Sustainable Energy Engineering

The living film covering the surface of planet earth is delicately balanced. The conditions for life are created by life. These conditions are complex of systems and feedback mechanisms that are poorly understood. Humanity now captures one quarter of primary productivity of the planet. However, we lack engineering systems to properly manage this productivity at the planetary scale. This is resulting in environmental impacts, such as biodiversity loss, pollution, and climate change. The broader impact of our present energy and resource management can be divided into three categories.

Human Society: energy, population growth, food, resource depletion
Economy: Economic Disasters, Economic Refugees, Wealth Imbalances
Resources: Finite Resources, Approaching shortages Finite Fossil Fuels

The solution is a new way of thinking and new technologies that I refer to as Sustainable Energy Engineering.

It has been estimated that the global average surface needed to supply the needs and absorb the wastes of an individual is about 2.3 ha/person. For Italy this figure is about 3.26 ha/person (lowest in western Europe), for France: 5.74 ha/person, for Switzerland: 5.26 ha/p. for USA this figure is about 9ha/p! However, the resources available on this planet are only1.9 ha/person. We overshot the earth’s capacity in 1975! By some estimates, world resources can only sustainably support 500 million people at the present US standards! We seem to be following a classic ecological pattern of overshoot and collapse (Malthusian growth). The present planetary carrying capacity depends on numbers versus standard of living; increasing one reduces the other.

Science & Engineering has to find ways to break this vicious cycle and increase carrying capacity of our planet. Of course, the greatest impact of the present unbalanced system is on the poor. It is estimated that this will result: 0.5-1 billion environmental refugees. The Green Revolution of the 1970s postponed food supply as a limit to growth. Crop production has improved in the last 20 years from 1.8 to 2.5 t/ha. but such intensive agriculture requires high energy, fertilizer and petrochemical inputs. Land, water, phosphate, energy will be the limiting factors.

Energy demand will grow 50% by 2030, but oil conventional production is peaking and will decline 75% in 30 years. Adaptation to these new realities will be extremely expensive and the struggle for diminishing resources will be globally destabilizing. In short, the fossil-fuel-based energy subsidy of civilization is unsustainable.

In this seminar, the presenter will review the above issues. He will pay special attention to the issues and power electronics technologies of sustainable energy production, consumption and the relationship between these two. This will establish the foundations of the holistic sustainable energy production-consumption technology complex. Then some individual technologies will be examined with this insight.

Mehrdad Ehsani

Director, Sustainable Energy & Vehicle Engineering Program, Texas A&M University on March 16, 2012 at 11:00 AM in BTEC, Room 135

M. Ehsani received the B.S. and M.S. degrees from the University of Texas at Austin in 1973 and 1974, respectively, and the Ph.D. degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1981, all in electrical engineering.

From 1974 to 1977 he was with the Fusion Research Center, University of Texas, as a Research Engineer. From 1977 to 1981 he was with Argonne National Laboratory, Argonne, Illinois, as a Resident Research Associateiate, while simultaneously doing the doctoral work at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in energy systems and control systems. Since 1981 he has been at Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas where he is now a Professor of electrical engineering and Director of Advanced Vehicle Systems Research Program and the Power Electronics and Motor Drives Laboratory. He is the author of over 300 publications, the co-author of twelve books, and has over 23 granted or pending US and EC patents. His current research work is in power electronics, motor drives, hybrid vehicles and their control systems.

Dr. Ehsani is a Fellow of IEEE, an IEEE Industrial Electronics Society and Vehicular Technology Society Distinguished Speaker, IEEE Industry Applications Society and Power Engineering Society Distinguished Lecturer. He is also a registered professional engineer in the State of Texas.

ABB Distinguished Lecture Series

ABB and the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department are proud to host the ABB Distinguished Lecture Series in Power Engineering. Each semester, a nationally prominent expert will lecture on a topic related to recent developments in power technology and the smart grid. Distinguished speakers drawn from ABB, academia and the power industry will address the most timely and challenging topics of the power engineering and smart grid industries. Everyone is invited to attend, from undergraduates on up to faculty and friends of the department.