Making large scale solar work: What is needed and what role can Stanford play?

Margot Gerritsen, Stanford University

Wednesday, April 28, 2010 | 04:15 PM - 05:15 PM | Building 420, Room 40 | Free and Open to All

Most stakeholders agree that solar energy can provide a significant percentage of U.S. electrical needs over the coming decades. National public support of solar energy projects, and large scale solar projects, is strong. Despite the support and excitement, the first of the newly proposed, and fast-tracked, large scale solar projects are facing significant hurdles. Stanford University's Woods Institute for the Environment recently hosted a two-day forum in which industry, NGOs, policy makers and scientists discussed these challenges and brainstormed ideas to meet them. Margot Gerritsen, who led the forum, will discuss the outcomes of this fascinating forum. Questions addressed in her talk include: Why is there broad excitement about large scale solar? What are fast track projects, and why are they facing high hurdles? What do tortoises have to do with large scale solar projects? How can we make large scale solar work, and what role can Stanford play?

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China’s Growing Global Influence: A Solar Energy Perspective

Reyad Fezzani, Chief Executive Officer, BP Solar

Wednesday, March 3, 2010 | 04:15 PM - 05:15 PM | Building 420, Room 40 | Free and Open to All

Reyad Fezzani is CEO of BP Solar, a pioneering, global solar energy company of BP. Reyad has lived and worked in many parts of the world from which he has developed a deep knowledge and understanding of global business and economics. He will speak from first-hand experience about the peaceful rise of Chinese capitalism, including its recent and growing influence in the solar energy industry.

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COP15 and the Stanford Student Experience

Stephen Schneider, Melvin & Joan Lane Professor for Interdisciplinary Environmental Studies, and Senior Fellow at Woods Institute for the Environment, Stanford University

Wednesday, February 24, 2010 | 04:15 PM - 05:15 PM | Building 420, Room 40 | Free and Open to All

Stephen H. Schneider is the Melvin and Joan Lane Professor for Interdisciplinary Environmental Studies, Biology Professor, and a Senior Fellow in the Woods Institute for the Environment at Stanford University. He was an NCAR scientist from 1973-1996, where he co-founded the Climate Project. Schneider focuses on climate change science, integrated assessment of ecological and economic impacts of human-induced climate change, and identifying viable climate policies and technological solutions. He has consulted for federal agencies and White House staff in six administrations. Involved with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change since 1988, he was a Coordinating Lead Author, Working Group II, Chapter 19, "Assessing Key Vulnerabilities and the Risk from Climate Change" and a Synthesis author for the Fourth Assessment Report. He along with four generations of IPCC authors received a collective Nobel Peace Prize for their joint efforts in 2007. Elected to the US National Academy of Sciences in 2002, Schneider received the American Association for the Advancement of Science/ Westinghouse Award for Public Understanding of Science and Technology and a MacArthur Fellowship for integrating and interpreting the results of global climate research. Founder/Editor of Climatic Change, he has authored or co-authored over 500 books, scientific papers, proceedings, legislative testimonies, edited books and chapters, reviews and editorials. Schneider counsels policy makers, corporate executives, and non-profit stakeholders about using risk management strategies in climate-policy decision-making, given the uncertainties in future projections of global climate change and climate impacts. He is actively engaged in improving public understanding of science and the environment through extensive media appearances and communications and public outreach.

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The Energy Challenge and the Case for Fusion

Chris Llewellyn Smith, President of the Council of SESAME (Synchrontron Light for Experimental Science and its Applications in the Middle East), Vice President of the Royal Society, Visiting Professor at Oxford University

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

Providing adequate food, water and energy for the world’s rising population, in the face of looming climate change and (in the longer-term) depletion of fossil fuels, is the greatest challenge of the 21st century. Provision of adequate energy is the key, necessary, condition for meeting the challenge. The developed world could survive perfectly well with less energy, but an increase is needed to lift billions out of poverty in the developing world, where a quarter of the world’s population lacks electricity. Meeting future demand will be difficult enough: meeting it in an environmentally responsible manner will be an enormous challenge. I will review the nature of the challenge and the portfolio of measures that must be adopted if it is to be met. These include greater efficiency, the deployment of carbon capture and storage (if feasible), expansion of the use of renewable energy sources to the maximum extent reasonably possible, and major expansion of nuclear power. In the second half of the century major contributions will be needed from nuclear power (in the longer term: thorium and/or fast breeder reactors), and/or solar power, and/or fusion: all must be developed as a matter of urgency. I will put special emphasis on fusion, which is still in the development phase, because of its enormous potential, and because I have been working on fusion. The technical challenge is enormous, but the political and economic challenges are even greater.
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Controlling Climate Change after Copenhagen

Bert Metz, former co-chair IPCC Working Group on Mitigation of Climate Change, author of "Controlling Climate Change", and advisor to the European Climate Foundation.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010 | 04:15 PM - 05:15 PM | Building 420, Room 40 | Free and Open to All

Bert Metz discusses his new book, Controlling Climate Change, which provides an unbiased and comprehensive overview, based on the latest findings of the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change). Using no jargon, it looks at tackling and adapting to man-made climate change, and works through the often confusing potential solutions. He provides a cutting edge assessment of issues at the top of the political agenda, covering scenarios to limit the consequences of warming to manageable proportions, transitions to a low carbon and climate resilient economy, the most important measures in the various economic sectors and their potential costs. The implications of the poor results of the 2009 Copenhagen Summit will also be discussed.
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Integrating More Than 50% Wind on the Grid: A Case Study

