A Public Lecture Series at the University of Washington, April - June 2010

The coming decades will see dramatic changes in the production, consumption, and overall availability of energy.  This lecture series will provide expert coverage of many of the core technical, social, economic, and political issues and opportunities which will accompany the forthcoming transition to renewable energy.

The Energy Future project in the Spring term of 2010 includes both a free public lecture series (evening lectures in Kane Hall) and also an academic lectures series on more technical issues (Thursdays, 12:30pm, in Physics-Astronomy Auditorium PAA118).  Students interested in energy sciences are invited to enroll in the course associated with these lecture series, PHYS428A (1-2CR SLN-19076).  This course has no pre-requisites, and will likely be cross-listed in several colleges.  A 5-credit, 200-level lecture course also named 'Energy Future' is under development in the UW Physics Department and will be offered in Autumn 2010. 

Public Lecture Series Schedule
All lectures will be held in Kane Hall 130 and will begin at 6:30pm

April 1 (Thursday 6:30PM): Plastic Solar Cells? Challenges and Opportunities for Photovoltaics, David Ginger (UW Chemistry Department)

Energy is in the news nearly every day, but few people appreciate how enormous our appetite for energy has become.  Every person in America consumes the energy equivalent of 80 pounds of coal every single day.   What are the consequences of such consumption and how can we switch to a more sustainable path? This talk will review the massive scale of the solutions we must consider if we are to obtain a significant fraction of our energy consumption to sustainable sources.  In addition to implementing known technologies as fast as we can, I will argue that solar power must inevitably play a major role in any long-term sustainable energy plan, and that new technologies are needed to complete the transition in coming decades.  As one possibility, I will consider a technology that seemed science fiction even ten years ago, but is leading to start up companies and prototype devices today: the development of low cost, flexible, plastic solar cells.

Online reservations for the free tickets for the April 1 lecture are now open 
Please reserve a ticket online to ensure a seat.  Any remaining seats will be open to all non-ticketed attendees starting at 6:25 pm.


April 20 (Tuesday 6:30PM): Sustainable Energy - without the hot air, David J.C. MacKay (Cambridge University and Chief Scientific Advisor to the U.K. Department of Energy and Climate Change)

How easy is it to get off our fossil fuel habit?  What do the fundamental limits of physics say? How does our current energy consumption compare with our sustainable energy options? This lecture will offer a straight-talking assessment of the numbers, and discuss how to make energy plans that add up.

-The speaker is also the author of the well-known book with the same title as his lecture, see

Online reservations for the free tickets for the April 20 lecture are now open
Please reserve a ticket online to ensure a seat.  Any remaining seats will be open to all non-ticketed attendees starting at 6:25 pm.


May 13 (Thursday 6:30PM): Carbon Management, Energy Security and The Future of Nuclear Energy, Steven Aumeier (Director of Energy Systems and Technology, Idaho National Lab)

In less than 60 years we have witnessed the transition of nuclear electricity production from an experiment on the high desert of Idaho to more than 430 nuclear power reactors deployed in 31 countries, supplying nearly 15% of global electricity.  Driven by population growth, increased energy demand in developing countries, concerns about climate change, and the decreasing availability of fossil fuels, the next 60 years may well see not just an expansion of nuclear energy for electricity production (1/3 of all energy usage) but also an integration of nuclear energy with renewable and fossil energy resources.  This approach will supply lower-carbon transportation fuels and heat to drive industrial processes (the remaining 2/3 of energy consumed).  These “hybrid” nuclear energy systems could offer an attractive route to better manage the lifecycle of carbon resources, integrate more renewable energy into consumer products, and open significant opportunities for global energy security. But whether nuclear energy will live up to its full potential as a key enabler for global energy security is yet to be seen, and will in large part depend on whether the nuclear energy enterprise can address lingering concerns about cost, safety, waste management and nonproliferation while also evolving to deploy nuclear energy beyond electricity production.

Online reservations for the free tickets for the May 13 lecture are now open
Please reserve a ticket online to ensure a seat.  Any remaining seats will be open to all non-ticketed attendees starting at 6:25 pm.


May 18 (Tuesday 6:30PM): The potential of micro-algae for the production of biofuels and bio-products, Stephen Mayfield (Director, San Diego Center for Algae Biotechnology, U.C. San Diego)

Energy can be changed from one form to another, but cannot be created or destroyed. Food and Fuel are simply two forms of chemical energy, and as such are interchangeable. Fuel and food are both derived from photosynthesis, the process by which radiant energy is converted to chemical energy.  Eukaryotic algae offer tremendous potential for the large scale production of biofuels as algae require only sunlight as an energy source and sequester CO2 during the production of biomass, and algae can be much more efficient then terrestrial plants in fixing CO2 and producing biomass. Lost in much of the energy debate is the fact that the fertilizers required for productive modern agriculture are derived from fossil fuels as well, and as fossil fuels become more expensive and limited, the costs of agriculture will rise while productivity declines. These factors have provided the impetus behind the development of new renewable energy sources that can supplant fossil fuels while greatly reducing carbon emissions into the atmosphere. The use of micro-algae as a platform for the production of biofuels and bioproducts has significant potential as a source of new energy capture, given the ability of algae to be grown at very large scale in a cost effective manner with minimal inputs of fertilizers and potable water. Algae also offer the potential to realize large-scale production of food or fuel without competing for existing arable land, but significant challenges remain to bring algal biofuels to economic parity with fossil fuel. We are developing the tools for engineering of algal as a means to alter the accumulation of biofuel and bioproduct molecules, and have successfully introduce biosynthetic enzymes to modify hydrocarbon biosynthesis, as well as a variety of valuable protein co-products. The challenges and potential of algae as a source of biofuels and bioproducts will be discussed.

Online reservations for the free tickets for the May 18 lecture are now open
Please reserve a ticket online to ensure a seat.  Any remaining seats will be open to all non-ticketed attendees starting at 6:25 pm.


June 3 (Thursday 6:30PM): Renewable Energy Landscapes, Daniel Schwartz (UW Chemical Engineering)

Solar, wind, and biomass resources are the three leading options for renewable energy production at a scale that will make a difference in the U.S. energy economy.  However, each is a diffuse resource and their implementations will impact landscapes on truly large scales.  It is therefore important to consider environmental and societal impacts along with the technological and economic considerations.  The failure to adequately balance all these concerns has significantly slowed the development of renewable energy.  This talk describes new work aimed at improving both renewable energy production and ecosystem services at the same time, with a special focus on bioenergy. We partner with several Columbia River Basin Tribes, where interdisciplinary team planning is the norm, in order to address questions such as, "Can we affordably co-develop bioenergy, biodiversity, and resiliency on the landscape?"

Online reservations for the free tickets for the June 3 lecture are now open
Please reserve a ticket online to ensure a seat.  Any remaining seats will be open to all non-ticketed attendees starting at 6:25 pm.

Questions?  Contact:

Energy Future is sponsored by the University of Washington, the Office of the Provost, the Applied Physics Lab, the Colleges of Arts and Sciences, Engineering, and the Environment, the Evans School of Public Affairs, the Institute for Advanced Materials and Technology, the NSF Science and Technology Center for Materials and Devices for Information Technology Research, the NSF Center for Enabling New Technologies Through Catalysis, and the UW Department of PhysicsThey all care about energy.  You should, too.

Image Credits: NOAA, Cristian Solari and the Volvocales Information Project

Last update: 1 April 2010