Seminar Archive Summaries

Global Cookstove Problems, and the Berkeley Darfur Stove

Ashok Gadgil, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of California,  Berkeley

Monday, February 28, 2011 | 04:15 PM - 05:15 PM | NVIDIA Auditorium, Jen-Hsun Huang Engineering Center | Free and Open to All

In parallel with his research in Indoor Environment, Dr. Gadgil has a long record of innovative solutions to problems in the developing world. He has pioneered the way to accelerate access to compact fluorescent lamps for poor households in developing countries; invented and commercialized a method to affordably disinfect drinking water for poor communities; designed, tested, and then found a way to build, field-test, and disseminate thousands of fuel-efficient stoves to refugee women in Darfur; and invented and is currently field-testing an extremely low cost, robust, and technically reliable method to remove arsenic from drinking water in Bangladesh and nearby regions.


Followed by a MAP Energy Social held in the Huang-Foyer (next to the NVIDIA Auditorium)

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Joint Address to Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders and Energy Seminar

Bill Gross, Founder of Idealab, Board Member of eSolar and Energy Innovations

Please note new date for (only) this seminar, Wednesday, February 23rd

Wednesday, February 23, 2011 | 04:30 PM - 05:30 PM | NVIDIA Auditorium, Jen-Hsun Huang Engineering Center | Free and Open to All

Bill Gross is a lifelong entrepreneur and proponent of solar power. While still in college, Mr. Gross founded Solar Devices, a firm that sold plans and kits for solar energy products. As the CEO of the technology incubator Idealab, Mr. Gross has founded several extremely successful companies, including Overture (acquired by Yahoo!), CarsDirect, and Picasa (acquired by Google). Idealab recently moved into the renewable energy market with Energy Innovations, a sister company to eSolar that focuses on the retail rooftop solar market.

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Canada's Oil Sands; Warts and All

Bob Skinner, Advisor to Statoil

Monday, February 14, 2011 | 04:15 PM - 05:15 PM | NVIDIA Auditorium, Jen-Hsun Huang Engineering Center | Free and Open to All

Canada’s oil sands constitute one of the largest concentrations of hydrocarbons in the world with nearly two trillion barrels of bitumen in place.  Current production is about 1.5 million b/d, half from open pit mines, half from wells relying on steam injection to stimulate production.  Unconventional oil derived from bitumen, extra heavy oil, shale, coal and converted natural gas, is projected to grow as a share of world oil supply. While all are underpinned by immense resources, unconventional hydrocarbons are unlikely to exceed 10% of global supply before 2035. Biofuels, if included, would increase the share of unconventional oil to about 13%.


Extracting, upgrading or converting these forms of oil into useful products economically and in environmentally and socially acceptable ways faces major challenges.  Their development amounts to either reversing or accelerating geological processes, which requires prodigious inputs of energy, materials, labour, technologies or other resources, especially water.  Even as oil prices rise, the cost of production rises because of competing demands for, and therefore higher costs of, these essential inputs, some of which are themselves energy-intensive.  This conceptual framework for discussing their potential contribution to the future energy mix and their political economy is illustrated in the case of the Athabasca oil sands of Alberta.  There are many environmental and social challenges in the development of the oil sands; these are being addressed, albeit slowly. The presentation will discuss the resource, its geology, the technologies and the issues and expectations for development of this resource.

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Our Energy Future: Lessons from the Heartland

Nancy Jackson, Founder and Chair, Climate and Energy Project, Kansas

Monday, February 7, 2011 | 04:15 PM - 05:15 PM | NVIDIA Auditorium, Jen-Hsun Huang Engineering Center | Free and Open to All

In America’s Heartland, where many if not most are skeptical about climate change, a tiny nonprofit has successfully promoted energy solutions. While we certainly wish to change policy, we know that policy alone is not sufficient – the will to implement must be steadfast as well. So we have worked from the ground up and the top down to connect with citizen’s core values, to identify shared goals, to raise the voices of local champions, and to take action together. Our Take Charge Challenge – an energy efficiency contest between communities – harnessed the competitive spirit and transformed efficiency from “sacrifice” to “win.” Energy forums, an economic development tour, a workforce development survey, and booths at the Kansas State Fair in addition to legislative briefings and endless testimony transformed wind energy from “pipe dream” to “a key part of the energy mix.” The Climate & Energy Project seeks to set new defaults for energy use, identifying efficiency as the obvious first fuel and renewables like wind as cost-effective options that “just make sense.”

