sustainable built environment

Stanford Solar Decathlon: Start.Home

Stanford Solar Decathlon team

Monday, June 3, 2013 | 04:15 PM - 05:15 PM | NVIDIA Auditorium, Jen-Hsun Huang Engineering Center | Free and Open to All

Derek Ouyang Rob Best Felipe Pincheira Collin  Lee

Start.Home is Stanford's first entry into the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon competition ( This biannual competition challenges 20 teams to design and build netzero, solarpowered homes that are judged on 10 different contests, from affordability to engineering.

While modern green homes often boast adaptive systems that reduce energy use behind the
scenes, our philosophy is that technology alone cannot solve the global energy problem. Equally important is awareness of how each of our daily choices affect our environmental footprints. Only through a combination of a passive home and an active mind can we achieve a lifestyle that is truly sustainable.

Stanford Solar Decathlon is a team of committed engineers and entrepreneurs seeking to design
a home that not only excels at the competition, but also has the potential to become an effective
business model in the future. To this end, we are developing a “Start.Home” concept that will provide sustainability at the push of a button to a new generation of environmentally conscious homeowners. The design will emphasize innovation in the constructability of modular architecture and advancements in controls for an intuitive building management core. Every component of the home will be optimized for customizability, affordability, and life cycle value. As a marketable brand, Start.Home will reflect the spirit of Stanford students to challenge preconceived notions of “green” and start a new movement in sustainable living.

Four student leaders from the team will present the unique Start.Home design vision, share their
experiences designing and building the netzero home, and emphasize the importance of projectbased, interdisciplinary learning. After the presentation, the audience is encouraged to join the team on a short 5 minute walk over to the construction site located by Terman Park and tour the Start.Home. For more information, please visit

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Sustainable Materials: With Both Eyes Open

Julian Allwood, Cambridge University, Low Carbon Materials Processing Group

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

One third of the world's carbon emissions are emitted by industry. Most industrial emissions relate to producing materials. Steel, cement, plastic, paper and aluminium are the most important contributors. The industries that make materials are energy-intensive, so they have always been motivated to be efficient and have now reached a fantastic level of performance.

However, the world's demand for materials is growing, and likely to double by 2050. By default, industrial emissions will also double, unless we do something differently. This talk sets out an agenda for making a big difference to global emissions by requiring less new material. Based on a five-year project with eight researchers and a consortium of 20 large industrial partners, we have gathered evidence on six material efficiency options which allow us to provide the same final services (such as housing or transport) with significantly less material. The talk will present a series of case studies to demonstrate how these strategies can be applied in practice, and explore the actions by government, businesses and consumers that would bring them about.

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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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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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Powering the Armed Forces: Meeting the Military's Energy Challenges

Admiral Gary Roughead, Annenberg Distinguished Fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University

Monday, October 22, 2012 | 04:15 PM - 05:15 PM | NVIDIA Auditorium, Jen-Hsun Huang Engineering Center | Free and Open to All

From the introduction to the book "Powering the Armed Forces, Meeting the Military's Energy Challenges," written by Sharon E. Burke, assistant secretary of defense for operational energy plans and programs:

For the nation, our energy security, economic well-being and national security are inextricably linked. For the U.S. Department of Defense, better energy security means a more effective military force–one that is more agile, lethal and adaptable, and one that can better fulfill its mission to protect the nation.

At the same time, several trends, from the rising global demand for energy to changing geopolitics, as well as new threats, mean that the cost and availability of energy for Americans and our troops will be less certain in the future. By being smarter about our energy use, we can make a military and nation built to last.

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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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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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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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