Seeking a Clean Energy System at Lower Cost

November 12, 2021 10:30am – 11:50am PST
Sarah Kurtz, Professor, School of Engineering, University of California Merced
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California and much of the rest of the world seek to transition to a clean energy system. The progress of wind, solar, and batteries has been really impressive. There are many new technologies being developed. Implementing these in a coordinated way can help California complete the transition in less time and for lower cost. In particular, new storage technologies that can reach very low prices may be coupled with low-cost solar and wind to deliver electricity around the clock. But, delivering electricity isn’t the whole story; the rest of the energy system needs to be decarbonized. Building more solar and wind generators to power new electrolyzers can generate hydrogen that can be stored and used for powering the transportation, chemical and other energy sectors. However, the cost of such hydrogen is low only if the electrolyzers can be operated using cheap electricity, so when prices go high at times of shortages, the electrolyzers may shut off, relying on stored hydrogen for powering the other sectors and providing a huge flexible electric load to help stabilize the grid even during the winter. Our engineers have done an amazing job. The talk will provide an overview of how those new technologies may come together to provide a clean energy system at a cost that may be even lower than today’s energy.

Sarah Kurtz obtained her PhD in 1985 from Harvard University and now works at the University of California Merced after more than 30 years working at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, in Golden, CO. She is known for her contributions to developing multijunction, GaInP/GaAs solar cells, supporting the Concentrator Photovoltaic (PV) industry, and leading efforts on PV performance and reliability. Her work has been recognized with a jointly received Dan David Prize in 2007, the Cherry Award in 2012, C3E Lifetime Achievement Award in 2016, and induction into the National Academy of Engineering in 2020. At the University of California Merced she is working both to help the university grow and to support the Energy Transition through a variety of studies, including a current study on long-duration storage.