Bill Knight column for Thurs., Fri., or Sat., Feb. 13, 14 or 15
The Sierra Club, part of the BlueGreen Alliance with the United Steelworkers and other unions, released “Working Together for a Future That Works,” which lays out a vision for workers in the transition to a clean-energy economy. The report focuses on repairing the systems Americans rely on, to create quality, family-sustaining jobs, to address the threat of climate change, and to ensure the health and safety of where people work and live.
“Climate disruption threatens our families’ health. It hurts communities, and it harms workers,” said Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club. “The Sierra Club and our 2.1 million members and supporters are proud to stand shoulder to shoulder with our allies in the labor movement to fight climate disruption and demand a fair and just transition to a clean energy economy.”
Appearing with coalition partners including George Kohl, Senior Director of the Communications Workers of America, and Mike Langford, President of the Utility Workers Union of America, Brune highlighted opportunities in the growth of clean energy sources like wind and solar; a just and fair transition for workers and families as communities transition from fossil fuels to clean energy; and the shared vision between working families and environmentalists for a healthier, safer, and more prosperous future.
United Autoworkers president Bob King said, "UAW is proud to have worked side by side with our environmental allies. The things we can achieve together are far better than what we can achieve apart, and it is time for us to come together around a bolder vision and a strategy that can end the economic and environmental abuse of our planet and its people.”
Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of Energy announced $30 million in funding to 12 ARPA-E projects to develop hybrid solar energy technologies that deliver cost-effective power when the sun is not shining, including two projects led by Des Plaines-based Gas Technology Institute and Niles-based MicroLink Devices.
ARPA-E (Advanced Research Projects Agency- Energy) has funded hundreds of projects and achieved breakthroughs such as the development of a 1-megawatt silicon carbide transistor the size of a fingernail and engineering microbes that use hydrogen and carbon dioxide to make liquid transportation fuel.
“The United States is becoming a global leader in solar and we’re seeing more and more Americans rely on affordable, clean solar energy to power their homes and businesses.” said Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz. “The Energy Department is working across the industry to help our country’s top engineers, scientists and entrepreneurs bring new solar innovations to market faster.”
Already, U.S. utility-scale solar power has set a record with 2.3 gigawatts installed in 2013, said Moniz, who added that the project awards come from ARPA-E’s FOCUS program (Full-spectrum Optimized Conversion and Utilization of Sunlight), which is aimed at developing new hybrid solar energy converters and hybrid energy storage systems that can deliver low-cost, high-efficiency solar energy on demand.
Under FOCUS, projects will develop advanced solar converters that turn sunlight into electricity for immediate use, while also producing heat that can be stored at low cost for later use as well as innovative storage systems that accept both heat and electricity from variable solar sources.
Gas Technology Institute will receive about $993,000 to develop an ultra-high-efficiency hybrid solar converter that could be used to provide solar electricity and simultaneously collect heat. MicroLink Devices will receive about $3.6 million to develop high-efficiency solar cells that can operate at temperatures above 750°F and can extract the most energy possible from sunlight when integrated with hybrid solar converters.
“Climate disruption, if left unchecked, would lead to a massive economic downturn comparable to the combined effects of the two world wars and the Great Depression of the 20th century,” the BlueGreen report said. “If we fail to act boldly now, hundreds of millions of workers around the world will suffer permanent job losses as a result of damage to infrastructure for water, energy, transportation and public health, as well as important economic sectors such as manufacturing, agriculture and tourism.”
[PICTURED: BlueGreen Alliance is online at http://www.bluegreenalliance.org/]