Author

Anna E. Demeo

Date of Award

8-2013

Level of Access

Campus-Only Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Interdisciplinary Program

Advisor

Michael L. Peterson

Second Committee Member

Bruce Segee

Third Committee Member

Steve Katona

Abstract

The reality of global climate change, due to anthropogenic emissions of carbon dioxide and other gases, is upon us. A significant source of emissions comes from the burning of fossil fuels to produce energy that is consumed in every aspect of daily life. As such, the human ecological link between how we live and our impact on the planet is at the very center of addressing the causes of climate change. Reducing and eventually eliminating emissions is an enormous and complex task that will involve input and change from all comers of society. Therefore, reducing anthropogenic emissions and confronting the impacts of global climate change must be addressed across disciplines including education, community outreach and technology.

A first step towards a new reality, one in which our daily energy is not derived from burning fossil fuels, is education. Ensuring that all citizens hold a basic understanding of energy is paramount in creating a populace that will willingly alter consumption behaviors while at the same time support renewable energy projects. Energy literacy education, both in K-12 and higher education institutions, fosters a new knowledge base for the next generation of citizens who will have to live with and address the challenges of climate change in the decades ahead. Through a hands-on, practical skill building curriculum students can develop an understanding of energy units as well as the connection between energy use and the health of the planet. Providing this solid understanding is critical to the future success of dealing with adaptation and mitigation.

Given that there is no time to spare in implementing real change, it is imperative to create support for renewable energy generation in the present day. One effective means of achieving this support is to create opportunities within communities for small- scale renewable energy projects that both involve and benefit the local population. The positive outcomes of such projects are numerous and include; first hand exposure to technology, providing a sense of independence that strengthens communities, and developing a direct link between the energy people use and how that energy is created. Ultimately community scale renewable energy projects help bolster support for large- scale projects that are imperative to making real and lasting progress towards reducing emissions.

Finally, technological advancements in renewable energy generation, energy storage and distribution systems, are imperative to replacing fossil fuels. The shift towards a higher penetration of renewable energy into the electric grid can be realized with the implementation of a more sophisticated smart grid, which uses dynamic demand response to alter demand to follow generation. Introduction of tidal power can serve to further stabilize the grid and reduce the amount of storage required.

This work describes an interdisciplinary approach to addressing issues of energy, and thereby climate, through substantive efforts in three concentrations; energy literacy education, community driven renewable energy projects based on incremental capital investment and a smart, micro grid encompassing tidal power and other renewable energy source.

Comments

Interdisciplinary in Engineering and the Natural Sciences

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