May 19, 2022 1:00 pm EDT

Lincoln Bleveans

Stanford University

Can Stanford University Show the World How to Manage the Energy Transition?

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Can Stanford University Show the World How to Manage the Energy Transition?

PowerTalk Summary

Can Stanford University Show the World How to Manage the Energy Transition?

Lincoln Bleveans, the executive director of sustainability and energy management at Stanford University, tells Energy.Media how one of the most well-known universities in the United States is approaching the energy transition. Lincoln explains how Stanford is doing its part to combat climate change by forging a new approach to energy sourcing and consumption.

In this episode, Lincoln explains what Stanford University is doing to phase out fossil fuel consumption as part of a wider effort to reduce its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions:

  • Stanford has gone from using an on-site natural gas-fired co-generation plant for electricity generation and heating and cooling operations to relying on transmission grid connections, plus a network of chillers and heat recovery and storage facilities. In the process, it’s also been able to increase its use of solar power.
  • The shift to solar power makes financial sense as well as environmental sense. It’s allowing Stanford to take advantage of the declining cost of solar power, while also shielding it from the volatility that currently characterizes natural gas markets.
  • The university is taking advantage of both advanced technologies, such as smart building systems that help optimize energy consumption, and features of the local landscape, such as local reservoirs that can be used as heat sinks.

[00:00:15] Peter Perri: 3, 2, 1. And we are live with Lincoln Blevins here today on PowerTalks by Energy.Media. Lincoln is the head of sustainability and energy management at Stanford University. We are very fortunate to have Lincoln with us today. And we look forward to his PowerTalk. Thanks for being here, Lincoln.

So, what are you going to be talking about today? 

[00:00:41] Lincoln Bleveans: Well, I’d like to give a brief explanation of how Stanford is in my words, making sustainability innovation real. In other words, we are not just talking to talk about sustainability, innovation, and energy, and a whole lot of other things, but actually putting our money where our mouth is.

And, frankly a significant amount of money. We’ve invested over a billion dollars in our power system so far to make it both operationally effective and environmentally effective. So I’m really looking forward to talking about the project, but also the process that we use in the philosophy we use to do that.

[00:01:22] Peter Perri: Yeah, from what I’ve learned, Lincoln, I’ve been extremely impressed with Stanford and the progress that you’ve made towards greenhouse gas reductions. I really haven’t seen any other entity, whether it’s public or private make that level of progress at scale. So I think it’s huge with the culture of innovation that’s out there in Silicon valley being nearby.

And it’s exciting that, that these technologies are being, being able to be implemented at such a scale at university level, because then of course the next step is city level and state level and nation. 

[00:01:59] Lincoln Bleveans: Yeah. And that’s actually what we’re seeing since we’ve put, especially our, our federal plant online, back in 2015, we’ve had over 5,000 visitors from all over the world.

5,000 groups. Actually, I think I can’t even count visitors, 5,000 groups from all over the world, uh, looking to implement whether it’s governments or institutions or corporates. And it’s not just Palo Alto, where the weather is great all the time. Um, you know, everybody from folks in Florida, folks in the Scandinavian countries try to, uh, India, we’ve, uh, we’ve been really fortunate and really hoping to be a, an example and an inspiration for folks who can roll this.

[00:02:47] Peter Perri: No, that’s amazing. So I’ll let you go ahead and pray and take away your power talk and I’m going to mute myself because the audience is here to listen to you. So, um, look forward to hearing it. 

[00:02:58] Lincoln Bleveans: Thanks. Like, let me, uh, here we go. So, um, Here’s why I started, you know, again, making energy, sustainability, innovation, real.

Um, what we’ve done over the last 15 plus years is a project called Stan Stanford energy system innovations, which we shortened to SESI, uh, full disclosure. I have been at Stanford for about a year and a half. Now. I had very little to do with any of this. Uh, my predecessor, Joe stag. Brilliant engineer.

Uh, it was really the, uh, the father, the parents of all of this in terms of designing it and making it happen. Uh, I have the good fortune to be able to have an opportunity to tell a story, um, as it’s all come together, uh, the final components. So let me go to the next slide quick, uh, uh, intro into my background.

I’m at Stanford now. Uh, but. Uh, have really been lucky to fall into the energy space, uh, when things were really moving back in the independent power days in emerging markets. And, um, most recently at Burbank water and power where I ran the power supply side. Have been really lucky to see renewables and clean energy, more broadly move from the edge and the conversation to the very center of the conversation.

And on top of that, I do a lot of advising, uh, for, uh, clean tech startups, both in the U S and in Europe and in India. And, uh, first of all, it’s incredibly gratifying and a lot of fun, but it also helps me keep my game. At an over the horizon, uh, constantly being pushed to look forward, which is, um, I find is a really great way to do this, even though it involves a tremendous number of very early morning conference calls and a lot of coffee.

So my goal today, Is really twofold. One is to explain the operational and strategic framework around what we do, and then do a deep dive into the energy part of that. And specifically the energy decarbonization journey. That again, we’ve been on, uh, uh, had underway for over 15 years. So when we think about energy at Stanford, us, it’s easiest to think of Stanford as.

A small to medium-sized city, full service city that happens to have a whole lot of Nobel prize winners in it. Uh, it is a really unique environment, but ultimately a full-service city. Uh, we are, uh, very much self-contained in terms of the services that we as staff provide to the institution and the infrastructure that we run when we look at energy.

