EvidenceProf Blog

Editor: Colin Miller
Univ. of South Carolina School of Law

Friday, January 29, 2010

The AALS Poster Project: Elizabeth Burleson and James D. Hoefelmeyer's Solar Energy - The Future is Now!

Elizabeth Burleson and James D. Hoefelmeyer presented the poster, Solar Energy - The Future is Now! (Download Solar Energy):


Professor Burleson is a professor at the University of South Dakota School of Law, where she has taught since 2007. She teaches classes such as Public International Law, Energy Law, United Nations Law, International Environmental Law, International Law and China, Property Law, Water Law, and Environmental Law. She has published articles such as Energy Policy, Intellectual Property and Technology Transfer to Address Climate Change, 18 Transnat'l L. & Contemp. Probs. 69 (2009), Energy Security, Green Job Creation, and Youth Innovation, 24 Conn. J. Int'l L. 381 (2009), and Wind Power, National Security, and Sound Energy Policy, 17 Penn. St. Envtl. L. Rev. 137 (2009). 

She has also written reports for the United Nations, delivered presentations at United Nations conferences, and directed and produced films including:

(1) “Copenhagen Climate Change Consensus Building,” a documentary film on a cross-section of perspectives at the Copenhagen Conference; (2) "Legal Equality for Same Gender Couples" explaining the rights and responsibilities of civil marriage; (3) “Be the Change that You Wish to See” featuring grassroots environmental initiatives around the world; and (4) “Making Connections” a Spanish documentary on NAFTA, California's 1994 Proposition 187, and the conflict in Chiapas.

Professor Hoefelmeyer is a professor in the Department of Chemistry at The University of South Dakota. His research interests include: Synthesis and characterization of metal oxide nanocrystals; heterogeneous catalysis on supported metal oxide nanocrystals; main group organometallic synthesis; and solar energy conversion.

Professor Burleson provided me with a description of Renewable Energy Legal Reform to consider in conjunction with the poster. You can download it by clicking this link (Download Renewable Energy Law Reform). She also provided the following information:

1) The survival of humanity greatly depends on its ability to become sustainable.  Central to sustainability is renewable energy, which should displace fossil fuels completely before the end of the 21st century to stop the increase of atmospheric carbon dioxide.  There is a misperception that solar energy is expensive or impractical; while the facts show that solar energy is abundant, economical, and available with current technology.  The earth continuously receives 90PW = 9x10^16 Watts of solar power!  This is approximately ten-thousand times the rate of power consumption from human activity.  The poster includes a figure of solar power flux on earth's surface and black dots that cover a small fraction of total land area.  Those areas, if covered with photovoltaics that operate at 8% efficiency (already well below the industry standard) can theoretically produce enough power for all human activity.  Solar energy is clean (zero emissions), and will be available for billions of years.  Solar energy utilization involves rapid and efficient conversion between different forms of energy.  Photovoltaics convert light to electricity, solar-thermal applications convert light to heat, and photoelectrochemical cells (and plants) convert light to chemical fuels.  The cost of solar energy is decreasing.  The cheapest methods are passive solar and solar water heating.  Solar cells are approaching the $1/Watt figure, greatly reducing the cost of solar electricity generation.  A recent large scale (2 GW) solar power plant project was announced with construction cost of $3/Watt.  Large solar power plants are becoming increasingly common, with a rush of construction in Europe.  This is an economically advantageous track for power generation.  Solar energy is much less expensive than fossil fuels.  Construction and power generation costs were calculated for a fossil plant and solar plant.  These show that the solar plant can arithmetically overtake the cumulative power generation of the fossil fuel plant after roughly 25 years at the same cost while producing zero emissions.  Beyond this time span, the savings are enormous with solar.  While there has been rapid growth in the PV industry in the last decade, the rate of power generation must be greater.  Perhaps nations can set renewable power generation targets in addition to CO2 emissions targets.  For instance, the United States could aim to install 1 TW solar power by 2020.

2) This poster was created  to educate the public in the southeast South Dakota area about the alternatives to fossil fuel energy.  Hyperion Energy from Dallas, TX has proposed construction of a 400,000 barrel/day tar sands refinery.  It is the opinion of the authors that the project would result in enormous environmental destruction, continue fossil fuel dependence, and represent a gigantic setback in the efforts to shift to a sustainable economy.

3) Recommended viewing:  presentation by Nate Lewis, Caltech:  

Professor Nate Lewis presents a summary of the global energy challenge.

4) sources:






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Indeed, Solar energy can provide way to a brighter future. If only more people realize its many benefits, I'm sure the world be a better and safer place. I know it can be pricey especially during the installment phase, but if one is really serious and willing to invest in solar energy, the system will pay for its self in the long run.

Posted by: Lana Madison | Jan 13, 2011 7:47:16 PM

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