Marija Ilić, Carnegie Mellon University

Wednesday, February 3, 2010 | 04:15 PM - 05:15 PM | Building 420, Room 40 | Free and Open to All

In this lecture we pose the problem of sustainable electricity services as a novel systems engineering design problem. We briefly summarize today's operating and planning practices and explain why these need fundamental changing in order to enable qualitatively different electricity services. In particular, we suggest that many new resources have characteristics, which are not generally known to the system operators, and are, therefore, currently not relied on for managing supply and demand in an often-congested electric network. The new resources are also highly variable and, as such, do not lend themselves to static feed-forward scheduling without near-real time automated feedback. Instead, a transformation of this operating and planning mode into an interactive multi-temporal, multi-spatial and multi-contextual system management is needed to accommodate ever-changing system conditions, often driven by many distributed actions. In order to enable a complex system with often-conflicting functionalities, such as reliability, security, short- and long-term efficiency, and sustainability, one must rely on prediction, adaptation and adjustments by all.
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Extending the Grid: Transmission Siting Issues and How to Resolve Them

Suedeen Kelly, Former Commissioner, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC)

Wednesday, January 27, 2010 | 04:15 PM - 05:15 PM | Building 420, Room 40 | Free and Open to All

In energy planning circles, in all sectors of the electric industry, in state utility regulatory commissions, and on Capitol Hill, we’ve heard a lot of discussion over the past year about changing the traditional paradigm surrounding the building of electric transmission in order to extend the country’s electric grid. Recently, the talk has moved into the arena of action. In the U.S. House and Senate, there are numerous bills that propose legislative changes to how we plan and site transmission in America—and how we allocate the cost of it. The Waxman-Markey Climate Change bill, which was passed by the U.S. House of Representatives last year, includes such changes. All of the various bills differ one from the other. One similarity among them all is that the federal government’s role (in the person of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission) would be expanded and the states’ role would be reduced.

Why is there a growing consensus for change? What’s wrong with how we’ve always done things? (How have we always done things?) Is there a problem here? What are the proposed changes? What are we trying to accomplish with change? What is the best proposal being put forward? Who likes the changes? Who stands to benefit from the changes? Will there be any losers? Ms. Kelly intends to answer these questions during her presentation. She will also discuss what is likely to happen to the U.S. electric grid if we do not see any legislative change from Congress.
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U.S. Shale Gas: From Resources and Reserves to Carbon Isotope Anomalies

John Curtis, Potential Gas Agency, Colorado School of Mines

Wednesday, January 20, 2010 | 04:15 PM - 05:15 PM | Building 420, Room 40 | Free and Open to All

Professor Curtis will discuss shale gas resource assessments, possible roadblocks to future shale gas production and the use of gas geochemistry for discovery and development of this potential resource.

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Global Climate Architectural Policy

John Weyant, Professor (Research) of Management Science and Engineering

Wednesday, January 6, 2010 | 04:15 PM - 05:15 PM | Building 420, Room 40 | Free and Open to All


Targets for climate policies at the national and international levels were very poorly assessed, evaluated and communicated prior to the Copenhagen climate summit, and now urgently need to be re-analyzed. Using the results of the recent Energy Modeling Forum Global, US and EU climate policy model comparison exercises as points of departure, this talk looks at what kinds of formal and informal global climate policy agreements might be desirable and/or feasible. The relationship between global objectives and national and international policy architectures is crucial, but often ignored or done inconsistently. We take a hard look here at the large gap in public discourse that currently exists between what might be desirable and what might actually be feasible. We end with a set of pragmatic suggestions for how to proceed. The old policy initiatives did not work, but promising new ideas are emerging, so the need to at least keep the accounting straight has never been more important. Despite their immense popularity, “aspirational” goals and objectives have not, are not and will not ever work.

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Solar Energy at Scale: Materials, Environmental and Energy Impact

John Benner, National Renewable Energy Laboratory

Wednesday, November 18, 2009 | 04:15 PM - 05:15 PM | Building 420, Room 40 | Free and Open to All

The installed capacity for photovoltaic generation of electricity in the United States is still a tiny slice of the generating mix of the country -- less than 0.1%. The industry must maintain a growth rate greater that 40% annually to achieve national goals to exceed 10% of the total electricity capacity by 2020. Surprisingly, this high rate of growth has been exceeded during the past several years even as the industry passed through its first major bottleneck. The shortage of silicon feedstock certainly impeded the expansion plans of many companies, left much production capacity unused, and likely contributed to a flattening of the trajectory of cost reduction. Perhaps sales would have been even higher had this shortage not constrained growth.

Looking forward, we can anticipate a number of other bottlenecks. We are already seeing longer lead times in equipment delivery. Feedstock for several leading technologies, including silicon, may continue to constrain growth. Distributed generation will soon grow to a point where utilities’ ability to integrate these sources may impede expansion. The current financial turmoil will limit expansion capital. Additionally, high penetration on distribution circuits will add problems that are only now becoming anticipated. Ultimately, we should all expect and welcome a shortage of government incentives, such that the technologies will be competing as low-cost energy producers.

This talk will provide a status report on photovoltaics and explore means to overcome anticipated barriers to sustaining the necessary growth.

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