Energy experts share innovative ideas in ‘Planet Forward’ taping


This post was written by Hatchet reporter Marissa Driscoll.

Experts weighed in on energy and environment issues in a live taping Wednesday night for “Planet Forward,” a web and television-based project that seeks innovative green solutions for the future.

In the program’s second live taping, seven finalists from across the country gathered in the Jack Morton Auditorium to compete for the title of “Innovator of the Year.”

Frank Sesno, director of the School of Media and Public Affairs and the creator of Planet Forward, was joined by a panel of experts, including Thomas Connelly, Jr., executive vice president and chief innovation officer for DuPont, Jennifer Granholm, former governor of Michigan, and Andrew Revkin, who writes the Dot Earth blog for the New York Times.

“We wanted to filled three seats on the panel: science and business, policy and journalism and advocacy,” Sesno said.

After a short video clip was shown for each project, the panel provided feedback and opinion on the successes and pitfalls of each innovator’s idea.

Finalists included individuals like Michael Mendez at Sapphire Energy, who turns algae into green crude oil; Kevin Surace, CEO of Serious Materials who replaced all 6,514 windows in the Empire State Building with more heat-resistant windows and Danny Kennedy, CEO of Sungevity, who partnered with financial institutions to reduce the cost of going solar to a zero-down monthly lease. The program also featured videos produced by students from GW and several other universities.

The live studio audience voted for their favorite innovator via text message. The winner, whose name will be announced when the program airs, will be followed on TV and online to see if their idea becomes a success.

Dean Peg Barratt of the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences introduced Sesno, saying, in the creation of Planet Forward, “[Sesno] wanted to use social media for something other than idle chatter.”

Sesno expressed his interest in keeping the project, which is part of the Center for Innovative Media, a GW initiative.

“I want Planet Forward to be about GW. I love the idea of people coming from all over the country to GW for something like this,” he said.

The one-hour special will air on PBS April 8.

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