A top official of the Biden Administration made a historic visit to the Olympic Peninsula last week as U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm toured the Pacific Northwest National …
A top official of the Biden Administration made a historic visit to the Olympic Peninsula last week as U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm toured the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory-Sequim.
The laboratory, known by the moniker of PNNL-Sequim, is the Department of Energy’s only marine research facility in the United States. Connected to Sequim Bay by a supply system that pumps 200 gallons of seawater a minute, the campus conducts marine-based research focused on sustainable energy, a sustaining environment, and coastal security.
U.S. Rep. Derek Kilmer, a 6th District Democrat, accompanied Granholm on the tour of the research center. Granholm’s Aug. 10 trip to Sequim marked the first time that a U.S. Energy Secretary or Undersecretary had visited the facility.
Before the tour of the lab, Granholm, Kilmer, and other Department of Energy officials boarded the vessel “Desdemona” and went out into the bay to learn more about PNNL’s marine and coastal research capabilities. Officials said PNNL-Sequim is hoping to advance DOE’s goal of deploying 30 gigawatts of offshore wind by 2030 by “providing offshore wind resource characterization and the collection and management of data necessary to accelerate environmental permitting in offshore environments.”
Tests conducted in the laboratory aim to advance the development of marine energy devices, as well as seek ways to convert algae to fuels, food, and materials.
Research is also conducted on carbon dioxide removal, and the prevention of corrosion and biofouling that impacts technology performance.
Granholm was reminded a few times about her home state of Michigan during her time in Sequim.
At the close of Granholm’s visit, she joined Kilmer in a roundtable with local leaders to talk about community collaboration opportunities for climate and energy resilience in the region.
The roundtable included Dr. Geri Richmond, Undersecretary for Science & Innovation of the U.S. Department of Energy; PNNL-Sequim Laboratory Director Steve Ashby; Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe Chairman W. Ron Allen; Makah Tribe Chairman Timothy Greene Sr.; State Rep. Steve Tharinger; Karen Affeld, executive director of the North Olympic Development Council; Meggan Uecker, resource analyst/lead of the Sustainable Sequim Program; Clallam PUD Manager Sean Worthington; and Ted Pietrok, acting manager of the DOE’s Pacific Northwest Site Office.
Ashby noted the Department of Energy and PNNL-Sequim have a history of partnership.
“We’re excited today to explore how we can collectively celebrate progress toward our shared goals, including decarbonization, and energy equity in rural areas throughout the Olympic Peninsula,” Ashby said.
Granholm, seated between the tribal chairman for the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe and Makah Tribe, said, “I’m honored to be flanked by Chair Allen and Chair Greene.”
“I feel like I’m in a chairman sandwich here,” she joked. “Which is great. It’s the only kind of sandwich to have.”
It prompted a quick quip from Allen.
“Those Michigan tribes should have trained you by now,” Allen said.
Granholm recalled the motto of Michigan, where she served two terms as governor: “If you seek a pleasant peninsula, look about you.”
That saying fits here as well, she added.
Granholm noted she was visiting the Olympic Peninsula not only on behalf of the Department of Energy, but also the Biden Administration.
“The Biden Administration really has this very strategic goal of getting to 100 percent clean electricity by 2035, and a net zero carbon emission by 2050,” Granholm said.
Three vital legislative steps are needed.
“The first two have already been done. Number one is the bipartisan infrastructure law.
“That really is the backbone of being able to invest in the next generation of technologies and take them to scale that is deployment-level. For example, next generation clean hydrogen. Making sure that we are investing in batteries for energy storage, which is, of course, a lot of what PNNL is working on,” she said.
The second step was the CHIPS and Science Act, which Granholm noted was signed into law by President Biden the day before her visit.
“That act really makes a huge statement about making sure that we are manufacturing the full supply chain for these technologies inside of the United States. That we’re bringing back supply chains, including semiconductors, which of course, is the brains of so much of these technologies.”
Explaining the body of legislation, Granholm said the “backbone was the bipartisan infrastructure law, the brains is the CHIPS Act. And the lungs will be ... what is voted on tomorrow, which is the Inflation Reduction Act and that gives incentives for the private sector, for Tribes, for everyone to get in the game to deploy clean energy technology.”
“The Biden Administration has a goal of getting to 52 percent carbon reduction by 2030,” Granholm added. “This will take us 40 percent of the way. And the other actions that the Biden Administration is taking will get us the rest of the way.”
Kilmer invited the Secretary and Undersecretary to Sequim, and stressed how PNNL-Sequim would play a part in addressing the climate crisis.
“Tuesday’s visit by Secretary Granholm and Undersecretary Richmond to PNNL-Sequim was an excellent opportunity to showcase to leaders of the Energy Department the extraordinary work that’s happening here in our region,” Kilmer said after the tour.
“As we work to transition our nation toward a renewable future, the work happening in our region can play a pivotal role in tackling the climate crisis, helping get reliable and affordable energy to rural areas, and creating good paying jobs,” he added.
Granholm thanked Kilmer at the close of their tour.
“I’m so grateful to Representative Kilmer for showing me his beautiful district and for his enormous leadership in Congress on the sustainable blue economy,” she said.
“Sequim is at the forefront of marine science and energy innovation, and this region should be at the front of the line for investments as we build our clean energy future together,” Granholm added.
During last week’s visit, Kilmer also discussed the Blue Energy Innovation Act, a bipartisan legislation that he introduced to redouble the country’s efforts to harness the “blue economy” — technologies and economic development tied to the ocean and other waterways.
Kilmer’s bill aims to help the Department of Energy, through laboratories such as PNNL-Sequim and the assistance of other federal agencies and partners, to develop cutting-edge technologies.
“With tremendous assets like the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Sequim, which houses the only marine research facilities in the Department of Energy complex, and a unique and thriving maritime sector, this bipartisan legislation can help Washington state become a global leader in driving innovation and sustainability, creating blue economy jobs, and fighting the climate crisis,” Kilmer said.
During her swing through the state of Washington, Granholm also visited the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Eastern Washington on Thursday, as well as the Hanford Site in Benton County on Friday.