The Florida State University

IESES Newsletter

May 2010 
Image of Melanie Simmons
Dave Cartes, Director
Image of Dave Cartes for Newsletter
Here at IESES, we serve as a public resource. This newsletter highlights the research of our colleagues and noteworthy items related to achieving a sustainable energy economy. If you have news to share, please let us know.

Engineering Students Bring Home Trophy in Hybrid Vehicle Competition
Engineering Student Preston Curry Driving in the 2010 Formula Hybrid International Challenge
Preston Curry in  formula hybrid

  1st Place Hybrid-in-Progress
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lding a Formula Hybrid race car from scratch made for a whirlwind spring semester for eight students at the Florida A&M University-Florida State University College of Engineering. Their efforts culminated in a first-place finish for fuel efficiency among all-electric vehicles at the prestigious Formula Hybrid International Challenge.

The multidisciplinary team of students had settled on an ambitious senior design project this year. Their goal: to build an open-wheel, single-seat, plug-in hybrid race car and take it to the New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, N.H., for the annual competition. The Formula Hybrid International Challenge gives engineering students from around the world the opportunity to work across disciplinary boundaries to design and build a hybrid, plug-in hybrid or electric vehicle to compete in timed and endurance events. Numerous complex elements are taken into account, and competitors are judged on everything from drive-train innovation to fuel efficiency.

Read more.

Reginald J. Perry, the college's associate dean for student affairs and curriculum, offered words of thanks for the college's industrial partners and to the academic departments for their efforts to spearhead multidisciplinary projects involving both the Formula Hybrid car and a separate, solar-powered vehicle.

"Without the financial donations the college received from Shell Oil, Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Northrop Grumman, and the FSU Institute for Energy Systems, Economics and Sustainability, the college would not have been able to sponsor these ...  projects," Perry said. "We very much appreciate the commitment these and other companies have made to our students. This type of hands-on experience is invaluable, and we look forward to continued collaborations with our industrial partners in the years to come."

Click here to watch a video interview from

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Dr. Helen Li, pictured left, is the adviser to the formula hybrid project. Dr. Li is an IESES partner.
"Why We Talk About Biomass More Than We Actually Do It"
Special to the IESES Newsletter from Professor Tim Chapin

There has been much talk in recent years about pursuing alternative sources of energy in Florida, from harvesting the sun's rays and capturing the blowing winds, to using our solid waste and agricultural products as a fuel source. This last option, using biomass to produce energy, seems like a particularly compelling solution as it potentially offers a powerful mix of sustainable practices and economic development opportunities to communities. In terms of sustainable practices, some biomass systems can use municipal solid waste, which is effectively portions of the trash generated by households and business, as a principal source for creating energy. As for economic development, beyond the jobs available at the plants, biomass facilities can utilize crops that can be grown in Florida, offering some economic opportunities to the state's struggling agricultural industry.

Processing Woody Biomass
Photo Credit:
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Despite these twin advantages, biomass plants have yet to gain much of a foothold in Florida. While biomass plants are not a perfect energy option, as there are issues with emissions and the disposal of waste, the reason for the failure of biomass to catch on rests largely in public attitudes towards these facilities. Communities that have pursued biomass as an option have run into opposition from citizen groups where plants have been proposed. In Tallahassee, for example, substantial opposition from neighbors of a proposed biomass plant derailed this effort, this in one of the state's more progressive cities. The NIMBY issue ("I'm all for biomass, but not in my back yard") is something that plagues many of the alternative energy approaches. The NIMBY response is particularly pronounced for biomass facilities that propose to use solid waste as a fuel source. While not easy, these NIMBY attitudes can be changed through proactive initiatives that are aimed at engaging and educating communities, initiatives that promote more and improved dialogue between these neighbors and biomass energy proponents.
Moving forward, as more
Professor Tim Chapin is Chair of the FSU Department of Urban and Regional Planning
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biomass facilities are approved in the United States and best practices for siting and operating these facilities are promulgated, Florida will likely see its share of biomass facilities come online.  To get from here to there, though, scientists, urban planners, public health experts, and elected officials will need to work hard to educate themselves and the broader public about the sustainability advantages and economic opportunities offered by the biomass model.

You can contact Dr. Chapin at

IESES Researchers Offer Advice to Policy Makers Before a Potential Special Session
By Jim Rossi and Dave Cartes, special to the St. Petersburg Times In Print: Sunday, May 16, 2010

As Florida gears up for the possibility of a special legislative session on energy, discussion seems to have focused almost exclusively on a constitutional drilling ban and a quick-fix "renewable energy mandate" for the state. Such sound bites might be politically appealing, but it would be tragic if election-year opportunism distracted state policymakers from discussing the serious challenges they need to address for Florida to have a sustainable energy future.

No doubt, the U.S. addiction to fossil fuels is a problem that needs to be addressed - for energy independence, energy security and out of concern for climate change. Florida in particular has an obligation to come up with some solutions, given that we are a state that currently consumes far more energy than we produce. But in energy policy there are no easy solutions.

States that have been successful in beginning to move away from fossil fuels have made long-term commitments to a sustainable energy future. Such commitments must be something more than a reaction to the latest crisis. A proactive energy policy must include credible commitments to private investors and consumers over the next decade or more.

Read more.

