Author Archives: Dan Bihn

2017 Northwest Power and Conservation Council

What the Pacific Northwest Can Learn From Japan’s Tragedy and Recovery

At the kind invitation of Massoud Jourabchi, manager of the Economic Analysis group at The Northwest Power and Conservation Council, I gave a 20-minute (ok, 22-minute) presentation on what the Pacific Northwest Can Learn From Japan’s Tragedy and Recovery to make our electrical infrastructure more resilient. The key point was that by having the things that consumer electricity (the demand) be aware of the real-time

The key point was that by having the things that consumer electricity (the demand) be aware of the real-time availability of electricity (the supply), not only can an electrical grid become more resilient to mega-disasters, but also become much more accommodating of solar and wind power. Today, a significant amount of both solar and wind power is being discarded because the

Today, a significant amount of both solar and wind power is being discarded because of the inflexibility of our 20th-century grid. Japan’s story is critically relevant.

2017 Colorado State Forest Service – Biomass Ready

Tim Reader of the Colorado State Forest Service pitched an idea to me. Create a handbook and electronic checklist to help communities build their next public building to easily and affordably add biomass heating in the future. Why? Many communities can’t afford to make a commitment to biomass heating in 2017 — natural gas and propane prices are at near historical lows. But some day….

Here’s what we created.

2017 Community Biomass Handbook, Volume 4: Enterprise Development for Integrated Wood Manufacturing

Of all the books in this series, I made the fewest direct contributions. I helped with the initial framing of the story, then halfway through I help refactor and restructure the storyline, and finally, I created the production (layout, etc.) for this publication. I think not being a domain expert in this area actually made me more effective – being able to see things from the end user’s perspective.

2017 Oregon Department of Forestry – Amazing Community Engagement

My colleague Marcus Kauffman at the Oregon Department of Forestry asked me to help out doing some documentary work to tell the story about how several communities in the Northwest are trying to bring environmentalist, forestry and logging interests, and Federal land management agencies together to create healthier forests and healthier rural communities.

My favorite story was the community of John Day in central Oregon. You can read Marcus’s beautiful article with his great photography here, Restoration Renaissance, A New Paradigm in John Day.

Here’s one of my favorite clips from the companion documentary we produced (all included in the above article).

Drive Oregon Presentation Cover Page

2016 Drive Oregon September Presentation

The good folks at Drive Oregon, a dynamic non-profit located in Portland, dedicated increasing the number of electric vehicles in Oregon, asked me to talk about about how Japan is using grid-connected electric vehicles (V2G = vehicle to grid, or V2H = vehicle to home) to improve disaster resilience.

Here’s the SlideShare version of the talk I gave on September 29, 2016 at one of the coolest Irish pubs in Portland.

2016 Koyukuk, Alaska, Small-scale Biomass District Heating

Last year the US Forest Service hired me to tell one of their amazing stories: How using local wood to heat schools and public buildings is helping revitalize rural, Native communities. March 2016, I visited the village of Koyukuk, 300 miles west of Fairbanks, on the Yukon River. Here is the story I brought back.The US Forest Service commissioned me to tell the story of an Alaskan Native village of 90 people on the Yukon River. The core buildings are heated by a wood-fired boiler — providing heat, savings, and income. ( Click here for the official download site.)

2015 Solar Oregon Keynote Address

On September 3rd, I had the honor to give the keynote address at Solar Oregon’s annual Solar Now! University. My talk was Taming the Solar Tsunami: Accommodating Solar at Scale. The theme was how we’ll all need to work together to address the new challenges of affordably accommodating previously unimagined amounts of solar energy. Yes, we’ll need batteries, but more importantly (and more affordably) we’ll need to adjust the exact timing of our electricity consumption to better match its availability.

It was a super-well organized conference – lots of fun and I certainly learned a lot.

Go Solar!

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2014 Kingston, Jamaica “Smart Energy Islands” Lecture Series

Early 2013, the then Deputy Commissioner and Counsellor of the Japanese Embassy in Jamaica, Hiromoto Oyama, asked me if I’d be interested in giving a short series of lectures in Kingston, Jamaica to help share what Japan was learning about disaster-resilient smart energy systems as it rebuilt after the 2011 tsunami and earthquake.

