Willett Kempton: Combating Peak Oil with Wind and Smarter Electric Power
We spend a lot of time on this site discussing the risks posed by Peak Oil. It's important to us that you understand the magnitude of our national/global predicament and take appropriate preparations.
But in addition to tracking the gathering stormclouds (of which there are many), our info scouting efforts also look for developments with potential to change the situation positively.
In the podcast below, Chris and Willett Kempton explore the potential of wind power to reduce the energy pinch threat posed by depleting fossil fuels. Dr. Kempton is an electrical engineering professor at the University of Delaware and director of the Center for Carbon-Free Power Integration. Turns out, while still early in the game, there's action going on in wind and electricity-management that offers real promise.
Click the play button below to listen to Chris’ interview with Willett Kempton:
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The interview covers:
- The importance of electricity storage in making alternative energies viable, as they have fluctuating production (i.e., the wind doesn't always blow, nor the sun always shine)
- Current options for increasing our energy output from wind
- How much of our energy needs could be fulfilled by wind if we pursued it at a Manhattan-project scale (Hint: It's more than you'd think)
- Strategies for using electricity from wind (and other sources) to create liquid fuels
- The promise of 'smart' technologies to optimize our consumption and conservation efforts
Some truly novel ideas come up, such as Willett's work around using electrical car fleets as a distributed electricity storage system - returning power from their batteries to the grid when the cars are fully charged and not in use.
As for Peak Oil, Willett agrees the threat is real: "If the population understood what the scientists understand," he says, we'd be fast-tracking moon-shot scale alternative energy infrastructure investments immediately.
Willett Kempton is Professor, College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment, Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering, and also Director, Center for Carbon-free Power Integration, at the University of Delaware.. He received a Ph.D. in Anthropology from the University of Texas, Austin in 1977. He has done extensive research on social and policy aspects of energy use and energy efficiency.
His scholarly articles cover topics such as American citizens' understanding of global climate change, beliefs and behavior regarding home energy, international comparisons of citizens' and policymakers' environmental perspectives, energy efficiency policies, and factors which move citizens to environmental action. He has written one book on theoretical cognitive anthropology, edited three volumes on energy, and most recently coauthored "Environmental Values in American Culture" (1995), a study of Americans' environmental beliefs and values. Kempton has held research or teaching positions at Princeton University, Michigan State University, and the University of California campuses at Berkeley and Irvine, prior to joining the faculty at the University of Delaware in 1992.