August 17th, 2014
My Cal Energy Corps placement is off to an exciting start – including, but not limited to: getting acquainted with Fraunhofer MOEZ’s mission in central and eastern Europe, reading through countless news stories and reports on the German energy transition (known as the “energiewende”), further familiarizing myself with the status of energy technology and economics in Europe, and figuring out how to live life here in this mid-sized east-German city!
Most of my days have been focused on 1) the effects of the now famous nuclear phase-out policy in Germany 2) California’s nuclear energy situation, and 3) the motivation behind the planned nuclear energy “phase-in” in Poland. My main project for Fraunhofer will be comparing Poland’s adoption of nuclear energy (instead of wind or PV), with German and Californian efforts to replace nuclear with renewables.
I find the contrast in energy policy, especially between Germany and Poland, to be very interesting. Nuclear power, a divisive issue with regional implications, is being simultaneously kicked-out and adopted between these two neighboring countries. Poland’s first nuclear power plant is scheduled to start producing electricity at almost exactly the same time as the last German nuclear power plant is being shut down!
In preparation for the report I have been reviewing public opinion polls on energy policy in Europe. I’ve found there is a high diversity of opinions when it comes to what people think energy policy should prioritize – prices, security, CO2 emissions reduction, etc.
Besides working on my main project I have sat in on a couple meetings and researched renewable energy grants for Fraunhofer’s partnership with Danube-region institutions.
In addition to work and settling into a daily routine, I have been enjoying walking and biking around the city. Leipzig’s compact design makes it very inviting to explore. So far I’ve had the chance to go to a museum on German-American relations and visit a crowded weekend “water-festival” along a canal.
I also spent a great day in the park with my Fraunhofer colleagues. We had a mini BBQ with traditional German food, and good company. I was told it was a typical German BBQ day in terms of weather (overcast, looking as though it could rain in the near future)
More to come,
View of a popular hangout spot during the “Water festival”
A Bike-able City; my daily commute to work has me passing this impressive building
September 6, 2014
Time is moving fast, with today marking five weeks since I arrived in Leipzig! I have made progress on my report, especially in detailing Californian nuclear developments. I wanted to do work that would add value to the energy conversation in Europe and with much written about some aspects of the nuclear topic already, it seemed most helpful to bring in California’s recent experience for comparison. Naturally, the nuclear situation in California is discussed less often here in comparison to other European nuclear experiences.
Until recently, California had two nuclear power plants – one in San Onofre, (relatively near my home), and the other in Diablo Canyon, which is on the outskirts of San Luis Obispo.
In 2012 a small radiation leak at the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS) forced Edison to shut down the plant and led to the discovery of significant premature wearing of newly installed steam-generator tubes. Following these and other developments, the company announced that they would no longer pursue bringing SONGS back online due to continuing uncertainties causing an uneconomic situation. Edison is supplementing its lost generating capacity with energy efficiency improvements, natural gas, and renewables.
Additionally, the recent earthquake in Napa has renewed concerns over the safety of Diablo Canyon’s reactors since the plant is in very close proximity to fault lines. Between environmental groups and a federal inspector calling for its immediate idling, and PG&E having already halted its application to extend the plant’s lifetime, the last remaining nuclear power station in California may be on its way out.
I will be interviewing some professors and energy-policy professionals, to get a better insight into the current energy situation in California, as well as Poland and Germany.
In other news, a non-energy section of Fraunhofer MOEZ has been hosting a conference for Polish scientists this week. The purpose of the conference is for Fraunhofer to explain how to commercialize results of research. And by chance, I learned there is an upcoming Berlin conference on the topic of German-Polish divergence on nuclear policy in October. Unfortunately, I won’t be able to understand much because the presentations will be in Polish and German, but I may attend regardless.
Outside of work I’ve been glad to improve my German with my flatmates, even though the progress is slow. And there was an interesting “Leipziger Passagenfest” in the city center. The yearly event celebrates music, architecture, and shopping in Leipzig.
I also enjoyed visiting the well-known Zoo here. Many of the exhibits seemed well kept and spacious, some were surprising though – particularly one of the open air monkey areas. The barriers between the exhibit and the outside world were so small, it almost looked as if the monkeys are there only because they have agreed to stay.
Now I’m looking forward to a couple of upcoming events, which include an energy partnership kick-off at Fraunhofer and an event for energy efficiency in historic buildings at the British Embassy in Berlin.
The Inner-Courtyard of Fraunhofer MOEZ’s Office Building, During the Yearly Leipziger Passagenfest
September 16, 2014
The Fraunhofer-hosted “kick-off event” for Danube region energy partnerships has now come and gone. The German government is funding this ongoing coordination, which is between Fraunhofer MOEZ, the Leipzig-based German Biomass Research Center (German acronym DBFZ), and a range of other energy interested organizations, companies, and academics from countries along the Danube River.
While attending the event, I learned more about the mission behind the partnerships and networking. The purpose of this coordination is to find common goals and produce competitive applications to EU funded projects for further coordination. Some of the organizations present at the event had significant experience in securing EU Calls (EU funded projects) and others were new to the process.
Also, yesterday, I was in Berlin for an evening event on “European Cultural Heritage Research and Innovation”. The event was at the British Embassy, which is centrally located near the Tiergarten and Brandenburg Gate. One of my two Fraunhofer advisors, Urban, presented a poster at the event on the EFFESUS (Energy Efficiency for EU Historic Districts’ Sustainability) project.
The poster highlighted the project’s latest efforts at improving thermal insulation in historic buildings. EFFESUS’ three approaches (radiant reflective coating, blow-in aerogel insulation, and lime-based mortars) are being used at special test-sites. These new techniques must reduce heat transfer, while respecting conservation requirements (preservation of authenticity, not damaging the original wall/surface, ability to safely remove the newly applied materials if desired, etc.)
The European Cultural Heritage Research and Innovation event was addressed by the German Minister of Education among others, and hosted other high-profile individuals in the historic preservation field. I heard an interesting talk about an anti-graffiti spray that is being developed. Graffiti is a serious threat to historic buildings in Europe, as it was showed, even after “successful” clean-up attempts the buildings are often permanently damaged.
I also spoke with some experts working on interpreting and preserving materials found at Turfan, during the famous 19thcentury German-led expeditions through Central Asia.
As for my report, I have continued with more interviews. It was very interesting to meet in-person with a Polish energy expert who works in Berlin. She offered insights into what is driving the Polish public’s view on nuclear energy. She mentioned post-Communist disappointment and mass emigration of ambitious Poles to other EU countries (Brain Drain), as reasons for low civic engagement in questions over nuclear energy.
Low civic engagement was not always the case though. As she described, in the late 80’s (after the Chernobyl accident and as movements against the Polish government were growing), pressure from the Polish public was responsible for stopping construction of a nuclear power plant on the Baltic coast.
With my internship time quickly running out, I have a lot of writing to do before my report is finished!
At the Danube Kick-Off Event (with Two Fraunhofer Collegues on the Right)