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Dr. Wubbo Ockels Believes in the Establishment of an Aruban Institute Dedicated to Renewable Energy

General News October 8th, 2010
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One of the most exciting bits of news to emerge from the Aruba Green Energy Conference and Trade Fair that took place from September 29 to October 3 was the commitment of Prime Minister Mike Eman and his administration to the establishment of a research and teaching center dedicated to producing experts and methods of renewable energy.
The concept of such a facility as a way to diversify the island’s economy as well as assist it on the road to independence from fossil fuel is bold but timely; physicist Professor Dr. Wubbo Ockels, Holland’s first astronaut in space and keynote speaker at the conference’s opening event, confirmed his strong interest and likely participation in such a project. During his speech he showed the audience his ocean-going sailboat, which deploys current methods of harnessing wind and solar energy. “I would very much like to sail this boat into Oranjestad Harbor,” he told the audience, “and stay on Aruba at least a few months a year,” he revealed to THE MORNING NEWS later in the conference.
Dr. Ockels, PhD, is the mentor of the Numa Solar Car project developed by students at Delft Technical University and was instrumental is setting up sustainable activities such as the Frisian Solar Challenge boat races. “I look at the youth, I look at innovation and sustainability, and they are absolutely coupled. Sustaina- bility means we need to change… the stakeholders of the future are the youth and the change needs to be made by innovation.”
“The times, and I think everyone agrees, are rather turbulent; we are seeing rather fast changes towards a sustainable world, much faster than anyone would think. Many say we can go on as we did before over the next 20 years – business as usual. I am afraid I must disappoint you – or more pleasantly, say we are going to change for a better world. Until then we have some crisis to deal with; climate, financial, resource, mobility and social crisis.”
Dr. Ockels than treated delegates at the conference opening luncheon with reliving his experience of venturing into space on Challenger Space Shuttle in 1985 and viewing Earth from this unusual perspective. He had the epiphany of realizing that the only thing separating the totally dead nothingness of space from “Everything that is of importance: life, the people we love, family – all that is Earth, is protected from being nothing by a thin layer of atmosphere, only 20 kilometers thick” similar to the hull of the space shuttle protecting those on board. He then encouraged all to think of themselves as astronauts on Spaceship Earth, and what we must do to protect and maintain the hull.
Dr. Ockels described some of the projects he has been involved with aimed at deploying various forms of “clean,” renewable energy. He is very enthusiastic about the use of kites, also known as “kiteplanes” or “smart kites,” for harnessing wind power, particularly for ships. Keeping in mind that oil reserves are quickly dwindling, he has dedicated his professional career to methods to change to renewable sources. This included the development of a Superbus, which is electrically powered by lithium polymer battery packs and regenerative braking, offering an alternative form of public transport. Using advanced aerospace technology and dynamics the Superbus can transport 23 pas- sengers in extreme comfort at speeds of 250 KMH.
All of this is possible through utilizing energy from the sun. “Here is our most perfect nuclear power plant,” he described it. “It burns constantly at a safe distance of a 140 million kilometers from the earth.., it is not vulnerable to politics or terrorist attack and there is absolutely plenty of power for everyone; please use it!” Methods to utilize solar power are growing exponentially, with developers dedicated to increasing the efficiency of converting solar power. “We can be optimistic,” Dr. Ockels concluded, “and I think optimism is our responsibility. We have a race against the tide, and a race you only win when you are optimistic.”
Story courtesy of The Morning News