck says Les was elated and then asked “where were the thunderbirds.” They quickly found the appropriate thunderbird decals and, with guidance from Sandia’s media relations staff, affixed them to some equipment as well.

Ten minutes before the president arrived at the Solar Thermal Test Facility, Margie and Chuck briefed Secretary Bodman on Sandia’s solar technologies.

“Everything went smoothly for the president’s visit,” Chuck says. “We had contingencies for every possible failure scenario, but needed none. Tom did a great job covering our technologies, even pointing out the windows where the rest of the staff was located so the president could wave to them.”

The president was so engaged in the Stirling Energy Systems units he wanted to know who was the primary technical lead working on the project. Tom looked in Chuck’s direction, but told the president he couldn’t immediately find him because Chuck “didn’t normally wear a suit.”

“The president shouted over to me, ‘I’m glad you wore a suit today.’ He then waved me out to see him,” Chuck says. “I checked with the Secret Service and they said go.”

So Chuck ran out to meet the president and shake his hand. He got in only a few short comments about the dish systems that were moving into position and beginning to generate power. Tom then described the systems and Sandia’s partnership with SES.

The president appeared very interested in the technology. When he was guided back toward the presidential limo at 11 minutes, he stopped and asked Tom questions for another four minutes, fully using the allotted 15-minute window.

“I was excited beyond belief that the project I am most associated with was highlighted for this visit,” Chuck says. “I think the point got across through Tom’s talk that this is a technology ready for commercialization and that we have key partnerships with industry that will bring this vision to reality soon.” -- Chris Burroughs

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