Cold Facts and Green Dreams: A Global Approach to Renewable Energy
This lecture continues our distinguished Jefferson Lectureship. It’s a monthly series of lectures given by both past and present Jefferson science fellows who now number some more than 30. The Jefferson program is a public-private partnership between U.S. universities and the State Department. Jefferson fellows spend a year here in residence in Washington and subsequently serve the State Department as consultants for five years after they return to their universities. Jefferson’s are experts in a range of scientific and engineering disciplines and are selected through a national competition managed by the National Academy of Sciences. The program started with a pilot phase in 2003 funded by the MacArthur Foundation and the Carnegie Corporation. It’s now part of the State Department. We’re delighted with that. It’s been an uphill battle. And we are very pleased that this year we have a full complement of 10 fellows, three of whom are working at USAID.
Today our speaker is one of our alumni from the 2007, 2008 cohort, Puru Jena. Dr. Jena is a professor of physics at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Virginia. He has a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in physics from Utkal University, Orissa, India and a Ph.D. from the University of California at Riverside. He is a prolific writer. I was impressed; having over 400 publications which include 11 edited conference proceedings.
During his fellowship year, Dr. Jena worked in the Bureau of Oceans Environment and Science where he helped to organize the enormous Washington and International Renewable Energy Conference held in 2008. The Conference was attended by over 9,000 people from government, business, academia, and the broader NGO communities from all over the world and was opened by the President, himself. Based on its success, the government of India voted to convene a sequel international conference.
Now during his fellowship, Dr. Jena also led a team to five Nordic capitals to develop a Nordic-U.S. collaboration on renewable energy. We’ll probably hear a little bit about that; and that involved scientists, private sector and governments. He continues to do a regular lecture in our State Department Foreign Service Institute and has organized lectures at the Virginia Commonwealth campus that brings State Department officials there to explain what we do and to faculty and students.
So it’s my great pleasure to introduce Dr. Jena whose title is “Cold Facts and Green Dreams: A Global Approach to Renewable Energy.” Dr. Jena.
Puru Jena: Well, good morning and thank you, Nina, for those kind words. It’s indeed a great pleasure for me to be here. I have dreamt for many years since 2008 that someday I will come and give this talk here. And thank you very much, Andy, for making that happen.
Let me start by saying that the Jefferson Science Fellowship year that I spent here was one of the best years of my professional life. I remember it with a lot of fondness. It was great deal of fun. I not only met a lot of people, but I learned a lot of things that are I would never, as a professor, have learned at my own university and for that I think Nina and Andy for taking such good care of us, for mentoring us, for guiding us on mostly what not to do. But we were given enormous freedom to exercise, you know, our mind and to do things that we thought was proper.
So let me also say that it was a great year because I got to meet some people with whom I still maintain very close friendship and one of them, Stan Specht, [spelled phonetically] is here. Ambassador Reno Harnish, Stan Specht, Tracy Hall from S&T, and the many of the people who worked on WIREC and I’ll give you sort of a summary of what we did at WIREC and it is during that period that I worked mostly on the research and development aspect of this conference.
And my own research has been for many, many years on hydrogen in metals. And lately, with the emphasis on hydrogen economy, my research has been primarily devoted to how to store hydrogen. And if I have some time towards the end, I will not resist the temptation to tell you a little bit about hydrogen as an economy and where it is going. But for the first part of it, I’ll give you a very broad overview of what are the effects and the possibilities for energy, you know, and environment, in particular, about renewable energy.
I am always very grateful to my students and post-docs and some of them are here in the audience from whom I learn every day. And to one of my colleagues, Alison Baski, and there’s reason Alison is mentioned particular because I am going to show you the house where she lived in Colorado and there is a reason for it. And of course this presentation is a collaboration with my long friend, Professor Millie Dresselhaus at MIT, and as Stan will remember, Millie played a very important role in WIREC and some of the stuff that I will mention has been developed in collaboration with Millie and my good friend from Germany, Gerd Guenther, and I actually took his permission to borrow the first part, the title of my talk, “Cold Facts and Green Dreams.” We were together at energy and power workshop in Las Vegas about couple of weeks ago and I really loved the title and asked him if I can borrow it. And then also I had an intern, unrelated intern during summer from India who worked with me on some of the issues and I will mention some of those [unintelligible].
