UT Austin Energy Bulletin
A Monthly Update from the Energy Institute of The University of Texas at Austin
|The UT Austin Energy Bulletin is a monthly update on energy-related research, recent and upcoming events, grants, awards and special announcements – a recap of all things energy at The University of Texas at Austin.
UT Austin partners with Japan on energy efficient data center
UT Austin’s Texas Advanced Computing Center (TACC), renowned for operating some of the world’s most powerful computing resources, can now lay claim as a leader in the use of renewable energy to improve the energy efficiency of large data centers. The $13 million project, funded by the Japanese government’s New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization, involves installation of a 250-kilowatt solar farm to power new computers at the TACC research facility in North Austin. For more, read the press release and articles in the Austin American-Statesman, the Texas Tribune, the Austin Business Journal, and Texas Energy Report.
Energy Institute directors on NPR: lignite one of Texas’ well-kept secrets
Energy Institute Director Dr. Tom Edgar and Assistant Director Dr. Fred Beach are prominently featured in a story on Texas’ lignite that aired recently on National Public Radio. In the story, which also includes quotes from Bureau of Economic Geology Senior Research Scientist Dr. J.P. Nicot, Edgar notes that most Austinites have ‘no clue’ that a strip mine is located only 30 miles away, just east of the town of Elgin, best known for its barbeque and sausage. About a dozen lignite mines, stretching in a series of arcs from northeast to southwest Texas, produced enough coal to account for roughly 36 percent of the state’s electricity in 2014. For more, listen to the entire NPR story.
Briscoe Center for American History home to largest publicly available collection on ExxonMobil Corporation
UT Austin’s Briscoe Center for American History is widely regarded for its distinguished assemblage of collections on pivotal themes in Texas and U.S. history. The Center’s Energy and Natural Resources Collection is a treasure trove of artifacts, personal papers, corporate archives, and oral histories that form a comprehensive view of the energy industry. One of the more compelling exhibits on display is the ExxonMobil Historical Collection, which documents the corporation’s long history, with particular focus on four major corporate entities – Standard Oil Company, founded in 1870 by John D. Rockefeller, Mobil Corporation, Exxon Corporation and Exxon Mobil Corporation – as well as various predecessor, affiliate and subsidiary companies. Read more.
UT Austin engineers enhance performance of smart windows
Researchers in the Cockrell School of Engineering have achieved advancements in electrochromic materials that could one day deliver smart windows capable of revealing light without transferring heat, and, conversely, blocking light while allowing heat transmission. Chemical Engineering Prof. Delia Milliron notes the performance of the new materials means researchers can proceed with plans to build a prototype manufacturing line. Ultimately, home occupants will be able to more precisely control the energy and sunlight passing through a window, which could significantly reduce costs for heating and cooling buildings. For more, read the press release and articles in MIT Technology Review, Engineering and Technology Magazine, Crazy Engineers, and Planet Save.
Community solar projects could smooth relations between utilities and their customers
New research from UT Austin suggests that community solar projects shared by a group of people, such as apartment building tenants, could help stabilize relations between electric utilities and growing numbers of customers interested in installing residential photovoltaic (PV) systems on individual rooftops. In a new study published in Energy Research & Social Science, LBJ School of Public Affairs Prof. Varun Rai and former research associate Erik Funkhouser found that some utilities are offering their customers community solar projects not only to satisfy consumer demand or regulatory requirements for renewable energy, but also to lessen revenue losses related to residential solar PV. Read more in an article in the Washington Post.
Engineering Prof. Ross Baldick named Power and Energy Society’s Outstanding Power Engineering Educator
UT Austin Electrical and Computer Engineering Professor Ross Baldick has been named Power and Energy Society’s (PES) Outstanding Power Engineering Educator for 2015. The award, issued by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, recognizes significant contributions to power system engineering for restructured electricity markets. The PES hosts the world’s largest forum for sharing the latest in technological developments in the electric power industry, and has more than 30,000 members worldwide.
Prof. Michael Webber op-ed: Iranian deal may pave way to lift ban on crude oil exports
The U.S. shale revolution, which has created a remarkable trajectory of increased oil production and decreased exports, also played a key role in getting Iran to the negotiating table, writes Energy Institute Deputy Director Dr. Michael Webber in a guest column published in the Houston Chronicle and Fort Worth Star-Telegram. While the resulting influx of Iranian oil into global markets may extend today’s low oil prices, he argues, it also may pave the way for the export of domestic crude, which has been banned for decades. For more, read the entire op-ed.
QUOTE OF THE MONTH
“We are ever more dependent on data, and at the same time, ever more conscious of the need to utilize all sources of energy.”
UT Austin President Gregory Fenves on new research funded by the Japanese government that will use solar energy to drive greater efficiency of advanced computing technology in large data centers.
Bureau of Economic Geology signs agreement with China to pursue historic carbon capture research
Dr. Scott Tinker, director of UT Austin’s Bureau of Economic Geology, signed a Memorandum of Understanding with business and academic leaders from China recently to form a partnership in the development of offshore carbon capture, utilization, and storage (CCUS) research. The project will be led by the Bureau’s Gulf Coast Carbon Center, recognized for developing technologies to implement CCUS worldwide. The agreement was signed at a ceremony hosted by the U.S. Trade and Development Agency, which has spearheaded U.S.-China collaboration to help combat climate change through scientific research. For more, watch a video about the USTDA’s work.
Energy Institute signs agreement with JISEA in Colorado
The Energy Institute has signed an agreement to collaborate with the Colorado-based Joint Institute for Strategic Energy Analysis (JISEA) on energy policy research and analysis. Deputy Director Dr. Michael Webber noted that two organizations share a mission to inform global energy policy decisions based on sound science and academic rigor. Doug Arent, JISEA’s executive director, echoed those comments, adding that the Energy Institute’s expertise on the energy/water nexus and energy economics will particularly augment JISEA’s research capabilities. Read more.
Sept. 4 Texas Enterprise Speaker Series: Prof. David Spence Separating Energy Policy from Energy Politics’
In today’s fractious regulatory policy environment, intense conflict and divisive debate is the norm. Partisan politics command center stage at the intersection of energy and environment issues, frequently resulting in government gridlock. Dr. David Spence in the September 4 installment of McCombs School of Business’ popular Texas Enterprise Speaker Series, will explore what the behavioral sciences have to say about why we cannot agree on what is true, let alone what is best, in energy policy debates, and how to overcome those biases. Read more and register.