Decision '09
Blog Index


Debate #3
Elusive Water Vapor:
High Altitude Hydrogen Jets, and the Delicate Stratosphere


Debate #2
Green Energy
in the American Southeast

Topics featured in this debate:

Offshore Wind

Concentrated Solar

Hydrogen from Solar Electrolysis

Expert Commentary:

Robert Leitner
South Carolina's Institute for Energy Studies

Nate Blair
National Renewable Energy Laboratory

Jeffrey Nelson Sandia National Laboratories

Fred Humes Education, Training and Research Center at ARC: Hydrogen

Todd Stone
3TIER, Global Renewable Energy Assessment and Forecasting

Erika Hartwig Myers
South Carolina Energy Office

Chris Daetwyler
SC Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Alliance


Debate #1
Biomass from
Poplar Trees


Energy Links:

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change

National Renewable Energy Lab

Wind Logics

Garrad Hassan


American Solar Energy Society

United States Council on Green Building (LEED)

National Association of Home Builders

Associated Builders and Contractors

Associated General Contractors

The California Institute of Earth
Art & Architecture

Green Building Funding Opportunities

Database of Incentives

Southern Alliance for Clean Energy

South Carolina Energy Office

SC Hydrogen

Nuclear Energy Institute

World Resources Institute

International Renewable Energy Alliance

Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Partnership

International Network for Sustainable Energy

World Council for Renewable Energy

International Renewable Energy Agency

Apollo Alliance

Rocky Mountain Institute

Sierra Club

National Association of Electrical Distributors

Edison Electric Institute

Electronic Industries Alliance

Int'l Council on Mining and Metals

Mineral Information Institute

American Institute of Architects

Pellet Fuels Institute

Link to
Government Sites:

White House

Supreme Court

State Dept.

WH Office on Management and Budget

WH Council of Economic Advisers



Dept. of Agriculture



National Solar Thermal Test Facility

Sandia National Laboratories

Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility



Links to Science Organizations:

Union of Concerned Scientists

Federation of American Scientists

The Planetary Society

US Maritime Alliance

Standards Engineering Society

National Fisheries Institute

Institute of Marine Engineering, Science and Technology

American Chemical Society

Chemical & Engineering News

International Congress of Radiology

American Society for Cell Biology

Institution of Engineering and Technology

Science Initiative Group

California Council on Science and Technology

American Polar Society

Links to Governmental and Business Groups:

World Planners Congress

Int'l Intellectual Property Alliance

US Chamber of Commerce

Environmental Working Group

Foreign Policy Group

Southern United States Trade Association

Washington Research Group (Guggenheim Partners)

Nat'l Conf.
of State Legislators

Nat'l Association of Government Contractors

Investment Company Institute

Financial Industry Regulatory Authority

American National Standards Institute

Urban Land Institute

Independent Business Alliance

American Independent Business Alliance

Link to Media Sites:

National Geographic

Mother Earth News

Solar Today Magazine

Farming Magazine

1 Sky

Charlie Rose

Nightly News with Brian Williams

Washington Post

Meet the Press

Jim Lehrer NewsHour

60 Minutes





"The adoption of a holistic worldview globally may represent humanity's greatest chance for a promising future to be shared by all." yasha husain








By Yasha Husain, posted May 14, 2009

Debate #2: Green Energy in the American Southeast

Sandia Laboratories Stirling Engines 2008
Sandia, Stirling Energy Systems Set New Record, 2.12.08
Photo Courtesy of Sandia National Laboratories

Jeffrey Nelson, Manager, Solar Technologies Department, Concentrating Solar Power Systems, Sandia National Laboratories

In 1999, Jeffrey Nelson co-authored a report that led to the establishment of the DOE Solid-State Lighting Initiative. The report's summary claimed new semiconductor light emitting diodes (LEDs) will "change the way we live, and the way we consume energy."

Worldwide, electricity needed for lighting will be reduced by 50 percent, and overall, electricity consumption will be lowered by 10 percent, the report said.

Nelson had had a long career at Sandia National Laboratories, in Albuquerque, NM, where he began working in 1987. But in 2000 took a hiatus and became Chief Technological Officer for Uniroyal Optoelectronics (UOE) in Florida. There he was put in charge of developing R&D and manufacturing operations. After he left UOE, he began consulting for the DOE on the still new Solid-State Lighting Initiative, and co-founded the business, Medical Lighting Solutions. He is now back at Sandia and is Manager of Concentrating Solar Power Systems in the Solar Technologies Department.

