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   05.12    

05.12

Fourth IEEE Green Technologies Conference

By Patrick E. Meyer, Ph.D.

Now in its fourth year, the IEEE Green Technologies Conference continues to bring together scientists, researchers and practitioners from around the world to develop realistic solutions to the current energy crisis, and to reduce carbon emissions and greenhouse gas emissions. The first, second and third conferences laid the foundation, and the fourth conference continued the tradition of underscoring IEEE’s continued commitment to next-generation clean technology.

Considering that human activities have increased atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) levels, the chief global warming pollutant, by nearly 40 percent compared to pre-industrial levels, the resulting climatic changes are far from trivial: more intense storms, more pronounced droughts, coastal areas more severely eroded by rising seas. Additionally, world energy consumption has risen 45 percent since 1980, and is projected to be 70 percent higher by 2030.  Developing nations are witnessing a heightened rate of urbanization; for example, the majority of buildings that will exist in India in 2035 have not yet been built.

Given this backdrop, IEEE-USA, IEEE Region 5, the IEEE Tulsa Section, and the Oral Roberts University sponsored the 2012 Green Technologies Conference. Welcoming plenary speaker Bruce Randolph from ConocoPhillips focused on his company's efforts to move beyond petroleum. For ConocoPhillips, switching part of their portfolio to renewable and next generation fuels makes sense not only from a sustainability point of view but also from an economic standpoint. That's why ConocoPhillips has put together a team of 30 people focused just on issues related to environment and sustainable development.

One area where the company is working is with the production of hydrogen for petroleum and biofuel refining. According to Randolph, a biorefinery actually consumes about 10 times more hydrogen than a traditional refinery and he explained where that hydrogen is coming from. While most hydrogen today comes from steam methane reforming of carbon-based fuels, there are multiple renewable options that are on ConocoPhillips' radar for cleaner production.

ConocoPhilips is looking at the interface of environment, social trends and economic robustness. Although the company is making efforts to pursue a cleaner future, Randolph indicated that all work done to date has been anything but clean. In fact, in pilot projects of next-generation methods to make hydrogen via high-temperature electrolysis, well-to-wheels analysis indicates that CO2 emissions have doubled rather than decreased, and power costs have increased six or seven fold. But these are technical challenges that can be overcome. ConocoPhilips' climate change action plan is preparing the company to equip for a low-emission world, reduce their emissions, pursue new business opportunities in emerging technologies, and engage externally beyond their traditional reach.  They're exploring ways to conduct their business to promote economic growth, a healthy environment and vibrant communities.

Plenary speaker Chuck Korstad from Applied Materials began his presentation with the video Where Good Ideas Come From by Steven Johnson.

Green technologies, according to Korstad, are good ideas and Applied Materials is applying some of the lessons discussed in Johnson's video. Korstad spoke on methods to accelerate the cost reduction and performance of green technologies.  Applied Materials has over $1 billion invested annually in research, development, and demonstration.  The company seeks to be recognized as a green company in energy efficiency, green energy, operations, and employee engagement. 

Korstad gave the example of cost reduction in technologies.  For example, consider that the cost of transistors has decreased by a factor of 20,000,000 in the last 30 years; that the cost of displays has decreased by a factor of 20 in the last 15 years; and that the cost per watt of solar panels has decreased by a factor of 5 in the last few years.  According to Korstad, solar PV technology has a predictable cost curve and from here forward, PV technology will accelerate to achieve grid parity.  Still, advancements are necessary in both cost and efficiency to ensure PV competition. Korstad believes that 2010-2020 will be a decade of transformation and he estimates that by 2020, PV technology will have achieved grid parity in 78 countries.

In a breakout session entitled “Thermal Evaluation of Green Roof Systems Containing Bottom Ash Growth Media”, students from Southern Illinois University Edwardsville discussed experimental work in which they build a modular green roof system made of aluminum trays to test the different heat and reflectivity of different plant types. Data loggers read the temperatures from probes located under the growth media providing data.  Measurements were collected for one year and multiple tests were taken for the sake of repeatability.  Results found that by using different types of plants, temperature savings of 20 degrees could be realized. Furthermore the systems are low-maintenance and serve as a way to control water flow from buildings.

In “Green Data Center Cooling: Achieving 90% Reduction”, Benjamin Weerts from the National Snow and Ice Data Center showed how redesigning the data control center could realize energy efficiency gains of an impressive 90 percent. A new system was installed that uses outside air to cool the room, requiring no compressor and only a fan. The new system also had a new cooling system with an air economizer and indirect evaporative coolers. Further, the lab underwent consolidation and virtualization of servers and installed a redundant uninterrupted power supply powered by solar photovoltaics coupled to battery storage. The new system reduced energy expenditures by 58 percent, saving the National Snow and Ice Data Center $54,000 annually.

In “Enabling Large-Scale PV Integration into the Grid”, Cheung Lam demonstrated how integrating solar PV into the grid incorrectly can actually damage existing equipment, if, for example, the voltage frequency does not match. Cheung's company, Petra Solar, Inc., has developed a single pole with self-contained mechanics. The power source is very small, only 200-250w, but is very versatile and is compatible with the grid.