The outline is a very simple one. I will go through the [unintelligible] history of the human use of energy over the years and the facts that cold -- you know, that population growth, energy demand and supply has brought us to this point. And the Green Dreams, of course, are the use of renewable energy to solve, if not all, at least part of the problem and ways in which the global approach can actually help us to achieve that dream. And in that context, WIREC plays the central role in the global partnership. And then I will conclude with some remarks.
Well, we have come a long way since the man lived in the caves. We no longer do that. The kind of food that we used to eat is no longer the same. It’s very exotic. The kind of clothes we wear is no longer the same. Certainly the way we fight wars, not the same. And obviously the way we travel are not the same, either. And all these things have actually used a tremendous amount of energy and the problem is that this kind of lifestyle has been possible because man discovered energy starting with fire. I looked up into the Google the other day. The fire was discovered in -- 1.46 million years ago in Kenya and used constructively in 5,000 years ago by, you know, in China.
The problem is that men not only has discovered energy, but has found more ways to use energy than the discovery that he has made. And as a result, there are problems; and these problems are led by the population growth that we have experienced over the years and the demand that this growth has made on energy and its limited supply and the impact that it has on the environment. Now, if you look over the ages, overall, 260 billion people have lived on this Earth. And for most of human history, the global population has not exceeded 10 billion. Much of the population that you see growth has really occurred in the last 2,000 years. From 1950 to until now we have essentially tripled our population. We have gone from somewhere around 2 billion to close to something like around 7 billion. And during this time, the growth has been essentially linear and as you can see that now that we are approaching fortunately the growth is not linear but slightly showing something of leveling off.
And if you look at the population worldwide, the population growth has occurred mostly in countries that are poor, countries where the per capita income is about $1,500 U.S. per year. And these are the countries where the population growth as you can see is very, very large. The countries where the population growth is quite steady are the countries which are industrialized and actually has been using the energy to develop their economics. If you look at the GDP, you’ll find that the more advanced the country is, the more energy that they consume. And of course, more energy that they consume, the standard of life, of course, is get better.
And if you look at the summary of this population growth versus energy, population growth is linear. The energy demand by this population growth is not linear. It is almost exponentially rising and that’s because the standard of living has increased much faster than the population growth has been there. But population growth certainly is a contributing factor to the problems that we have. And of course, with the use of energy, your CO2 emission has increased and it has of course has effects on the environment.
So the cold facts are that 80 percent of the energy that we use are based upon fossil fuels. And these sources are limited. Depending upon who you ask, oil might last another 50 years or so. Coal might last another maybe two to 400 years. But these resources are, indeed, limited. And the demand, of course, is growing. Twenty percent of the world’s population currently is using 80 percent of the energy that is used. And while the other 80 percent are trying to increase their standard of living, that demand actually grows. And because of limited supply, the problem is that we have effect on the environment. For example, right in China, every week there’s one or five power plants that is coming up and in two years from now, China for example will have a lot more nuclear power plants than we will have. The U.S. has not built a power plant, a nuclear power plant, in about 13 years now, so many of course are in the way. So therefore the question, of course, is not if but when there will be an energy crisis if it’s not there already. And then, what does one actually do about it?
Now the solution, in my mind, are one of the three or all three. The first, of course, will be a change in lifestyle and I’ll mention what that is. And, of course, to have energy that is efficient as well as [unintelligible] as part of this solution. And the best part of all, where the Green Dreams come from, is actually to develop new energy sources.
Now, the first one about the lifestyle change. If you look at population growth, in Europe and the U.S., the growth has pretty much leveled out and even in negative in many of the developed countries. But population growth mostly happens in Africa and in Asia. I was very shocked to see this huge peak for India because I came from that country many years ago. But nevertheless, that is not really helping. As I said, China does it right because their population growth is the most negative of all the countries in the world now. And somehow this population growth is happening in Africa or Asia are countries that are economically not as developed as one would like and it is there that population growth actually will play a major role in actually controlling this problem of, you know, of energy.