Nelson and I talked on April 17th about the potential of solar technologies in the southeast and he started off by saying he thinks solar water heaters could play an important role since their costs are not as high as concentrated solar and photovoltaics.

Sandia in fact supports a program, Third Party Financed Solar Pools, that's designed to enable people responsible for large scale municipal and commercial pools to purchase, through an agreement with an energy service company (ESCO), renewable energy in the form of solar water heaters.

And, in general, solar water heaters, for homes, buildings and pools, appear set to play a bigger role as a function of green building and energy efficiency upgrades.*

Nelson briefly discussed concentrated solar power plants and photovoltaics with me. He made note of the obvious, which is there are a number of clouds in the southeast compared to the southwest; and said this is essentially what makes CSP plants less practical to build in the southeast.

"The difference (between operating in the southeast vs. the southwest) is you have to have a point source that you can focus the sun on. If there are clouds the overall insulation is going to come down, but if (the clouds) come in front of the sun it won’t work because it has no point source to focus. Essentially, a magnifying glass or mirror needs something to focus a point source. Humidity also scatters the light, which hinders performance. PV (on the other hand) can use both diffuse and direct normal insulation coming in from the sun," Nelson pointed out.

At the same time, Nelson did say CSP would work fine in the southeast. (As noted in the Leitner interview, two plants are planned for Florida, the only place in the southeast where there is an average seven hours of direct radiation a day.)

However, "a CSP plant is 100s of megawatts and it wouldn’t be cost efficient to do on a smaller scale. In general you have to scale-up to cover the costs of the turbine/generator and other large parts," he added. "CSP is utility-scale, not residential, commercial or community. At the best rate, it can be used for concentrating PV."

"Each region has an optimal solution and each solution is regional," Nelson suggested. "In the Midwest, wind is a good bet, but there’s not a lot of population there. In the southwest, there’s a lot of solar, but at the same time population densities are not that high and you need to get the energy to California, right?"

Then there's the importance of integrating the fossil fuel people as an integral part of the grid, because they are the backbone of the current system, he remarked, adding he doesn't think it's realistic to not integrate.

"There are new operating strategies for the fossil generating operation that already incorporate wind and solar," Nelson said.

He gave an example: if a farm loses sun when a cloud moves over its house for 50 percent of a day, for that we have been developing things like the smart grid.

"Because how else do you respond to a fast cloud? There’s a need for a backup system," he said. "When you're talking a solar concentration of 20-30 percent, what we’re all aiming for, it becomes more important to have that backup than when solar accounts for one percent of the grid."

*In a separate conversation with Maria Blais, Coordinator of States Advancing Solar, a Department of Energy initiative, I learned there's begun a greater push for solar water heaters to increasingly be installed in homes and businesses across the country. The technology has improved since the 1980s, at which time incentives for the heaters also ran out. And while federal and state tax policies, and incentives, have favored photovoltaic systems over solar water heaters in recent years, the hope is rising incentives combined with well-targeted outreach and education will encourage more widespread use of the solar thermal heaters. In general, the heaters are a more affordable choice than PV systems able to provide electric power to your house, and they deliver considerable energy savings as well as reductions in carbon emissions. For more information on their costs visit the DOE Energy Savers page and for a thorough listing of federal and state incentives log onto The Database for State Incentives for Renewables (


Robert Leitner, Director of South Carolina's Institute for Energy Studies at Clemson University

Nate Blair, Senior Analyst/Group Manager at National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Colorado

Fred Humes, Director of the Education, Training and Research Center at ARC: Hydrogen in Aiken, South Carolina

Todd Stone, Director of Marketing, 3TIER, Global Renewable Energy Assessment and Forecasting

Erika Hartwig Myers, Renewable Energy Coordinator for the South Carolina Energy Office

Chris Daetwyler, Staff Specialist, South Carolina Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Alliance


Topics featured in this debate:

Offshore Wind

Concentrated Solar

Hydrogen from Solar Electrolysis


Debate #2: Comments

Received May 17, 2009 9:10 p.m.

James Hansen, "Hydrogen is not an energy source -- and not an effective energy carrier -- don't bet anything on it."

Hansen is Director: NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies

Hansen's comments were the first to be posted for Debate #2; to view more comments, please link to the page, Debate #2: Comments.  



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