Seminar Archive Summaries

Deep Geologic Disposal of Nuclear Waste: A Small Dose of Science and Politics

Andrew Orrell, Director of Nuclear Energy Programs, Sandia National Laboratories


Monday, February 11, 2013 | 04:15 PM - 05:15 PM | NVIDIA Auditorium, Jen-Hsun Huang Engineering Center | Free and Open to All

The disposal of spent nuclear fuel and high-level waste in a deep geologic repository is a challenge which has stymied the United States and many other nations since the dawn of the commercial nuclear power industry a half-century ago. The scientific community has consistently endorsed deep geologic repositories ever since the first study by the National Academy of Sciences Committee on Waste Disposal in 1957, though sociopolitical disputes have typically been at the heart of delays and failures to achieve actual disposal. Regardless, it can be a substantial technical challenge (often decades long) to characterize a specific site and repository concept, to account for the numerous features, events and processes acting upon them, and the uncertainties therein. This is especially so when considering the very-long timeframes (commonly 1M years) for assessing repository performance. Many of these challenges are a reflection of the traditional mined-repository concepts of several hundred meters depth. Deep borehole disposal concepts of several kilometers depth would appear to provide ‘faster, cheaper, better’ opportunities for implementing safe disposal while involving potentially different sociopolitical dynamics. The recent Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future and other events compel us to consider new options in nuclear waste management. This discussion will review the present state of affairs regarding U.S. nuclear waste management as well as the technical options and issues for achieving nuclear waste disposal.

Pushing the Efficiency Limits of Energy Conversion & Storage through Rational Materials Design

William Chueh, Materials Science and Engineering, Stanford University

Monday, February 4, 2013 | 04:15 PM - 05:15 PM | NVIDIA Auditorium, Jen-Hsun Huang Engineering Center | Free and Open to All

Taking sunlight and converting it to chemical bonds and then to electricity is one of the most promising carbon-neutral energy cycles. At the Chueh group, we are developing new materials to electrochemically convert energy between sunlight, fuel, and electricity. We take a rational approach towards materials discovery and optimization. Using powerful electron, X-ray and optical microscopy and spectroscopy techniques, we are “seeing” electrochemistry as they take place on length scales ranging from tens of microns down to below one nanometer. These never-before-seen dynamics lead to new insights into the design of functional materials with novel compositions and structures, such as those for water-splitting membranes, fuel cells, and batteries.

IMMEDIATELY AFTER THE ENERGY SEMINAR at 5:15 - 6:15 pm, GCEP invites Stanford faculty, students and staff to an informal poster session and energy social organized by GCEP students Boxiao Li and Haotian Wang in the Forbes Cafe area on the 1st floor of Huang.

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Entrepreneurship Mini-series, part I: Challenges in Founding a New Energy Technology Company

Brian Hardin and Craig Peters, Co-Founders of PlantPV; Howard Turner, CTO of Kinestral Technologies

Monday, January 28, 2013 | 04:15 PM - 05:15 PM | NVIDIA Auditorium, Jen-Hsun Huang Engineering Center | Free and Open to All

Brian Hardin Craig Peters Howard Turner

Brian Hardin and Craig Peters (PlantPV) and Howard Turner (Kinestral) will discuss some of the important challenges that arise in founding a new energy technology company. Topics include both the tactical aspects of starting up a new venture, and more strategic considerations of entering an energy market with a technology developed using Silicon Valley venture capital funding. Speakers will explore key drivers, aside from interesting science, for selecting the technology space in which to start a company. They will also describe ways in which students may prepare themselves for future start-ups while still in school.

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Grid Flexibility and Research Challenges to Enhance the Integration of Variable Renewable Energy Sources

Mark O'Malley, Electrical Engineering Dept., University College Dublin

Monday, January 14, 2013 | 04:15 PM - 05:15 PM | NVIDIA Auditorium, Jen-Hsun Huang Engineering Center | Free and Open to All

Grid flexibility is a characteristic that is proposed to help the integration of variable renewable energy resources. However it has proven very difficult to quantify and this has spurred intense research efforts over the past few years. There are many sources, sinks and enablers for flexibility in the grid and these are all subject to numerous research challenges. Flexibility will be introduced, defined and a number of methods to quantify it will be described. This will be followed by an overview of research into unlocking flexibility in the power system e.g. demand side participation and power system operational strategies. There are potential hidden costs of flexibility and some of these will be highlighted, for example thermal plant cycling, and mitigation measures to reduce these will be formulated. Concluding remarks will try to give insights into how a future grid with very high penetrations of variable renewable energy may look like.

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The Era of Mainstream Clean Energy: Solar Rising

Arno Harris, CEO & Chairman, Recurrent Energy; Board Chair, Solar Energy Industry Association; Director, Advanced Energy Economy

Monday, January 7, 2013 | 04:15 PM - 05:15 PM | NVIDIA Auditorium, Jen-Hsun Huang Engineering Center | Free and Open to All

Despite recent political attacks and negative headlines, the renewable energy and the solar industries emerge from 2012 ready to play a significant part in mainstream energy markets. Industry data reflects an increasing role for renewables as the fastest growing new source of electricity. It is now all but inevitable that our energy future will feature some combination of natural gas, wind, and solar. In this new era of mainstream clean energy, energy policy and industry action will determine what this future looks like. Will we end up with a gas-centric generating fleet with wind and solar around the edges? Or will we prioritize wind and solar with gas in a supporting role? What steps can we take to ensure renewables remain a central priority?