In terms of efficiency, of course, there’s a lot of changes have been made in housing, in transportation, in industrial production. And in transportation, for example, 60 percent of the energy goes in heat and is completely wasted. And I am right now reviewing a proposal by a pretty smart young man who has applied to DOE trying to develop [unintelligible] devices in which they can capture waste heat from not only big thermal plants but also smaller, you know, industries. And the idea is to how to devise these micro-mechanical systems that will capture the waste heat and convert into, you know, useful heat. And the idea, of course, is to take waste heat, find a liquid that actually boils at very low temperature and then collect the heat from the liquid to actually make useful work. So this was capturing waste heat which is actually a very good way of really harnessing lot of power that’s wasted for transportation.
This is my favorite one. Using daily human energy for useful purpose. A couple of days ago, I learned that in Michigan, I forgot the name of the gentleman, who has now a device in which you just charge your cell phone no longer by plugging into the outlet, you just carry it with you. We put out a hundred watts of energy, every human being, and it takes about 2.5 watts to power a cell phone. So there’s no need to have cell phone any more plugged into the outlets. You can charge it yourself and don’t even know about it. So things like that are really being developed that really will have both efficiency as well as conservation.
Now back to the Green Dreams. The dream, of course, is to find energy supply that is abundant, that is renewable, that is friendly to the environment, secure, safe and cost effective. This is called the most important part of all. We have energies that are abundant. We have energies that are renewable, that are friendly to the environment, that are secure, that are safe but they’re not cost effective. And this is where the research and development really comes in to eventually make all of these energies cost effective.
Now here I listed them not necessarily in random order. For example, wind and solar and bio are three of the most talked about energy sources that we have. Wind certainly is extremely abundant, not extremely but quite abundant, and solar -- and I will talk particularly about wind and solar afterwards -- biofuels, geothermal, hydro, wave, tides and, of course, hydrogen. That is my best subject not for solve energy problems but there is a tremendous amount of science that needs to be done for actually harnessing hydrogen. And there is a reason why I will try to spend maybe five minutes, or less on hydrogen, because it might be useful not down on Earth, but also on the Moon that man has discovered now water on the Moon.
Now in this connection, the lessons from WIREC is the one that is the most useful. And as Nina mentioned, it was an enormous conference and there were eight or nine different agencies that were involved. It was led by the Department of State and Department of Agriculture and it involved both public and private partnerships. There were contributions from countries. And many corporations also, you know, sponsored this conference. As Nina said, 9,000 people from 130 countries participated at this conference. It probably was the largest conference on renewable energy ever held. It started with Bonn many years ago, then Beijing and Washington was the third one and India is going to host it in 2010. And President Bush actually gave the keynote address at this conference.
And the conference started with the very basic understanding that to solve the energy is indeed a complex problem, that there is no one dimensional solution to these issues. It really involves a lot of people. It involves very basic science to develop materials that can be used in technology for various kinds of renewable energies whether they are wind or solar, or geothermal, or even hydrogen. It certainly involves economics to make these devices or these materials affordable so it can compete with the present and its technologies. It’s certainly in this society to understand that there’s a price to pay if we do not do something and of course the policies which it is governed much of what actually is done. And this one is probably the most critical because policies that are made are usually not very long term and for renewable energy, you need policies that are very long term and that can be predictable.
And with that one, WIREC actually consisted of many, many kinds of participants starting from pure academicians, Nobel laureates came to this conference, engineers and scientists. We had national and sub-national leaders, governors, mayors of cities, councilmen. We had policy makers from all over the world, business leaders, law makers, NGOs and just private citizens. To have 9,000 people under one roof at the conference center for three days was actually a remarkable experience.
And the WIREC had actually four focal points for this particular conference. One, of course, dealt with agricultural and rural development and that mostly meant bio and wind and solar as to how they can be used for not only in this country, but countries where they do not have enough power. And that is, for example, I saw a picture of a family in Africa reading under a solar powered bulb, a single bulb in the entire house, and all these kids are sitting around it, the light bulb, and reading. And that personally meant a lot to me because I too grew up at a time when there were no electric lights at home and where a simple, single lamp and my sisters and my cousins we’re always together around one lamp to study. And education is going to be a key factor and I’ll touch upon that. It involved market deployment, finance, how do you actually finance various renewable energies, what are the creative ways in which the banks can loan people to actually develop or to install various renewable technologies. It had, as I said, national and sub-national interests and of course R&D which actually was sort of, you know, to my heart.
