Energizing Indiana

There’s a phrase you don’t expect to hear from someone who talks about pavement and sewage and traffic signals.  It’s “never a dull moment.”  But, that’s how Kären Haley describes her work as Director of the Indianapolis Office of Sustainability.  Her mission is to improve the city’s environmental awareness.

Haley was a guest at a recent symposium sponsored by the Lugar Center for Renewable Energy at IUPUI.  She described a pilot program to reduce demand on water treatment facilities by managing stormwater runoff.  She also explained goals for the “sustainability” programs in Indianapolis — from energy efficiency programs to recycling options to “green” buildings.

Even the City-County Building will be modified — to the extent a building of its age  can be.  Haley says it’s a chance for city government to lead by example.

Leadership is also the mission of ESN — the Energy Systems Network.  That’s a consortium of companies which are trying to develop the “clean tech” sector of Indiana’s energy technology programs.  Paul Mitchell, ESN’s President, told the forum Indiana’s reliance on coal for energy helped Indiana develop its manufacturing base.  But that devotion to coal is now an “emerging liability”, he says, as government looks at ways to control carbon emissions.

Mitchell also said advanced technology vehicles are the future — and with Indiana’s manufacturing sector — the state is poised to be part of that development.  He described Indiana as “a leader in the Clean Tech sector long before it was called clean technology.”  He reminded guests at the forum that the EV-1, the first electric vehicle, was done on the Indiana campus now known as EnerDel.

Mitchell also sees Indianapolis as a leader in spreading the next phase of electric vehicle technology.  He sees Indianapolis as the perfect market for “Project: Plug-in”.  That’s a program to promote the use of plug-in vehicles — not gas and battery-powered hybrids — but totally electric cars.  Mitchell says he knows people have “range anxiety” about such vehicles.  But, since so many people here commute no more than about 20 miles a day, they’re within the range of current electric vehicles.  The cars, which would be sold by Nissan, have a range of 100 miles, he says.

Cost is another concern to be overcome.   Mitchell says there are several ways that will be addressed.  In the end, he believes the plug-in vehicles will have a “pretty attractive” price.  He expects to have more information about the project, later this month.

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