Currently taking Tech 4310 - Future of Energy and the Environment with James Breaux. Through the entire semester James taught us how to look deeper into the future of energy as an analyst and see how it will shape out based on scanning for research, and forming alternative futures for that domain of interest. I conducted a domain project over solar energy for family residents over a future time period of 2040 to current timeline. I wanted to throw in a foresighter’s point of view of how promising our project would be for the UH campus for the future
If UH was to use solar energy to power the garage, will this spark the beginning of expanding solar on campus?
James Response: The sun is a nuclear fusion reactor that globally gives us about 1.74 x 1017 watts each day.
The known oil and petroleum reserves of the United states are 36.4 billion barrels.
A barrel of oil has about 1700 kWh of energy so that’s about 6.2 x 1016 watts.
So roughly 3 times the energy equivalent of the entire known oil reserves of the US falls free on the earth every day.
The energy from the sun contributed to the generation of petroleum to BTW. It just took a long time…
Energy is driven by economics – The energy with the highest value wins – in general…
Value can be in straight dollars and cents or can be derived from the value of being seen as a better citizen – or steward of the planet’s resources.
If your business is seen as a being a good steward, maybe you attract more like-minded students and donors. If a university can leverage image with such a move it could be that other universities catch on and follow.
2. How do you see the baseline forecast of the future for UH making a sustainable garage? Trends, constants, and cycles you could see?
James Response: I see the energy decisions that the campus is making to be influenced by:
More people interested in brands that hold their values
We need energy to do the things that we do – light garages for safety at a price point we can pay
Political influences by the various parties at the Federal level on tax and other incentives to try new energy standards and technologies.
3. The Parking garage will have hybrid/ electric vehicle charging stations inside. How does the future look like for students who drive electric cars? Will it promote electrical vehicles on campus?
James Response: It takes a lot of electricity to charge an electric vehicle – the solar array to support charging vehicles using today’s technology might be bigger than we’d want to put on the building – unless the promising thin films that could make the entire building surface a solar power collector become available at a good price point very soon.
I assume that most of the vehicles on campus are only here for a portion of the day. So, in my view, the drivers for more EVs on campus would be the drivers for EVs in our greater Houston community – urbanization, good economic price point for the vehicles and “fuel”, and the reasons that people buy vehicles in the first place; marketing and consumer identity. As the car manufacturers are going through a huge disruption right now, the choices for fuel vs. electric and hybrid may also become more limited.
Vehicles that are 100% dedicated to the campus may become EVs much sooner as the price point becomes more attractive and AIs take over the fixed route driving from humans.
For someone who don’t know what solar energy is, can you explain it in the most adequate way possible?
Solar energy is a renewable energy that is made by harnessing the energy from the sun.
Today’s current usage of fossil fuel is more than ever. We have made some progress moving towards a clean and renewable energy sources is past decades. Will we ever see the possibility of solar energy replacing what our current need is?
Absolutely! Solar energy (and all renewable energies) have massive potential, we just have to unleash them. See our calculations on how Solar Roadways can produce more power than the United States uses here.
If we were to replace our current usage of fossil fuel, how long do you think we can achieve such goal? 10 years? 20 years? What have to be taken into considerations for it to happen?
This all depends on how much of our resources we dedicate to achieving that goal. In the US, I believe if we reallocated much of our financial resources and put our best minds on this issue we could be powered by renewables in 10 years. It just depends on how high of a priority it is.