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Robert Catell, Chairman- Adanced Energy Center,
July 8, 2011 @ 12:00 am EDT
This morning our speaker was Bob Catell, Chairman of the Advanced Energy Research and Technology Center at SUNY Stony Brook. Stony Brook’s Vice President of Economic Development Dr Yacov Shamash was there to introduce the speaker.
Mr. Catell began by giving a little background on the needs the center will be addressing in terms of energy generation and making the distribution grid more responsive and efficient. "If Thomas Edison could come back today he would not only recognize it, he would be able to fix it" according to Catell. This does not mean that the system is in bad shape, it means it hasn’t fundamentally changed.
Natural gas is an area of Bob’s expertise and he gave us a briefing on how we have discovered that there is a lot more gas that can be mined than we previously thought. He discussed the controversy of the mining process known as Hydro-fracking or fracking. The process has the potential for harm if not properly executed, but by putting watershed areas off limits the process can be safe. The Marcelles Shale has the estimated potential of sixty years of production to meet the needs of the country (15 trillion cubic meters), and the fact is we do not know the true potential. It could be considerably more.
The AERTC is working on various methods of electric energy production as well as strategies that will vastly increase efficiency. These efforts are actually the collective efforts of many entrepreneurs and inventors working in an environment that "incubates" ideas and grows companies that will hopefully someday prosper.. Inventors and innovators are often inspired by each others success and basic understanding of one technology can lead to insight in another.
The Advanced Energy Center and CEWIT are working on grid schemes that will redirect, curtail and do what is needed to avoid a general black-out. At present cascading power failures are possible and we don’t know what the system is doing at any given time. If the grid could self diagnose, redirect power, and lop off troubled areas without human intervention, major failures would be a thing of the past.
In addition a robust, fully integrated, and efficient system would be able to accommodate all the various power sources that are being developed. Among those advancing technologies is wind generation, which increased, in the past year by 50%
Solar power converts about 16% of the sun hitting it. Technologies that are presently being developed could go to 50%. That would be a remarkable increase and the implication is lower cost and smaller collection areas.
All kinds of generation must be embraced according to Catell. River flow generators, wind, solar tidal flow are all going to be employed in the places the make sense. "There is no magic bullet" as Catell put it.
Still with all of the innovations the best potential lies with efficiency, and all of this would help on issues such as air pollution, oil imports, costs, and of course jobs, jobs, jobs.