Professor Jim Rossi is the Harry M. Walborsky Professor of Law at The Florida State University
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Dr. Dave Cartes is the Director of the Institute for Energy Systems, Economics and Sustainability at The Florida State University
Dave at JMI

Study of Wind Power Potential Needs Industry Partner
In her undergraduate research project, Cristina Collier responded to the need to provide the offshore wind industry with an assessment of resources in the Northern Gulf of Mexico.  Up until now, the lack of knowledge about the amount of wind has limited business investment in wind farms in the region.
So far, she and her colleagues at the FSU Center for Ocean-Atmospheric Prediction Studies have studied the characteristics of the winds.  They focused on the surface atmospheric and oceanic measurements collected by the Northern Gulf of Mexico Cooperative Institute at Air Force tower number 7 in the Apalachicola Bay. Combined with observations from the National Data Buoy Center, an analysis was completed of potential wind power generation just off our coast.
Cristina and her colleagues are seeking investors or partners from the wind power industry to contribute to an expanded analysis of the Gulf's offshore wind resource. Future analysis will examine the economics and environmental issues of wind power in the Gulf, and make a business case for clean wind power in the Northern Gulf of Mexico.  Please contact Cristina Collier or her adviser Shawn Smith

Image of Christina CollierCristina Collier, pictured left at her graduation, presented her data analysis at the 2010 Northern Gulf Institute Annual Conference: May 18-20, 2010. Cristina will be continuing her research at FSU in the graduate degree program in meteorology and will continue her research at the Center for Ocean-Atmospheric Prediction Studies.
Outstanding Research Referee Named
Image of Melanie SimmonsCongratulations to Dr. Kirby Kemper (Robert O. Lawton Professor of Physics) who was named one of the American Physical Society's "Outstanding Referees," a lifetime award for his work as an anonymous peer reviewer for the journals Physical Review and Physical Review Letters. Kemper was chosen as one of the honored recipients out of 44,000 currently active referees. 

Dr. Kemper is Vice President for Research at FSU. 

In This Issue
Engineering Students Bring Home Trophy in Hybrid Vehicle Competition
Why We Talk About Biomass More Than We Actually Do It
IESES Researchers Offer Advice to Policy Makers
Study of Wind Power Potential Needs Industry Partner
Outstanding Research Referee Named
Students! Join the Seminole Association for Sustainable Energy
Patent Applications Pile Up for Dr. Zheng
The New York Times Recognizes FSU Oceanographer
Preparing for Drought and Extreme Climate Events
Students! Join the Seminole Association for Sustainable Energy


Also, federal work-study positions now being accepted and internships are available at IESES, contact Melanie Simmons at
Patent Applications Pile Up for Dr. Zheng

Pictured above is Professor Jim Zheng of the Department of Electrical and Chemical Engineering.  He has been keeping the the FSU Office of Intellectual Property Development and Commercialization busy.  Dr. Zheng has several patents pending and just licensed an invention with a California-based start-up company.  All of the inventions are improvements on fuel cells.  The inventions make them either higher performance or lower cost.  The market for theses creative devices is for future vehicles. 

Dr. Jim Zheng is an IESES partner.
The New York Times Recognizes FSU Oceanographer
Professor Ian MacDonald is a biological oceanographer in Florida State's new Department of Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Science.  He uses imaging and geographic information system techniques to investigate the ecology of deep-sea hydrocarbon seeps. By studying the amount of the oil visible in aerial imagery, Dr. MacDonald calculated the flow rate of the oil leak to be at least 26,500 barrels (1.1 million gallons) per day. He called this a "minimum estimate" since his calculations could only account for oil that was visible on the surface and did not include oil that had evaporated, mixed in with sea water, sunk to the bottom or been collected by response crews. Read more.  Also see his co-authored Op-Ed in the New York Times here.
Dr. Ian MacDonald
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Dr. MacDonald chaired the Symposia on Offshore Energy Part I and Part II sponsored by IESES in 2009 and 2010. 
Preparing for Drought and Extreme Climate Events

Photo Credit: U.S. Drought Portal - Image of Lake Lanier
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The Fiscal Year 2010 Federal Agriculture Appropriations Bill includes $2.5 million in funding for the project "Risk Reduction for Agricultural Crops" and will enable the FSU-led
Southeast Climate Consortium to develop improved methods to forecast droughts and other extreme climate events in the southeastern states. The forecasts will help agricultural, forest, and natural resource managers to reduce risks of losses and environmental damage. This climate consortium was established in 2003 and involves researchers from universities from Florida, Georgia, Alabama and both North and South Carolina.

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Dr. James O'Brien, pictured left, is the Emeritus Robert O. Lawton Professor of Meteorology and Oceanography and leads the Consortium.

Dr. Jim O'Brien is an IESES partner. 
A Report of the Proceedings of the Florida Symposia on Offshore Energy - Part I and Part II - is Online

Symposium view

Access the Full Report Here

This report is a transcript of the Symposia series including presentation materials, citations and executive summaries for both Part I and II.
Schedule of Tours of the Off-Grid Zero Emissions Building
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Which Dates: First and third Friday of the month
When: Tours begin on the hour between 2:00 PM and 4:00 PM
Where:see Map
Contact:Justin Kramer
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The Institute is a public resource. Here we carry out scholarly basic research and analysis in engineering, science, infrastructure, governance and the related social dimensions to further a sustainable energy economy. The Institute unites researchers from the disciplines of engineering, natural sciences, law, urban and regional planning, geography and economics to address sustainability and alternative power issues in the context of global climate change.
The Center for a Systems Approach to Bio-Energy Research;
The Center for Economic Forecasting and Analysis;
The College of Business Center for Sustainability Initiatives;
The Center for Environmental Media Production and Research;
The Public Utility Research Center; and
The Florida Energy Systems Consortium.

Editor: Melanie Simmons at
FSU IESES Newsletter
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Melanie Simmons