And there are many publications of WIREC. I didn’t mention here, there is a WIREC Web site. It’s WIREC2008.gov. And then there is ren21 website which actually contains much of what was done including and most important are the pledges. There were 146 pledges made by 108 countries to actually scale up the use of renewable energy. So those pledges and analysis of the pledges by NREL -- that’s the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Colorado -- those analyses are there, how many jobs it can create, how much CO2 emissions it can affect, all those things are mentioned in the website. And then there is a report of this conference which I think Stan and I helped to put together and I’m not sure the reports are still available in the State Department but they made about 7 to 10,000 copies of it. And then there are two publications in national journals, essentially to [unintelligible] R&D for renewable energy.
And one of the key things was to develop the human resources. For each technology that comes into market, you need people not only to install them, to maintain them, but also how to make it better, how to make it cheaper, how to make is safer. So in that way, education is going to be a key issue and one of the initiatives that we took that Nina mentioned Nordic countries was actually how to put together the resources of the U.S. and the countries and to put together as a partner, to help education of people in developing countries, in particular. And I will mention a little bit of that with time.
And the next one was to develop infrastructure. Now we have a beautiful lab in Colorado as I mentioned, NREL. And when I talk about policies, there was a time, not too long ago, NREL was supposed to be closed and thank that it is still there. And imagine it takes about 10 to 15 years to really train a scientist to do anything meaningful. And if you close a lab that was devoted to renewable energy, how long it will take to create another lab like that? And this is where I said, I know, that policies should be very, very long term. We cannot expect to draw benefits tomorrow morning because it doesn’t happen that way. So we are lucky that we have labs of that kind. But not many countries around the world have similar labs. And the idea was then to help use the expertise in the U.S. that they would learn through NREL to help other countries either to establish similar laboratories in their countries or, perhaps, combine the regions together or even having virtual laboratories where primarily one can teach the young generation. And as I said, stable and predictable governmental policies and regulations that combine partnership from industry, university, as well as the government and the strategies that one can use for investing in R&D.
Now the U.S. has partnerships bi-national with all the countries in the world, S&D partnerships. The idea from WIREC that arose is that what we need is not just bi-national partnership but in addition to that, global or regional partnerships. And this was particularly put into focus by the ministers from Iceland and from Norway who said that we’d really love to partner with the U.S. to develop renewable technologies as together. And the Nordic countries have expertise in almost all renewable energies, almost as much as we have in the United States.
The idea was that we take Nordic as a region as opposed to each country and, with the U.S., we put our resources together in which we can do basic R&D on all renewable technologies and particularly train students and post-docs to exchange to these virtual centers. And then have people from developing countries come there periodically to learn and develop and then go back to their countries and implement. So that was the idea and we actually visited five Nordic countries. We met with their ministers, certainly with their ambassadors, with their embassy people, with many of the top scientists of these countries including the President of the [unintelligible] Academy of Norway and the response was simply enthusiastic. They all wanted to be partner with U.S. At one point, we mentioned would you like to rather partner with European Union. The answer was obviously not. They really want to be partner with the U.S. This I don’t think has gone very far yet but this is an idea, you know, that certainly we are excited as to how to combine the resources of this country and the Nordic countries as equal partners to develop a virtual center to educate and train and do R&D on [unintelligible]. This is what we called NUCORE or the Nordic-U.S. Cooperation on Renewable Energy.
And I don’t know; how much time do I have?
Puru Jena: Oh, wonderful, then I can --
Let me tell you a little bit what has happened in various renewables. It’s not enough time for me to go all over them, so I hand-picked three, the solar and the wind and, of course, the hydrogen.
Now in solar, of course, this would be the only energy we’re given by nature or by God, depending on how you look at it, to actually sustain what we do. This is the one I told you is a home that was built in 1976 in Colorado. It’s a passive solar home that does not use any fuel except in the sun’s light during the winters in Denver. And it’s designed in such a way that the sun hits these windows. And my colleague, Alison Baski told me, this is actually her parents’ home and she didn’t want me to put her name there because her father doesn’t like it. But this is the house and this person [spelled phonetically], the temperature is set in winter becomes 95 degrees Fahrenheit, just from the solar and then they use, you know, a fan to actually circulate the air.
