Matthew Nash / Olympic Peninsula News Group
Scott Edmundson, a PNNL-Sequim research botanist, speaks at PNNL-Sequim’s seawater propagation station with Jennifer Granholm, U.S. Secretary of Energy, U.S. Rep. Derek Kilmer, Geri Richmond, DOE’s undersecretary for Science and Innovation, and others about PNNL-Sequim’s efforts to harness essential minerals from the ocean and plant life.

Matthew Nash / Olympic Peninsula News Group Scott Edmundson, a PNNL-Sequim research botanist, speaks at PNNL-Sequim’s seawater propagation station with Jennifer Granholm, U.S. Secretary of Energy, U.S. Rep. Derek Kilmer, Geri Richmond, DOE’s undersecretary for Science and Innovation, and others about PNNL-Sequim’s efforts to harness essential minerals from the ocean and plant life.

Secretary of Energy tours Pacific Northwest National Laboratory-Sequim

Facility could see funding for research and development

SEQUIM — For the first time in its history, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory-Sequim hosted the U.S. Secretary of Energy at its campus.

Jennifer Granholm, the former governor of Michigan, came to Sequim, home of the Department of Energy’s only marine research facility, on Wednesday to see work related to tackling climate change, alternative energy sources and other innovations.

She and Geri Richmond, DOE’s undersecretary for Science and Innovation, went with Pacific Northwest National Laboratory-Sequim (PNNL-Sequim) staff in a boat on Sequim Bay, spoke with researchers about their clean energy efforts and met with North Olympic Peninsula stakeholders.

The Inflation Reduction Act and the CHIPS and Science Act tentatively will invest billions into science research and development and ways to reduce carbon emissions, Granholm said.

“Sequim is at the center of this moment of developing an economy that is moving into (clean energy),” she said.

“The global economy for clean energy technologies and products will be $23 trillion by 2030,” she continued. “The Blue Economy is a $3 trillion part of that, and the question is where that’s going to be developed.”

The Blue Economy, DOE officials say, focuses on technologies and economic development of industries surrounding the ocean.

U.S. Rep. Derek Kilmer, a Democrat representing the 6th Congressional District, invited Granholm to see PNNL-Sequim. Kilmer and 4th Congressional District Rep. Dan Newhouse, a Republican, introduced the bipartisan Blue Energy Innovation Act to the House of Representatives earlier this year.

The bill seeks to establish a Blue Economy Center of Excellence tentatively at PNNL-Sequim to coordinate partnering agencies, and provide $75 million from DOE for research to better harness ocean energy, increase deployment of newer renewable technologies in water, drive decarbonization efforts and create jobs in the Blue Economy.

Granholm said the act would be a “holistic approach” to pushing forward the Blue Economy.

Kilmer added that PNNL-Sequim has “extraordinary capabilities” and could play a key role in looking at critical energy questions.

“There’s tremendous upside as we try to address energy security, the climate crisis, and as a guy who grew up in Clallam County, try to create more economic opportunity here on the (North Olympic) Peninsula,” he said.

The bill has been referred to the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology.

Future, discussions

On her tour, Granholm heard researchers speak about efforts to reduce costs for offshore wind energy, reduce maintenance on machinery in the ocean and extract essential minerals from the ocean.

Scott Edmundson, a PNNL-Sequim research botanist, said they’ve been able to extract 38 of 50 minerals from seaweed that the U.S. Geological Survey deems essential for the U.S. economy.

He called it the “crop of the future” as it can grow without fresh water and fertilizer.

“We’ve only scratched the surface,” he said of seaweed’s capabilities.

Granholm told reporters that PNNL-Sequim is a “tremendous facility” for being able to answer problems regarding climate change — “everything from the ability to test offshore wind, test tidal and marine energy, the ability to heal the ocean in terms of acidification, and the ability to enhance its ability to sequester carbon.”

“We’re talking about the ability to extract critical minerals in a responsible way,” she said.

Kilmer said PNNL-Sequim’s research is what people think about in relation to the nation’s energy future.

“The work happening here in Sequim is going to be central to that, which is why it’s extraordinary the secretary is here,” he said. “She and her team took time to put eyes on this and see work happening here.”

Granholm added that the Inflation Reduction Act provides incentives for the private sector to use the types of technologies being developed in Sequim.

Afterward, Granholm traveled on Thursday to tour the hydropower dam in North Bend with U.S. Rep. Kim Schrier of the 8th Congressional District, then PNNL-Richland with U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell, and today she was set to tour the Hanford site.

On her tour of the Pacific Northwest, Granholm said it’s been “interesting to see the research side right here to the actual deployment of newer technologies to help solve the world’s bigger problems.”

Before leaving Sequim, she, Kilmer and PNNL staff met with local stakeholders about energy efforts and concerns here.

Discussions ranged from concerns about accessibility to resources due to rural location to costs for alternative fuel/energy and projects.

W. Ron Allen, chairman of the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe, told Granholm “we’re all about innovation” with new energy efforts and said tribal members want to participate in future discussions.

“We’re here to help. We just want to make sure we’re on the bench (when those decisions are made),” he said.

Roundtable participants included Allen; Timothy Greene, Sr., Makah Tribe chairman; Rep. Steve Tharinger, D-Port Townsend; Karen Affeld, North Olympic Development Council executive director; Meggan Uecker, City of Sequim resource analyst; and Sean Worthington, Clallam Public Utility District general manager.

PNNL-Sequim staff provided a tour for stakeholders after their meeting with Granholm.

For more information about PNNL-Sequim, visit www.pnnl.gov/pnnl-sequim.

For more information on the Department of Energy, visit www.energy.gov.

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Matthew Nash is a reporter with the Olympic Peninsula News Group, which is composed of Sound Publishing newspapers Peninsula Daily News, Sequim Gazette and Forks Forum. Reach him at [email protected].

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