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The Development of Liquid Fuels from Lignocellulose

Chris Somerville, Director Energy Biosciences Institute, University of California-Berkeley

Monday, December 3, 2012 | 04:15 PM - 05:15 PM | NVIDIA Auditorium, Jen-Hsun Huang Engineering Center | Free and Open to All

The efficient production of  cellulosic fuels by biochemical routes will require innovation in three main areas: sustainable production of feedstocks that do not compete with food production, depolymerization of feedstocks, and conversion of feedstocks to liquid fuels.  In this respect there is renewed interest in identifying plants that have optimal biomass accumulation and understanding the production issues associated with large-scale cultivation and sustainable harvesting of such species.  Additionally, the importance of enhancing soil carbon and nutrient retention while minimizing inputs will require an integrated approach to the development of cellulosic energy crops. 

Renewable Electricity Futures

Doug Arent, Executive Director, Joint Institute for Strategic Energy Analysis at NREL

Monday, November 26, 2012 | 04:15 PM - 05:15 PM | NVIDIA Auditorium, Jen-Hsun Huang Engineering Center | Free and Open to All

The Renewable Electricity Futures Study is  an initial investigation of the extent to which renewable energy supply can meet the electricity demands of the contiguous United States over the next several decades. This study explores the implications and challenges of very high renewable electricity generation levels--from 30% up to 90%, focusing on 80%, of all U.S. electricity generation from renewable technologies--in 2050.

At such high levels of renewable electricity penetration, the unique characteristics of some renewable resources, specifically geographical distribution and variability and uncertainty in output, pose challenges to the operability of the nation's electric system. The study focuses on key technical implications of this environment from a national perspective, exploring whether the U.S. power system can supply electricity to meet customer demand on an hourly basis with high levels of renewable electricity, including variable wind and solar generation. The study also identifies some of the potential economic, environmental, and social implications of deploying and integrating high levels of renewable electricity in the United States.

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Hydrogen Energy in California

Mark Lerdal, Hydrogen California and MP2 Capital

Monday, November 12, 2012 | 04:15 PM - 05:15 PM | NVIDIA Auditorium, Jen-Hsun Huang Engineering Center | Free and Open to All

Hydrogen Energy California is a project for converting fossil fuels to hydrogen in order to generate clean power and manufacture low-carbon fertilizer products. HECA will be one of the first industrial complexes combining a large, commercial scale power plant and a low-carbon footprint fertilizer manufacturing facility, while capturing the carbon dioxide (CO2) from the fossil fuel to hydrogen conversion process. Utilizing the CO2 for fertilizer production and enhanced oil recovery increases domestic energy security, while simultaneously storing the captured CO2 permanently in the geologic formations where the oil was extracted. It is a project that offers California, the nation, and the world progress toward controlling global climate change, while providing enormous economic stimulus through construction and related jobs over the intermediate term and permanent manufacturing and related jobs over the long term.


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Assessing Earthquake Risks From Hydraulic Fracturing for Geothermal Power, Natural Gas and CO2 Storage

Mark McClure, PhD in Energy Resources Engineering, Stanford University; Assistant Professor (winter 2013), University of Texas

Monday, November 5, 2012 | 04:15 PM - 05:15 PM | NVIDIA Auditorium, Jen-Hsun Huang Engineering Center | Free and Open to All

Scientists have been aware of human induced seismicity for decades. But attention to the issue has increased in recent years, as concerns have been raised for wastewater disposal, hydraulic fracturing, and CO2 sequestration. The importance of credible induced seismicity hazard assessment has never been higher.

In this talk, Mark McClure will summarize the fundamental physical processes of induced seismicity, provide an overview of the history of the field, and review some of the dominant ideas in induced seismicity hazard analysis. Then he will summarize two papers he recently wrote on the topic of induced seismicity during hydraulic stimulation in geothermal energy. The first demonstrates how a single variable, the degree of brittle fault development, can explain the huge variation in induced seismicity across a range of historical enhanced geothermal projects. The second uses coupled fluid flow and seismicity modeling to explain a variety of observations of induced seismicity from enhanced geothermal projects and demonstrates how modeling could be used for hazard analysis or even optimization. Last, Mark will explain the broader implications of his work for induced seismicity hazard analysis.

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Stanford Energy Systems Innovations project

Jack Cleary, Lands, Buildings & Real Estate; Chris Edwards, Mechanical Engineering; Laura Goldstein, Department of Project Management; Lynn Orr, Energy Resources Engineering, Precourt Institute for Energy; Bob Reidy, Lands, Buildings & Real Estate; Joe Stagner, Office of Sustainability & Energy Management; Jim Sweeney, Management Science & Engineering, Precourt Energy Efficiency Center; and John Weyant, Management Science & Engineering, Energy Modeling Forum

Monday, October 29, 2012 | 04:15 PM - 05:15 PM | NVIDIA Auditorium, Jen-Hsun Huang Engineering Center | Free and Open to All

Chris Edwards Lynn Orr Bob Reidy
Joe Stagner Jim Sweeney John Weyant

Representatives from Stanford's office of Land, Buildings & Real Estate will introduce the project and provide an overview, followed by a panel discussion with professors Chris Edwards, Lynn Orr, Jim Sweeney and John Weyant.

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