Environmental-conscious members of Wisconsin communities used Wisconsin Bioenergy Summit to look to the future of sustainable, green energy alternatives on Thursday.
The Wisconsin Bioenergy Initiative, a University of Wisconsin based organization, was in charge of the event which was held at the Monona Terrace.
The summit featured dozens of speakers discussing many different energy concerns and possibilities. One concern was the environmental damage done by fossil fuels in the state of Wisconsin alone and how different communities in the state are transitioning to more sustainable energy use.
“The main goal is outreach, public outreach, student outreach,” Falicia Hines, spokesperson for the Wisconsin Bioenergy Initiative, said.
Hines said she hoped the summit would not only inform the public about research and innovation happening at UW, but throughout the state as well.
Hines also explained the Wisconsin Bioenergy Initiative’s wish to educate on a wide variety of environmental topics.
“A lot of the speakers that you saw either work in agriculture, forestry, ethanol, a venture capitalist here who invests in renewable energy. We tried to cater to everyone from a novice who’s never heard of bioenergy before and biomass to the researchers in the lab who wanted to learn about what’s happening in the industry,” she said.
Sherrie Gruder, a lecturer with UW-Extension, who spoke at the summit, said the sustainable energy movement taking place throughout Wisconsin is growing, and different areas are becoming more environmentally conscious.
Thirty-one communities in the state, including Madison, were selected as Eco-municipalities by the sustainability team at UW-Extension. In order to be given the distinction, a community had to show a commitment to ecological, economic and social well-being.
Gruder acknowledged the steps taken by the UW toward utilizing more sustainable energy, such as the project to transition the Charter Street Heating Plant from burning coal to biomass, and suggested the university continue to invest in similar projects.
For instance, Gruder noted some buildings being built around the campus have reduced their use of energy by 50 percent, but she would like to see bigger steps taken.
“It would be great if they could use the strength of the University to help them design and have goals for zero energy buildings,” Gruder said.
The Wisconsin Bioenergy initiative was conceived in 2007 by the UW College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. Its mission has been to cultivate bioenergy expertise among the UW-System and the local scientific community in an effort to further bio-based solutions over wasteful energy practices.
Hines explained the group this year has tried to get UW students to come out for the summit and learn more about the environmentally conscious practices of various communities and the university itself.
“One of the goals was to get more students here. We really wanted to hear from students, not just about bioenergy but renewable energy in general,” Hines said.
This year 70 students were registered to attend the summit, up from none last year. A healthy improvement for a group promoting a healthy environment.