CSUN students asked to think outside the grid

Nikki Erinakis

CSUN students are being asked to think about ways to improve current technology and to be more thoughtful about their energy use as well as the production of energy.

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, petroleum was the primary source of energy consumed in 2009, followed by natural gas, coal, nuclear electric energy and lastly by renewable energy. The transportation sector uses 72 percent of petroleum resources, followed by the industrial sector, which demands 22 percent of petroleum resources.

CSUN’s Institute for Sustainability and the College of Engineering & Computer Science hosted a presentation April 15 called Path to Sustainable Energy, in which students were urged to consider energy sources already available, their roles in our society and to balance them in a way that meets energy and financial needs.

Dr. Sukesh Aghara, professor of the department of chemical engineering at Prairie View A&M University, in Texas, spoke at the presentation. He said there are challenges to achieving technological improvements. He said it is not because the information does not exist, but because there are hurdles to energy research, like politics and cost, which can interfere with these advancements.

“When we look at a large population, we need to look for ways to sustain people globally,” Aghara said.

He said it is not enough to find a clean source of energy, but that the energy needs to be easily accessible to the general population, and is not in limited supply. To maintain energy sustainability, it is better to have a steady supply of energy to meet growing demand and minimize the ecological impact.

“Even though we have an idealistic view of what can be perfect, it does not become a reality,” Aghara said.

Engineers need to look at how consumers and politicians will look at the finished product.

Aghara said more people should take our current sources for energy such as windmills, and make them more innovative. He said the current technical difficulties with windmills are the process of giving them oil changes because they are so high off the ground. Also insects consistently gather on the windmills, reducing the efficiency of the blade.

Aghara specializes in nuclear engineering and said nuclear energy is a practical source of power because its costs are relatively low, the technology exists to distribute the energy and its reduced impact on the environment.

Yann Schrodi, chemistry professor, said there was too much of a focus on nuclear energy for a reliable source of energy.

“I think the jury is still out,” Schrodi said. “We basically don’t have the technology to replace fossil fuels.”

Schrodi introduced the chemistry of energy course at CSUN. He introduced the course to teach students about the challenges in finding an alternative source of energy.

“The technology still has serious problems, and other technology such as solar is not competitive enough economically,” Schrodi said.

Schrodi said he is delighted that students are being asked to consider energy efficiency in their technological advances at CSUN.

“It is a great opportunity for students to learn about these problems and consider joining the research effort.”