CITRIS RESEARCH EXCHANGE SEMINAR
Creating Positive Feedback Loops to Accelerate the Energy Transition
Sarah Kurtz, Professor, Materials Science, and Engineering Sciences, UC Merced
Sarah Kurtz obtained her Ph.D. in 1985 from Harvard University and now works at the University of California Merced after more than 30 years working at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, in Golden, CO. She is known for her contributions to developing multijunction, GaInP/GaAs solar cells, supporting the Concentrator Photovoltaic (PV) industry, and leading efforts on PV performance and reliability. Her work has been recognized with a jointly received Dan David Prize in 2007, the Cherry Award in 2012, the C3E Lifetime Achievement Award in 2016, and induction into the National Academy of Engineering in 2020. At the University of California Merced, she is working both to help the university grow and to support the Energy Transition through a variety of studies, including a current effort on long-duration storage.
Photovoltaic solar electricity has grown much faster than was expected. Continuation of the historical growth rate would enable solar to generate as much electricity as the entire world uses by ~ 2030. California, in particular, has taken a leading role; 19% of electricity generated in 2018 in the state of California was from solar energy. However, the growth of solar is now slowing, both worldwide and in California. As the state of California and many others around the world seek to move away from fossil fuels to a zero-carbon energy system, it will be critical to maintaining the momentum. Positive feedback has been helpful in the growth of solar so far. This talk will discuss how positive feedback loops can help accelerate the energy transition by taking a balanced approach. The talk will also discuss how choices we make in designing our new energy system can reduce or increase the size of the problem.