Seminar Archive Summaries

Saving the World and Having a Job: Distributed Solar - Exciting Challenges and Rapid Growth

Shawn Kerrigan, Locus Energy 

Monday, June 4, 2012 | 04:15 PM - 05:15 PM | NVIDIA Auditorium, Jen-Hsun Huang Engineering Center | Free and Open to All

Distributed solar generation is growing rapidly across the United States and around the globe. Use of renewables has always been desirable environmentally, but now for the first time in many places it makes solid economic sense as well. A tidal wave of investment and innovation makes distributed solar a dynamic and exciting industry.

Solar energy has many advantages when used for distributed generation, such as saving costs by bypassing congested transmission and distribution systems, and directly generating power at the point of consumption. Distributed solar power brings a number of new challenges, however, due to volatile production output and a need to manage large numbers of systems across a broad area. Solving these problems requires innovations in forecasting, monitoring/analysis, managing, and servicing the large number of small-scale generation assets. This seminar will cover some of those challenges and what Locus Energy is doing to help address them.

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Unlocking the Benefits of Active Customer Participation in Wholesale Electricity Markets

Frank Wolak, the Program on Energy and Sustainable Development, Stanford University

Monday, May 21, 2012 | 04:15 PM - 05:15 PM | NVIDIA Auditorium, Jen-Hsun Huang Engineering Center | Free and Open to All

Because electricity is a necessary input to so many economic activities, there are significant political obstacles to charging business and residential customers retail prices that reflect the hourly wholesale price of electricity. A long history of retail electricity prices that do not vary with real-time system conditions makes this task even more difficult. Finally, the lack of interval meters on the customer’s premises makes it impossible to determine precisely how much energy each customer withdraws in a given hour.

Recently a number of jurisdictions in the U.S. have installed the interval meters necessary for customers to participate actively in the wholesale market. This talk will summarize the results of a number of research projects at the Program on Energy and Sustainable Development for allowing electricity consumers to benefit from active participation in wholesale electricity markets. The results of dynamic pricing and information provision experiments will be summarized, and current and future directions for research at the Program on Energy and Sustainable Development will be described.  Necessary changes in state-level regulatory policies that can also unlock the economic benefits of modern technologies for active participation of final consumers will also be discussed.

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It Pays to Do the Right Thing: Incentive Mechanisms for Societal Networks

Balaji Prabhakar, Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, Stanford University


Monday, May 14, 2012 | 04:15 PM - 05:15 PM | NVIDIA Auditorium, Jen-Hsun Huang Engineering Center | Free and Open to All

In many of the challenges faced by the modern world, from overcrowded road networks to overstretched healthcare systems, large benefits for society come about from small changes by very many individuals. Researchers in the societal networks group at Stanford University are running a series of pilot projects aiming to develop principles for inducing small changes in behavior in networks such as transportation, wellness, energy and recycling. Pilots have been conducted with Infosys Technologies in Bangalore on commuting and with Accenture-USA on wellness. Two others are ongoing: public transit congestion in Singapore, and traffic congestion and parking at Stanford.

In this talk, Balaji Prabhakar will describe this work and present results from the pilots. Some salient themes are the use of low-cost sensing and networking technology for sensing individual behavior, and the use of incentives and social norming to influence behavior.


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Saving the World and Having a Job - Working at the California Energy Commission

Carla Peterman, Commissioner, California Energy Commission 

Monday, May 7, 2012 | 04:15 PM - 05:15 PM | NVIDIA Auditorium, Jen-Hsun Huang Engineering Center | Free and Open to All

Commissioner Carla Peterman will discuss her work at the California Energy Commission, which is the state's primary energy policy and planning agency. The commission’s responsibilities include forecasting future energy needs, licensing thermal power plants, setting the state's appliance and building efficiency standards, supporting public interest energy research, and providing incentives for small wind, fuel cell and solar electricity systems.

Carla’s work at the commission focuses on renewables, transportation, natural gas, and the “Integrated Energy Policy Report,” which is mandated by the state legislature. An example of her work in renewables is leading the development of regulations for the state’s 33% Renewable Portfolio Standard program for publicly-owned utilities. In transportation, she is helping to develop and implement the state Alternative and Renewable Fuel and Vehicle Technology Program, which is intended to reduce the state's oil dependency and help attain the state climate change policies.

The Bay Area Photovoltaic Consortium

Yi Cui, Materials Science and Engineering, Stanford University 

Monday, April 30, 2012 | 04:15 PM - 05:15 PM | NVIDIA Auditorium, Jen-Hsun Huang Engineering Center | Free and Open to All

Led by Stanford and the University of California-Berkeley,the Bay Area Photovoltaic Consortium conducts industry‐relevant research and development that will impact high‐volume photovoltaic manufacturing, produce a highly trained workforce, and speed up commercialization of cutting‐edge solar technologies. BAPVC will develop and test innovative new materials, device structures, and fabrication processes necessary to produce cost‐effective photovoltaic modules in high volumes. The research will advance technologies that bring down manufacturing costs and improve device performance to facilitate the manufacturing of solar cell modules with a price less than $0.50 per watt, thereby enabling an installed system price of $1 per watt.

BAPVC recently selected 18 projects to fund at Stanford, Berkeley, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory. Yi Cui will introduce some of these projects. The consortium is funded by the U.S. Department of Energy with additional support from industry and the universities. DOE is providing $25 million over five years as part of the SunShot Initiative.

