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Workshop Merges Science and Art to Imagine Solar-Powered Cities (Text Version)

This is the text version of a video about the Urban Electrification and the Future of Cities Workshop held at NREL February 26–27, 2020.

Video opens with an image of a book, titled “The Weight of Light, a Collection of Solar Futures.”

Caption: Arizona State University + National Renewable Energy Laboratory, A Narrative Hackathon

Ruth Wylie: So, over the course of these two days, we formed teams...each team had a science-fiction author, graphic artists, and experts from a variety of fields.

Caption: Ruth Wylie, Workshop Facilitator, Arizona State University (ASU) Center for Science and the Imagination

Video cuts from woman speaking to person putting a sticker on a U.S. map.

Ruth Wylie: We started by having each of the teams choose a city around the U.S. that would be the focus for their story.

Video cuts to woman talking in front of an audience.

Ruth Wylie: Then, through a series of curated conversations and facilitated discussions, the team started to think about what would the future of that city look like if it was powered only by solar energy.

Video cuts to people sitting at table with a book, notebooks, and papers on it.

Ruth Wylie: They're creating their story ideas. They're sketching out ideas for art. They're coming up with ideas for their essays.

Video cuts to people sitting at table chatting.

Ruth Wylie: And then after the workshop, they'll continue to refine those ideas and those will ultimately result in the book that we put out. 

Video cuts to person writing in notebook filled with text and drawings, then back to person talking, then back to people sitting at table chatting.

Joey Eschrich: One of the really powerful things that art and stories can do when talking about possible futures is sensitize people more to some of the details and issues that they might not think about at first.

Video cuts to person talking.

Caption: Joey Eschrich, Workshop Facilitator, ASU Center for Science and the Imagination 

Joey Eschrich: So, we think clean energy, we think like, of course, we need to shift to clean energy and of course, we just won't build a bunch of solar panels you know to have a cleaner energy system.

Video cuts to drawing of building and then to a collage of drawings including a robotic-looking person, a steer, a building with stars above it, and a rural landscape set in a mountain range.  

Joey Eschrich: But it turns out, there's all of these complications about integrating clean energy into our cities... about who's going to win and who's going to lose in these different futures and how we can hopefully design them better so they lead to a more equitable future.

Video cuts to people sitting at table chatting.

Joey Eschrich: And I think stories can help us approach some of those complicated issues and help us build empathy with people whose experiences are really different than ours.

Video cuts to person talking.

Caption: Clark Miller, Workshop Facilitator, ASU Center for Science and the Imagination

Clark Miller: The benefit of hosting a workshop like this at NREL is that you have access to the world's best renewable energy engineers who have really thought hard about all the technical dimensions of how renewable energy will get built out and designed and so you're not just speculating about those things.

Video cuts to people sitting at tables and walking around room.

Clark Miller: They have enormous expertise that they bring to the table.

Video cuts to person talking.

Caption: Alana Wilson, Postdoctoral Researcher, National Renewable Energy Laboratory

Alana Wilson: The workshop has been really fun and it’s been fun because each of us brings a slightly different and unique perspective. 

Video cuts to people sitting at table chatting.

Alana Wilson: But there are ways that there are synergies and we're identifying those synergies and working together to create a story... it feels really rewarding.

Video cuts to person talking.

Caption: Paty Romero-Lankao, Behavioral and Decision-Making Scientist, National Renewable Energy Laboratory

Paty Romero-Lankao: I want to invite everyone to read these stories and to dream of the potential and of the possibilities that they open to all of us.

Video cuts to people sitting at tables and walking around room.

Paty Romero-Lankao: So, please read them. You will really feel empowered by them.

Video cuts to image of book titled “The Weight of Light, a Collection of Solar Futures.”

Caption: Follow us and learn more: nrel.gov/transportation.

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