And so this happened in the late ’70s when we had an energy crisis. And the reason I mentioned about this house is because the policies changed soon after that. There’s no emphasis any more on solar because oil become cheap and, of course, everything else fell apart until we have another crisis that in hand. This is how the solar photovoltaic cells have evolved over the years, starting from 1975 when the research was being done until now.
Now, you have some extremely efficient solar cells to convert sunlight into electrical power. But these are the ones that are very, very costly and primarily used, for example, in our satellites or space shots. And the idea is that perhaps what we can do is use extremely cheap materials that are friendly to the environment and but may not be very long-lasting but nevertheless, the cost is effective. These organic solar cells are very good. They don’t last very long but then they don’t cost too much. If discarding them is not hazardous to the environment, then that’s a solution.
But I’ll talk about a company called First Solar which developed these cadmium-telluride photovoltaic cells. And this is a company which can make the solar cells in two and a half hours. It’s just -- you take a piece of glass and it goes through the assembly, each section takes about 90 seconds. In 2.5 hours, you get a solar cell; it completely bi-passes all the problems that you have with the silicon technology. And this company, actually, the cost per watt has gone from $1.60 in 2005 to something like about 85 cents per watt. And the target, of course, to make it about 60 to 70 cents per watt. And I was told that the stock of this company has lately gone up a factor of two and the son worked on solar panel invested a hundred million, and he died in a auto -- I mean plane accident, at that time the sum of his sales. It’s about $450 million now. So that’s a pretty good investment for [unintelligible]. If we look at wind, there’s tremendous progress over the last 30 years. There is almost now 121 gigawatt power in the wind and the growth rate is about 25 percent.
Now back to last three, four minutes on hydrogen. I should mention that we have many developed technologies that are in the cars. Not all of them can be applied today. There are some that are ripe for the market, that some that require some R&D and some that require a lot of R&D, but a lot of potential. So we have to have a short term, a medium term and a long term goal. Now hydrogen certainly is not short or medium term. It most likely going to be a long term. But those who have read Jules Verne’s “Mysterious Island,” he actually foresaw this 150 years ago, that water is the coal of the future. That you can take water and produce hydrogen, oxygen and you can burn it and produce enough fuel power. The problem is how do you actually do this?
Now in 2003, in his State of the Union Address, President Bush actually declared this hydrogen economy as a national incentive. And much of the work in this country actually started for real hydrogen economy around that time. There was a time in the ’70s and early ’80s where the U.S. was the lead country in the world in terms of know-how on hydrogen interactions on materials. And then the funding was cut for hydrogen. Nothing was done almost 20 years. So in 2003 when this was announced and I was one of the members of the executive team to advise DOE on what work the U.S. has to do on hydrogen, 60 percent of the invited panelists were from abroad, more than 60 percent, and the question was, why so many foreigners using as advisers [unintelligible]? The thing is, we did not do much for a long time and this is where the policy actually comes. Fortunately we in the last 7, 8 years now the U.S. is back up in the lead again.
When I was here, Stan might remember, we had DOE actually bring the hydrogen car to the State Department and many of us had the luxury of riding in that car around the block. And when I asked them how much it costs, they would not tell the cost of it. After sometimes, it’s only about a million dollars which I’m sure all of you can afford. And then now the question of storage. And this is the [unintelligible]. How do you actually store hydrogen? Hydrogen is extremely light, it will escape the atmosphere. And to store hydrogen in a car and to drive the car will take time. I see my time is up so I’m going to just give you this one and then I’ll stop.
If you want to take hydrogen in the standard atmosphere and pressure and temperature, this is the size of tank that you need to go about 100 miles. If you compress it or liquefy it, this is size of tank. In either way, the tank is too big so you have a choice. Either you drive the car with hydrogen and leave your children and wife behind or you do something else. Now many of my friends tell me that the wife and children can stay home, we’re going with hydrogen in the car. I don’t think many will actually do that.
