October 2004

Link Foundation Home Page

Newsletter Home Page

Inside this Issue


Welcome to our 2nd Edition, Lee Lynd
"Hooked on Earth Systems," Christopher Yang, Former Link Fellowship Recipient
"From the Chair of the Board," David M. Gouldin
Donor Listing
News Updates

Energy (2004-2006)
Simulation and Training (2004-2005)
Ocean Engineering (2004-2005)
Patrick Stephen Flannery

Electrical and Computer Engineering, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Research Advisor: Dr. Giri Venkataramanan
Email Address: psflannery@wisc.edu
Title: A Study of the Technical Impediments to Large Scale Wind Energy Systems

My research will focus on two challenges associated with the integration of large scale wind energy systems into the electric grid. The first of these issues is the development of a new power electronics interface to connect wind turbines to the grid. A power electronics interface enables optimum wind energy capture and extended turbine operating life. However, conventional interfaces are limited by stifling and dubious patents, and are generally unpalatable to electric utilities.

As a solution, I will develop a new power converter architecture for wind turbines with potential for improved reliability, easier integration, and reduced cost.

Secondly, I will study and more clearly define the technical limitations associated with large scale integration of wind energy systems into the grid. At shorter timescales, the nature of the power electronics-grid interface can result in reduced grid stability. I will study the effects of wind turbine power electronics systems in general on grid stability during grid fault conditions, short circuit, and voltage collapse. I will also explore challenges associated with intermittency of the wind resource, fluctuations in power production and utility compensation. Hopefully, this work will enable more straightforward integration of large scale wind energy system and acceptance by power system operators.

Merrill E. Jones

Energy and Resources Group, University of California, Berkeley
Richard Norgaard and Alexander Farrell
Email: merrill@cal.berkeley.edu
Title: Wind power from the investor's perspective: A real options approach

My research analyzes wind energy in the context of the capital investment decision-making process of private firms, employing (1) real options analysis; and (2) a survey of investor behavior.

The first part of my research focuses on the choice of technology for new power plants, comparing wind with natural gas, the current fuel of choice for capacity additions. Whereas most literature compares the costs, benefits and risks of gas vs. wind/renewables either as single assets or from society’s perspective, I take a corporate finance view, analyzing choices in light of a company’s portfolio and broader strategy. Real options analysis, which borrows ideas from financial options theory, provides a framework for integrating corporate strategy and capital accounting by recognizing the value of managerial flexibility. My research will use real options to quantify the value of strategic "intangibles," including public image, plant modularity, and ability to respond to uncertain policy scenarios.

The second part of my research investigates investment decision-making from a descriptive behavioral perspective. Integrating behavioral finance, organizational behavior, agency and choice theory, my survey results will contribute to the emerging field of behavioral corporate finance. I will conduct interviews with utilities and project developers on risk assumptions, perceived costs and benefits of various energy technologies, and decision-making processes within firms.

The overall results of my research will include:
* a real options model of wind investment decision-making
* greater understanding of actual investor behavior as revealed through interviews
* a decision tool enabling policymakers to leverage their impact on energy investments

John E. McBride

Thayer School of Engineering Dartmouth College
Research Advisor:
Dr. Ian Baker
Email Address: John.E.McBride@Dartmouth.edu
Title: Selection-Based Strain Improvement with Application to Consolidated Bioprocessing

The central objective of my Ph.D. research is to contribute to developing microorganisms that can convert lignocellulosic biomass to fuel ethanol in one process step without added cellulase. Such "consolidated bioprocessing" (CBP) has the largest cost reductions of any research-driven improvement in biomass processing analyzed to date, and is a potentially enabling breakthrough for production of ethanol as well as other fermentation products. My particular focus is using selection to develop improved strains for CBP. Identifying desired organisms/molecules from a large pool having a distribution of characteristics, often termed "evolutionary biotechnology" or "directed evolution", is complex in its application to CBP-enabling properties. By modeling the diffusion of substrate and enzyme, and considering the dynamics of cell populations with a distribution of phenotypes, rational design of selection schemes to develop robust cellulose-utilizing strains from first-generation recombinant strains is possible.

My career goal is to contribute to a transition toward sustainable and environmentally-sound energy sources. As such, I am very pleased to have a dual focus of researching new technologies in the laboratory and participating in a project called, "The Role of Biomass in America’s Energy Future," which seeks to put possible energy sector contributions of biomass into a broader societal context.