Sophomore College 2015: Energy in the Southwest

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We will examine the technical, social, and political issues surrounding energy management and use in the West, using California, Nevada, and Arizona as our field laboratory. Students will explore a number of energy narratives, such as:

  • Who supplies our energy and from what sources?
  • How is it transported?
  • Who distributes to users and how do they do it?
  • Water for energy and energy for water—two intertwined natural resources
  • Meeting carbon emission goals by 2020 and
  • Conflicts between desert ecosystems and renewable energy development.

We will place particular emphasis on renewable energy sources and the water-energy nexus, a critically important issue for the arid and semi-arid southwest.

Central to the course will be field exploration in northern and southern California, as well as neighboring areas in Arizona and Nevada, to tour sites such as wind and solar facilities, geothermal plants, hydropower pumped storage, desalination plants, water pumping stations, a liquid fuels distribution operations center, and California’s Independent System Operator. Students will have the opportunity to meet with community members and with national, state, and regional authorities to discuss Western energy challenges and viable solutions. We will also take advantage of Stanford’s own energy systems with site visits to the new energy facilities.

Led by Professors Sally Benson (energy resources engineering), Bruce Cain (political science), and David Freyberg (civil and environmental engineering)

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