Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering

MAE 297 Seminar by Professor Max F. Platzer

Is there an engineering approach to stop climate change?
Professor Max F. Platzer

Adjunct Professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, University of California Davis, CA and Distinguished Professor Emeritus, Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, Naval Postgraduate School, Monterey, CA


Currently, only a small percentage (about 7%) of the global energy needs is provided by “modern” renewable energy technologies (wind, solar etc.). Therefore, most analysts predict that this percentage will, at most, increase to about 30% to 50% by 2050, but that a complete transition to renewable energy production is very unlikely. Yet, there is a growing consensus that global warming will have become irreversible by this time with enormous consequences for the world population. Therefore, the global engineering community is faced with the challenge of examining the technical feasibility of transitioning to renewable energy production within the next twenty to thirty years. David MacKay at Cambridge University and Mark Jacobson at Stanford University argue that the land-based and off-shore based wind resources and the solar energy resources available in the global desert regions are sufficient for transition to a global renewable energy technology. This may well be correct in principle. However, the question needs to be asked whether this is the most practical and realistic approach for rapid transition. It omits consideration of the vast wind resources available over the  global oceans. In 2009 we proposed a method for accessing the ocean wind energy by means of large sailing ships equipped with ship-mounted hydropower generators. The electric power produced on the ships then is used to split the seawater into hydrogen and oxygen (using electrolysis) which then is shipped back to land for reconversion into electricity or use in hydrogen fuel cell cars. We will present some of the technical and economical aspects of this energy ship concept and discuss its potential for climate change mitigation.

Date(s) - 01/29/2015
4:00 pm - 5:00 pm

1065 Kemper Hall


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