And my last point -- I will take one minute only -- and this is the way -- we’re talking about global partnerships and how the research can actually lead things that were not even planned up. Now this is a space shot by India that actually took a NASA pay load and on September 24, 2009 they actually discovered water on the moon. And I was told that this water is more available than gold that they found on the moon simply because with water, one can make hydrogen and oxygen. So the moon can really act as a one stop station to refuel either space craft or yourself with oxygen and H2. But how do you make H2? Well the technology we are developing on Earth to drive a hydrogen car by making hydrogen from water can actually be [unintelligible] and used on the moon to extract H2 and O from the water. So unlike in old days when NASA used to do research to make space travel possible and the technology from there actually helped us, including cell phones. Now it’s the other way around. We are trying to solve a problem on Earth to make H2 from water and we’re using the technology on the moon and how the global partnership can actually help.
With that, thank you very much for having me and I’m happy to answer questions.
Nina Fedoroff: Since this is being recorded, I ask that you use the microphones [inaudible] if you have questions. First question?
Larry Stirling: Dr. Jena, Larry Stirling from OES’s Office of Policy Coordination and Initiatives. It’s good to see you.
I actually have two questions. You said that the first is the overall definition of abundance. You said that renewable energy is abundant. In terms of what is available today or what is commercially feasible today, how close are we to having significant abundance to be able to replace our dependence on fossil fuels? And secondly, you touched on biofuels as a source of renewable energy. What are your comments on the whole sort of a carbon and energy balance of producing biofuels and whether and to what extent and how to make biofuels production really make sense as a renewable alternative?
Puru Jena: Thank you, Larry. It’s good to see you. I sat on the same corridor with Larry for a year. It was a wonderful experience I had with all my colleagues there.
The question was of abundance. Well, certainly solar energy is abundant. As I said, you have more light hitting the Earth in one hour than we use for a year and as long as the sun lasts, that energy will be there. The question is how do you harness this solar power? How much of land will you need for setting up the photovoltaics plants? And I was told, for example, if you want to increase the solar by 10 percent, you’ll have to put something like a million homes into solar every year for the next 30 years or something of that kind. So it’s an enormous magnitude. But if you can make it cheap and effective, one idea for example to develop, a polymeric paint that you can actually paint on the walls and the roof of your house and therefore it can actually take the energy and convert into electricity. And one thing that I didn’t mention that producing energy is one thing. Using it in an effective way is something else. For example, if you produce a lot of energy and you are not storing it at the time you’re producing, like the sun doesn’t come at night for some reason, so you need to store that amount of energy. For that, you will need extremely efficient batteries. And we have batteries that are very, very bulky and do not do as good a job as otherwise they can. So we have developed parallel technologies for that one. Wind is there simply because the sun is there. And we have waves and tides because of the sun and the moon. So these are all simply consequence of having the moon and the sun. So these energies are abundant but they are not cost effective. If I produce these energies at areas where I could transport them, then you have to build the infrastructure to [unintelligible] as to how to do that.
Hydro, for example, is abundant but how do you actually transport hydro to your home? You can build dams, which people have done for, you know, years and years and years. Or you can harness what we call mini-hydro. If you have a small village that is way out from everyone else but it has a nice stream that can be converted into making a mini-hydro station that maybe can only just power the village. So we have to develop these kinds of concepts.
About the bio, that is certainly a very big issue. I’m going to give you my own prejudicial remark on bio. I agree with many of the skeptics that bio is not going to be the solution for our energy problem. This may not even be one of the many solutions that we can look at simply because of the way we produce, you know, this biological materials or biomaterials strictly to harness energy. The land mass, the water, the fertilizer that we need, to transport from where we produce to the place where we actually convert bio. And certainly we need to develop enough catalytic technologies, mostly enzyme technologies to actually convert not just the corn or -- but stalk [spelled phonetically] due to energy. So second generation biofuels of course will be there. And many of the biofuels are not as efficient, for example, or energy density is not as high as we have for gasoline.
So these aspects are there and I should tell you one anecdote here that really impressed me about the Department of State and of Agriculture. When we were putting together through WIREC, there was a paper published by a group at Princeton heavily critical of the biofuels and particularly the forests that have been cut down to develop soy beans and other products. And the argument was that we are creating more damage to the environment by cutting down trees and growing this than the CO2 or -- or otherwise. So I asked Ambassador Harnish and Stan that I would like to invite this person from Princeton to come to WIREC and talk about it. And so my colleague said that oh, don’t do that, you know. It’s against the policy of the U.S. government. Certainly agriculture is a big part of our WIREC and they would not like to see that we are now saying bad things about biofuels. To my pleasant surprise, I was told, “I think by all means we should invite this man. Let the world hear what he has to say and let the other people decide whether his scientific analyses are based on, you know, proper principles or not.” And the gentleman actually came.