We developed a Smart Energy Island lecture – Oyama-san presenting the official side of the story, while I provided the human and technical side of the story.

February 2014, I visited Kingston. The trip was really productive – and a lot of fun. Thanks so much to Oyama-san and the Japan Foundation of New York for funding this project.

Here’s is some of the press we got in the local newspaper.

2013 Colorado State Forest Service – TV commercials

In late 2012, Tim Reader and Kristina Hughes, of the Colorado State Forest Service, approached me about doing something a bit different – producing a series of 15 and 30 second TV spots (Public Service Announcements) to be aired throughout Colorado. The goal was to connect purchasing locally made Colorado wood products with forest health. (For example, without a viable market, beetle-kill pine trees are often burned in open slash piles.)

The 3 commercials we produced aired in the fall of 2013 (and rebroadcast the summer of 2014). One of the commercials aired during an early 2013 Bronco’s game at halftime. Fortunately, it wasn’t last year’s Super Bowl, so people actually watched it LOL.

Click here to see the videos and a behind-the-scene photograph of your’s truly filming a young girl and her pet goat (it actually has a lot to do with biomass).

TEPCO’s rolling blackouts

TEPCO had rolling blackouts from 3/14 to 3/28 — then just threatened them.

計画停電けいかくていでんPlanned blackout



On Technical Storytelling

Effective storytelling is a multidimensional activity. It begins with a deep understanding of the topic and ends with an impression left in the viewer’s mind.

To leave a meaningful impression I believe you have to connect to the soul of your audience. That sounds a bit funny – explaining smart grids by connecting to the soul. But that’s what it takes.

A beautiful, meaningful video can make that connection.

The iBook is an amazing platform for communicating ideas. A mix of text, photos, diagrams, and embedded videos, that can really bring a story to life.

Video is truly transformative. Something that would take pages of text to only partially describe can be completely explained in a few seconds of video.

Case in point, I’m producing an iBook for a federal land management agency on using wood chips to heat buildings. The trucks that deliver the chips often have a “walking floor” that automatically pushes the chips out the back – how? I don’t think I can explain that, but the video we shot can. It’s amazing – and fun. Everyone loves that part.

Video interviews are great, too. They give the viewer an immediate sense of who a person is far better than any other media. Are they trustworthy? Are they competent? Are they like me?

I think the Internet has democratized information, but it has yet to democratize understanding. These integrated storytelling packages might really, really help.

2013 Tohoku University Symposium Lecture

In late 2012, Professor Kauzyuki Tohji visited Colorado to talk about how Smart Energy solutions were helping the tsunami and earthquake devastated Tohoku region of Japan recover – and to become more disaster resilient. The tour had been arranged by my friend Deputy Consul General Hiromoto Oyama.

I was his local Fort Collins host for the day he was here. I gave him the 2-hour tour of Fort Collins, including the famous Engine and Energy Conversion Lab at CSU. He and I had a great time exchanging ideas and stories. At the end of our meeting he asked if I might be interested in coming Japan and speaking at his 2013 symposium on smart grid and smart energy. Yes, I’d be quite honored.

A few weeks later I received a formal invitation. I traveled to Japan in March, 2013 – the second anniversary of the Tohoku disaster – and spent 2 weeks in northern Japan visiting energy related sites, old friends, and hot springs lecturing and listening. It truly was an honor.

2012 The Biomass Adventures – iBook

Staying on the leading edge of ePublication technology is key to delivering the most compelling content possible. Today, that means creating high quality story-photographs, embedded videos, and interactivity – all on the latest delivery platforms.

When the iPad’s iBook production technology was first released, I created this book to tell stories I had been collecting over the past 8 years on biomass projects in Japan and Colorado.

The chief limitation to the iBook technology is that you need an iPad – or now, an Apple Mac – to view the content. Limitations aside, the results were very encouraging.

If you have an iPad or Mac, you can click here to “purchase” the free iBook.