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Sophomore College 2019 and 2022

Stanford's Sophomore College provides rising second-year students with an opportunity for three weeks of intensive, research-based study with senior faculty in a range of subjects and disciplines. The Bill Lane Center regularly sponsors Sophomore College courses on the North American West.


Energy in Hawaii: Forefront of Clean Energy Technology and Policy


We will explore practical, social, technical, and political issues surrounding energy production and use in Hawaii. Hawaii is at the forefront of technical changes in the electric grid and the uses of electricity, with an aspirational goal for 100% carbon-free electricity in 2045.

Hawaii also has passed legislation that aspires to 100% fossil-free transportation by 2040. The explosive growth of behind-the-meter solar generation has led to opportunities for the introduction of distributed energy systems (monitoring and measurement, automated controls, and communication), while also increasing issues with grid stability and social equity. Because of these factors, there is a heightened interest nationally from federal agencies, particularly Energy and Defense. We will consider the availability and viability of solar, wind, and geothermal resources, while also considering the economic impact on Hawaii of large-scale importation of oil for generating electricity and transportation. We will consider emerging questions related to the reliability and the resiliency of the grids on different islands in the State. All of these issues will be considered in the technical, societal, cultural, and political milieu which is the unique nature of Hawaii..

We will spend the first week on campus learning about energy and Hawaii, then travel to various field sites in Hawaii, including a wind farm, a utility-scale solar farm, an oil-fired power plant, a waste-to-energy facility, solar hot water systems, and neighborhoods with large proportions of rooftop solar and behind the meter battery storage. Other generation resources will also be considered for visits. We will meet with relevant policy experts and public officials from governmental agencies, universities, and public interest groups. The course will conclude with group presentations by the students.


Sally Benson
Director, Precourt Institute for Energy and Professor of Energy Resources Engineering and Senior Fellow at the Precourt Institute for Energy





Terry Surles
California Institute for Energy and Environment (CIEE)






Important Logistics

Travel to, from and within Hawaii will be provided (except incidentals) and is made possible by the Bill Lane Center for the American West and Sophomore College. It is anticipated that travel will include at least two islands as the circumstances for each individual island tend to be different from one another. Participants will return to Stanford on September 18.


Past Courses:

2018: Fighting Over Our Common Heritage: Public Lands in the West

2017: Water and Power in the Pacific Northwest– The Columbia River

2016: Managing Natural Resources on Native American Lands

2015: Energy in the Southwest

2014: Energy in the West

2013: The Last Frontier of the American West

2012: People, Land, and Water in the Heart of the West

2011: The Colorado River: Water in the West, as Seen from a Raft in the Grand Canyon

2007: The Federal Government and the West

2006: What's the Matter with California?

2005: Spinning the West