In a breakout session, Ryo Kanamori from the Nagoya Institute of Technology of Japan presented “Agent-Based Electrical Power Management Model in Consideration of Weather Change” in the context of smart city design.  Smart cities, according to Kanamori, optimize the entire combination of the latest technology, systems, and solutions in all fields, including energy, telecommunications, water, traffic, and waste disposal as functions of the city, by making a comprehensive plan.  A truly smart city would include considerations of quality of life, reduced CO2 emissions, renewable energy, and energy conservation.  Focusing on just one component, the smart house, Kanamori described his development of an agent-based model to manage electric power in the home, with specific attention to the evaluation of the impact of weather conditions on a PV system.  Depending on weather conditions, Kanamori’s model can introduce different strategies to the agent.  Coupled with nighttime purchasing and storage strategies, there can be enough available storage even if the next day is rainy.  More information is available at http://www.smartcity-planning.co.jp/english/

Stephanie Shreck from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas presented “Reducing Climate Change through CPV Development.”  Shreck’s work was funded by NV Energy, which is defining Nevada’s role in renewable energy.  Based on southern Nevada’s great potential for solar radiation, and based on current efficiencies, installing PV in southern Nevada would produce about 1 kWh per square meter, which is higher than many other locations.  Another option, concentrated photovoltaics, which is Shreck’s main subject, can use electrically switchable Fresnel Lenses, which control flux characteristics, manage spectral mismatch, keep constant irradiance, receive the light at a certain angle and direct the light through the lens to a receiver. But these technologies are in considerable need of increased investment.

Grant Irvine, from  Southern Illinois University presented work entitled “Thermal Comparison of Reflective and Non-reflective Roofs with Thin-Film Solar Panels.” In this work, Irvine tested multiple types of roofing material to see which reflects solar irradiation the greatest. He used thermal imaging techniques to analyze the temperatures, and saw a 6 degree C difference between the test materials.  Irvine explained that power output can be affected by module temperatures, but less so for some type of cells. So pairing of a cell type that is not susceptible to temperature impacts is important in hot climates.

Jeremiah Pastor, from the University of Louisiana, presented work entitled “Hydrokinetic Energy Overview and its Renewable Energy Potential for the Gulf of Mexico.”  Pastor explained that most current hydrokinetic energy work is focused on near-shore options, but there is even greater potential further out, especially if tethered to existing infrastructure such as an oil platform. Pastor identified the key barriers to this technology being the overall infancy of the technology, problems with grid integration, lack of a market for the products, and the overall Gulf of Mexico wave climate. With Chevron supporting his work, Pastor has explored laboratory-scale technologies with the University of Louisiana Ocean Energy and Technology Team, conducting feasibility, prototype, and development work.

Region 5 Student Competitions

Ethics Competition

This year's Region 5 Student Ethics Competition focused on the question: “who can change proprietary source code.” The students were given a scenario with three separate ethical dilemmas to work through. In this particular scenario, a computer programmer moved to a new position in which he spent most of his time on the telephone talking with customers having systems problems. He realized that it would be helpful to adapt a software program that he developed at a previous job to use at his new job. The students were asked to explore the debate of whether or not it would be ethical for the subject to alter software originally designed in a previous position and then use that software at the new position; whether he should first contact his previous company before implementing the software company wide; and whether the subject’s friends and coworkers have an obligation to inform anyone of the situation. Full details on the case are available here: http://www.onlineethics.org/cms/12697.aspx

The students had two hours to understand the problem, come up with answers, and develop and practice a PowerPoint presentation.  The challenge was to align the answers with the IEEE Code of Ethics. They then had ten minutes to defend their answers in front of a panel of judges.

First Place: Luke Ezell and Jaleshree Mehta, Kansas University                            

Second Place: Garrett Fried and Eliot Castanza, University of New Orleans                

Third Place: Corbin LeGrand and David Macke Jr., Missouri University of S&T               

Fourth Place: Jonathan Park and Deborah Williams, Texas State University                      

Robotics Competition

I've attended the Region 5 Student Robotics Competition every year for four years.  One thing I've always been impressed with is the level of sportsmanship and overall enthusiasm amongst teams. I've also noticed that the scenario for the robots seems to get harder each year. This year's scenario seemed the most challenging of them all. The course contained three different sources of renewable energy: light, hydroelectric, and wind. The robots’ goals were to harvest electricity from at least two of the three sources. Each of the three energy sources was powered on for only a short period of time, so the robot needed to meet the power source at the right time and not stay too long. After collecting the energy, the robot went to the fourth corner of the board to deliver the energy to a unit which raises a flag from the ground using the delivered energy. Whichever robot raised the flag the furthest, and in the shortest amount of time, was the winner.

1st Place: LeTourneau University

2nd Place: University of New Orleans

3rd Place: Texas A&M-Kingsville

A number of teams’ videos are posted on YouTube. Check out:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GGHbbPadgUg

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=puXz0vGbNOY

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5weTVrCQTYg

And some test rounds:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PV0zhogusUE

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pyp2xHV2Bws

Circuit Competition

First Place: Steve Kirchner and James Taylor, University of Arkansas at Little Rock

Second Place: Mitchell Kelley and Logan Walker, Texas Tech University

Third Place: Mike Dean and Doug Schumann, Southern Illinois University Carbondale (SIUC)

Paper Competition

First place: Ivan Yeoh, Oklahoma Christian University

Title: Estimating Distance Using an Actuated, Single-Camera Embedded System

Second place: Conrad Max Morgan, Lamar University

Title: Don't Open the Gate: An Analysis of Problems in the Ever-shrinking Realm of Microelectronics

Third place: Scott Clark and Chris Lutrick, Texas Tech University

Title: High-Power Pulsed RF Source Array Control Unit

The 4th IEEE Green Technologies Conference and Region 5 meetings proved again to be a success. Green technologies can make the air healthier and the water safer. The most successful green technologies will enable us to consume less and optimize energy inputs at a lower cost. New technologies including geothermal technology, solid-state fuels cells, biofuels, and new wind, solar, and ocean technologies will greatly benefit our environment and positively impact society.

 

 

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Comments may be submitted to todaysengineer@ieee.org.

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