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Solar Geoengineering as a Tool to Manage Climate Risks

David Keith, Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering, University of Calgary

Monday, January 31, 2011 | 04:15 PM - 05:15 PM | NVIDIA Auditorium, Jen-Hsun Huang Engineering Center | Free and Open to All

The combination of inertia and uncertainty makes the coupled climate-economic system dangerously hard to control. If the climate's sensitivity is at the high end of current estimates it may be too late to avert dramatic consequences for human societies and natural ecosystems even if we could quickly cut emissions to zero. Emissions cuts are necessary to manage climate risks, but they are not necessarily sufficient. Prudence demands that we study methods that offer the hope of limiting the environmental risks posed by the accumulation of fossil carbon in the atmosphere. The engineered alteration of the earth’s radiation budget—geoengineering—offers a fast means of managing climate risk, but it entails a host of new risks and it cannot fully compensate for the risk posed by carbon in the air. I will review the science and technology of solar geoengineering and then argue that systematic management of climate risks may require the capability to implement these technologies. Finally, I will speculate about the elements of a geoengineering research program needed to build and regulate such capability.

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Opportunities and Challenges for Cap-and-Trade in California

Michael Wara, Assistant Professor of Law Stanford University

Monday, January 24, 2011 | 04:15 PM - 05:15 PM | NVIDIA Auditorium, Jen-Hsun Huang Engineering Center | Free and Open to All

In December, the California Air Resources Board adopted a cap-and-trade program covering approximately 85% of statewide emissions of greenhouse gases.  This regulation sets a limit on emissions of greenhouse gases and then allows trading of pollution permits by entities covered under the program.  The design of California’s system is both balanced and innovative, when considered in the context of other cap-and-trade regimes.  As such, the program has the potential to serve as a model for future federal legislation.

However, because of both its ambition and its scope, the California program is likely to be the place where the law governing state-level regulation of GHGs is clarified.  The new regulations will likely be challenged in court on a number of grounds - the recently enacted Prop 26, the impact that the regulations will have on interstate sales of electricity, and the fact that the EPA is taking steps to regulate GHGs under the Clean Air Act.  Resolution of these legal questions will ultimately determine whether California is allowed to assume the leadership role for climate change that it has historically played in the development of US environmental law and regulation. 


No slides available

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The Gulf Oil Spill - Where Did All the Oil Go?

Terry Hazen, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

Monday, January 10, 2011 | 04:15 PM - 05:15 PM | NVIDIA Auditorium, Jen-Hsun Huang Engineering Center | Free and Open to All

The explosion on April 20, 2010 at the BP-leased Deepwater Horizon drilling rig in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Louisiana, resulted in oil and gas rising to the surface and the oil coming ashore in many parts of the Gulf, it also resulted in the dispersment of an immense oil plume 4,000 feet below the surface of the water. Despite spanning more than 600 feet in the water column and extending more than 10 miles from the wellhead, the dispersed oil plume was gone within weeks after the wellhead was capped – degraded and diluted to undetectable levels. Furthermore, this degradation took place without significant oxygen depletion. Ecogenomics enabled discovery of new and unclassified species of oil-eating bacteria that apparently lives in the deep Gulf where oil seeps are common. This data suggests that a great potential for intrinsic bioremediation of oil plumes exists in the deep-sea and other environs in the Gulf of Mexico.


Brief Bio: Terry Hazen is a microbial ecologist with Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory where he heads both the Ecology Department and the Center for Environmental Biotechnology. When a deepwater oil plume was formed in the aftermath of the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig in the Gulf of Mexico this past summer, Terry Hazen led a team that was able to directly study the microbial activity within the oil plume. His report that the oil had been degraded to virtually undetectable levels within a few weeks after the damaged wellhead was finally sealed made headlines across the country.

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Cities and Climate Change: New York and the World

Rohit Aggarwala, City of New York, New York, Director of Long-Term Planning and Sustainability 2006-2010

Monday, January 3, 2011 | 04:15 PM - 05:15 PM | Jerry Yang and Akiko Yamazaki Environment & Energy Building (Y2E2) | Free and Open to All

Followed by the Orange Bowl Reception and 5:15pm Kickoff on the Plasma TV, in the Y2E2 Social Entry (for faculty, students, and staff), 473 Via Ortega, Stanford.