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Combining Offshore Wind and Wave Energy Farms to Facilitate Grid Integration of Variable Renewables

Eric Stoutenburg, Ph.D. candidate, Civil and Environmental Engineering Department, Stanford University

Monday, April 23, 2012 | 04:15 PM - 05:15 PM | NVIDIA Auditorium, Jen-Hsun Huang Engineering Center | Free and Open to All

The ocean covers 71% of the Earth's surface. It is abundant in renewable energy resources such as wind, wave, tidal, and gradients of salinity and temperature. With the exception of some offshore wind farms along the northern European coast, this vast reservoir of non-fossil fuel energy is untapped, even though roughly 40% of the world's population lives within 100 kilometers of the coast. With continued development of offshore wind power in Europe and initial projects planned for the US east coast, China, and Korea, larger contributions of offshore wind power are on the horizon. Similarly, several wave energy converters are in full scale prototype testing at sea.

Development of both renewable energy sources in co-located sites may improve the electric power performance of a combined wind and wave energy farm. While wave energy is primarily a wind driven phenomenon, at a particular location and time, the energy levels in the wind and waves may be different. Analysis of wind and wave data along the US Pacific coast indicates a synergy where combining the two energy sources in a co-located offshore farm reduces the variability in electric power output. The variability of electric power from renewable energy sources has been identified as a challenge to their large scale integration in the electric grid, but combining variable resources mitigates this problem, producing smoother power output than either resource can separately.

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Connecting the Dots: The Water, Food, Energy and Climate Nexus

Monday, April 16, 2012 | 01:00 PM - 04:00 PM | McCaw Hall, Frances C. Arrillaga Alumni Center |

We have a special Stanford program today and encourage our Energy Seminar community to attend. Registration is required. If you are not a student enrolled in the Energy Seminar and wish to attend the Connecting the Dots program on April 16, please register at Additional information is available at the Connecting The Dots website.
Please note this event is being held in a different venue then most Energy Seminars.
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Car Sharing and Pooling: Reducing Car Over-Population and Collaborative Consumption

John Atcheson, Vice President, Getaround

Logan Green, CEO & Co-founder, Zimride

Monday, April 9, 2012 | 04:15 PM - 05:15 PM | NVIDIA Auditorium, Jen-Hsun Huang Engineering Center | Free and Open to All

John Atcheson


Logan Green

In the United States alone, there are more than 250 million cars and light trucks, and these vehicles sit idle an average of 92% of the time.  With the average car costing more than $6,500 per year just to own, (i.e., not including gas and other operating expenses), this represents over $1.5 trillion dollars each year in wasted capital.  Peer-to-peer car sharing puts this capital to use, as John Atcheson will discuss, giving car owners the opportunity to earn thousands of dollars per year off their idle asset, and providing drivers with a viable alternative to car ownership.  In the process, peer-to-peer car sharing dramatically helps our environment. Studies have shown that the average shared car replaces 9-13 other cars, and that drivers who switch from driving their own car to driving a shared car reduce both vehicle miles traveled and greenhouse gas emissions by more than 40%. This presentation will focus on the opportunities and challenges facing peer-to-peer car sharing, and offer a vision for a world in which every car is shared.
People are in the beginning of a dramatic transformation that is changing the way we think about personal transportation. In this new age, access trumps ownership. Access to a network that gets us from point A to point B is becoming more desirable than incurring all of the expenses and burdens associated with car ownership. Logan Green will explore how this new transportation network is taking shape, why it’s happening now, and the factors that are making it possible.
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The Energy Balance of the Photovoltaic Industry: Is the PV Industry a Net Energy Provider?

Michael Dale, Global Climate & Energy Project, Stanford University

Monday, April 2, 2012 | 04:15 PM - 05:15 PM | NVIDIA Auditorium, Jen-Hsun Huang Engineering Center | Free and Open to All

A combination of policy measures and reduced costs have driven a rapid growth in global installed capacity of solar photovoltaics. This rapid growth has prompted concerns over the net energy yield of PV energy production. Mik will analyze the energy balance of the PV industry given historic and projected growth in capacity. Results suggest that, despite the large amount of energy required to manufacture and install PV systems, there is a high likelihood (greater than 80%) that the industry became a net provider of electricity between 2009 and today. If current trends continue, the industry will almost certainly be a net electricity producer by 2015 and will have ‘paid back’ the energy subsidy required for its early growth by the end of this decade. This analysis raises a number of implications for PV research, development and deployment including: further reducing the energy embodied within PV systems, including balance of system components; designing more efficient and durable systems; and deployment in regions that will achieve high capacity factors.

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Screening and Discussion of "Beyond the Light Switch"

Panel: Ed Moore, Detroit Public Television; David Biello, Scientific American; Sally Benson, Department of Energy Resources Engineering, Stanford University; Mark Zoback, Department of Geophysics, Stanford University
Moderator: Paul Rogers, KQED News

Monday, March 12, 2012 | 04:15 PM - 06:15 PM | NVIDIA Auditorium, Jen-Hsun Huang Engineering Center | Free and Open to All

Ed Moore David Biello Paul Rogers Mark Zoback Sally Benson

"Beyond the Light Switch" takes viewers on an enlightening and comprehensive journey into the inner workings of the electrical power infrastructure, from a first-of-its-kind coal plant in West Virginia to natural gas wells in Pennsylvania, from the inside of a nuclear reactor under construction in Tennessee to wind farms  in Oregon. The documentary, which was directed and co-written by Ed Moore, won a 2011 Alfred I. DuPont-Columbia University Award, the highest honor in broadcast journalism. The two-hour show, of which an abbreviated version will be screened, illustrates how a new paradigm is rapidly evolving for electric power generation.

What is this new paradigm? By 2050, the United States must replace most of its electric power generation fleet, cut carbon dioxide emissions by 80% and completely update its power grid. All of this must happen while demand for electricity is expected to rise 30%.

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