And there are instances like, for example, if you make a project based upon the way we did farming 50 years ago and then compare and judge how much land we need, how much water we need, then it’s not very efficient. You have to use technology of today to see what we can do and then make projection as to whether or not the particular resources are costing environment or not costing environment.
I hope I answered your question, Larry.
Avidad Senad: Hi. Avidad Senad. I’m a AAAS Fellow in Energy, Environment and Agriculture and Natural Resources. Many of the technologies that you’ve highlighted work better in a distributed system. Even the biofuels because of logistical challenges and bringing the feedstock’s together work better from a distributed system and, of course, solar, wind and the other renewables as well. Yet you mentioned that China is deploying one coal-fired power plant per week. Therefore they’re deploying a system that is intrinsically centralized which we know from experience creates greater challenges when trying to move to the distributed system which is more effective for these technologies. So I was wondering from your experience with WIREC and some of your other collaborations if you could help us understand what we can do to facilitate a discussion on the value of distributed versus centralized energy infrastructures and how we can work with nations around the world to understand the value of such a system.
Puru Jena: Well, my own personal feeling is that you actually need both. You simply cannot do and meet all the needs we have with distributed technologies. You need centralized ones as well. If you look at China as having one coal-powered plant every week, for example, many of these countries did not develop at the same time as the [unintelligible] nations have developed. And, as I said, the population growth has been enormous in those countries. So they need to develop and for them to develop any [spelled phonetically] power and the power has to be cost effective so they can afford If you’re per capita income is $1500 a year, you simply cannot, you know, afford the expense for the whole tax which is very, very expensive even for us. So you need both a distributed as well as a centralized power framework. The idea is how do we actually build this together so we can transition, you know, to a more environment friendly energy sources in the long run?
And for that, I would emphasize that controlling population and thereby what I call education in which people understand the consequence of having more people and having less resources to support is the key. I don’t think that at this stage I will say that we should all go to distributed power and abundant, you know, the localized ones. Nuclear power plant is certainly going to be intermediate solution for the foreseeable future. And as a matter, this morning I read in The Washington Post that even the Greenpeace is now in support of actually building, you know, nuclear power plants. So if we can control the issues regarding proliferation and storage, you know, of the spent fuels then that is certainly going to be a very good, viable solution. And I have my own theories as to how to do that but I’m not sure I should discuss that here.
Dominic Tondo: Thank you, Doctor. My name is Dominic Tondo with the Office of Real Property. I’m a mechanical engineer. And you were speaking that one of your loves is hydrogen storage and you ran out of time to talk about that. But I would like to understand more about what you’re doing with nanotechnology and what you’re doing with storage.
Puru Jena: Well -- because I -- And I work on hydrogen and they are really -- symbiotic with each other. In the production of hydrogen, we need very good catalysts that are efficient and cheap to produce hydrogen from water under solar conditions, sunlight. And so developing very good catalysts from materials that are not expensive and that are abundant in supply is one of the key challenges. And nanoscience is helping us there to design sub particles based upon iron, based upon nickel, based upon aluminum that you can use as catalysts to split water.
To store hydrogen into a matrix which is the ideal way of storing hydrogen, again you have to bring hydrogen in and trap them into solid matrix. That is where catalysts plays a very big role where the H2 can come in, interact with catalyst, break up and you store that as a hydrogen -- atoms inside this material. And the same thing also for the fuel cells where, for example, you will need catalysts for the membrane to work very well.
So these are areas where nanotechnologies will be extremely useful. The question is, is it cost effective or not? And I am sure you’ve heard about lithium batteries as being something that is going to be extremely useful for a new generation of car -- the amount of lithium that we have in this world is very, very limited. And so therefore you cannot really go in technology in which you are changing from oil that’s limited to an element that is used as a catalyst or something else that’s also limited. So nanotechnology -- to say how we can create the same property from other materials that are abandoned from the nature. So that’s where nanoscience will come in.
Male Speaker: Thank you.
Nina Fedoroff: Thank you very much.
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