Increasingly, the focus of the global fight against climate change is shifting to cities, both as national policies and global agreements seem unlikely to change in the near term, and as policymakers appreciate the extent to which the frontlines of the fight are in the cities themselves.  Home to the majority of humanity, and the vast majority of global consumption, cities will clearly be the locations of most efforts at improving energy efficiency and reducing transportation emissions.  In most of the world’s cities, it is local government that has direct control over the planning decisions, building codes, transit systems, and waste systems that must change if the world is to transition to a low-carbon economy.  Finally, in many countries, urban populations are more willing to adopt low-carbon policies than national populations, which make it far more politically feasible for mayors to act decisively.


Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg of New York is increasingly seen as a leader on urban sustainability policy, both for his local efforts in New York City and globally, upon his recent assumption of the chairmanship of the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group, an organization of many of the world’s largest cities working together on climate change policy.


Rohit T. Aggarwala, Bloomberg’s former sustainability director and currently an advisor to C40, will talk about the content, history, and execution of PlaNYC, New York’s award-winning sustainability efforts.  From planting a million trees to adopting congestion pricing to requiring hybrid taxis to imposing retrofit requirements on existing buildings, PlaNYC was an ambitious plan that has had major successes and significant defeats.  Aggarwala will discuss, in particular, lessons learned from the victory on green buildings and the defeat of New York City’s congestion pricing proposal.

In addition, he will talk broadly about the challenge facing the world’s cities.  C40’s members account for one-twelfth of humanity and 20% of global GDP, but the needs, powers, and political constraints affecting municipal government vary dramatically across those cities.


No slides available

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Converting Sunlight Into Fuels -- the Role of Interface Catalysis

Jens K. Norskov, Center for Interface Science and Catalysis, SLAC

Wednesday, December 1, 2010 | 04:15 PM - 05:15 PM | Building 420, Room 40 | Free and Open to All

Essentially all sustainable energy systems rely on the energy influx from the sun. In order to store solar energy it is most conveniently transformed into a chemical form, a fuel. The key to provide an efficient transformation of energy to a chemical form is the availability of suitable catalysts, and we will need to find new catalysts for a number of processes if we are to successfully synthesize fuels from sunlight. Insight into the way the catalysts work at the molecular may prove essential to speed up the discovery process. The lecture will discuss some of the challenges to catalyst discovery, the associated challenges to science as well as some approaches to molecular level catalyst design. Specific examples will include the (photo-)electrochemical oxygen evolution and hydrogen evolution reactions, carbon dioxide reduction, and biomass transformation reactions.

No video available

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Photon Enhanced Thermionic Emission (PETE)

Nick Melosh, Department of Materials Science and Engineering, Stanford University

Wednesday, November 17, 2010 | 04:15 PM - 05:15 PM | Building 420, Room 40 | Free and Open to All

Solar conversion is usually divided into two classes: quantum-based conversion, such as photovoltaics (PV), and thermal conversion, such as solar dishes and power towers. Because these two processes operate at very different temperatures, they have remained separated. While traditional fossil fuel power conversion technology can enjoy the benefits of a combined cycle approach to reach greater than 50% conversion efficiencies, this has not been possible for solar technology. An ideal combination would be to first absorb sunlight in a PV panel which could operate at very high temperature, and use the waste heat from this process to drive a thermal engine. However, due to PV physics they cannot operate at the high temperatures necessary for thermal systems. Here we describe a new physical mechanism that combines both photon and thermal energy sources, and can operate at high temperatures (200-1000ºC).  This new mechanism, called photon-enhanced thermionic emission (PETE), uses similar materials as traditional solar cells, yet the mechanism is fundamentally different. Theoretical estimates of the PETE process show it can be more efficient than a single junction solar cell, yet its true importance is that it could work in tandem with a thermal engine. Estimated efficiencies of combined cycles reach over 50%, though are still quite a ways from being demonstrated. We will show the first proof-of-concept results from the PETE process showing the mechanism is valid, and discuss what the current obstacles to obtaining high efficiency are.

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