I really comes down to two products, uh, thermal energy, which is heating and cooling for the whole campus on a district basis. And then electricity, which runs pretty much everything else. And because we run utilities, we are really touching every part of the university ecosystem in one way or the other.

So the schools, uh, the departments, the, uh, places like the, uh, Um, the athletic facilities, the hospitals. So we really do cover pretty much all the waterfront ads. And we do that, not just as the beating heart of Stanford, 24 7 in terms of the thermal and thermal energy and electric energy. But we do that in an intensely collaborative environment, not just our operations folks, but convenience.

All the incredible minds and very strong opinions around the Stanford community from a collaborative perspective, to get to the right answer, and then looking out from a planning perspective over decades, um, and trying to not just physicians do for, to succeed in the near term, but over the very long-term.

So it’s a really fascinating environment, very high pressure environment for that to make that. And like I said, we do that across the university, a lot of different stakeholders, a lot of different customers and some very ambitious goals that we layer on top of that. We are on track for Europe to zero out scopes one and two, which is the electricity, the energy produced and the energy that we purchased zero out the greenhouse gases from those by 2030.

But the mother of all goals is really zero net greenhouse gases for the university. In other words, scopes one, two, and three. If you’re familiar with those by 2050, now there are two sides of that. What is that? Really? No one in the world knows exactly how we’re going to get there. We all have to point there.

We all have to work towards that, but nobody knows how to get there. The fun thing at Stanford is that we want to be the ones, not only to figure out how to get there, but also to show the world in terms of actual investments, um, how, how that’s done. We want to be both the, the ones who find the answer and the ones who implement the answer.

So I talked about the beating heart of the university 24 7. And 16, uh, the lights can’t go out, uh, just to put it mildly, but in this brave new world that we’re in, in 2022, we add in even more complexity and even more unprecedented challenge and demic, not even pandemic anymore endemic and climate change.

Mother nature has put the word. On notice that we have to do things differently. We have to do things better and we’ve put ourselves on notice, uh, diversity, equity, inclusion, justice, uh, generation Z. They’re not taking no for an answer. They’re not even taking slow for an answer. When we address, try to address all these problems and rightly so.

Then we layer on these ambitious, incredibly ambitious and absolutely necessary goals that we as a world have to figure out. And it makes the question, how do we serve Stanford’s mission, TJ and research? How do we serve this small, very, very high demand city of Stanford in these strange confusing, and rather the changing times.

So I’m back here for a second and give you a broader view than I think, or conversation. And this is, this is really, for me, like lemons are not from Stanford, but I think it helps. I am convinced that the human equation itself is changing. We have been living with a very durable and very consistent.

Definition of success, at least since the beginning of the industrial revolution, if not back to the development of agriculture 10,000 years ago, safety, reliability, efficiency, customer satisfaction. Most of all costs. You add those up and that’s been success. That’s been success for generations. If not centuries, if not millennia.

I see that changing. I see that changing very rapidly and very profoundly in that in today’s world. Again in Devic climate change, DEI GA generation Z sustainability resilience, injustice have to be equal variables. And the human equation. Now we can’t get to success without solving for those additional variables.

That is a profound, profound change that I, maybe our species has never really faced before. And that’s the magnitude of the challenge here. So when I try to apply that to Stanford, How can we make sustainability innovation real? How could we make it? Not just something we talk about and we research, but we actually make happen on the campus.

We make it real. And that to me is this wonderful, um, kind of mutually reinforcing network of innovation in terms of being a living lab for solution solutions, but then operationalizing Those solutions to make real world change. That’s a little bit still a little bit theoretical. So how does that rubber actually hit the road?

And for me, it comes down to opportunity renewal and transformation opportunity in that like a lot of places, our infrastructure, our utilities are reaching their end of life. No, these things only last for a certain number of decades or certain number of years, and whether it is power or water or sewer or, um, uh, transportation systems, we’re reaching the end of life.

That’s a huge opportunity. And we need to renew those things. We need to renew those services. The, the fact that your power plant has reached the end of its life does not mean that the lights could go out. You have to renew that service. You have to continue that service to your customers, but in this brave new world, you also have, excuse me, in this brave new world, you also have to transform.

Think about that changed human equation. Think about the transformation that is necessary in terms of solving that we can’t just renew with the same old solutions that we had. We have to, instead of looking backward for solutions, we have to look forward for solutions that are transformative. So let’s bring this down to energy at Stanford.

For many years, we had a combined cycle plant that is very, very roughly diagrammed here called Cardinal coach. And it was an onsite, uh, combined cycle plant that served both the electricity and the thermal needs in the form of steam, the thermal needs of the campus, natural gas fire. So. Fossil fuels. I mean, I’ll be fairly clean fossil fuels, but still fossil fuels and greenhouse gases, and also hunting a lot of heat to the atmosphere.

Finally, when you look at that student network, we were losing about a third of our, the energy in that steam as we. Circulated it as we distributed it to the campus over maybe 25 miles of distribution pipe. So it was, it was a great solution when it was built, it was passing was filled. But again, it was time.

We had an opportunity at attendant life. We needed to renew those services. But how do we transform that? Because not only did we have these policy drivers, but we have. Greenhouse gases and pollutants going up as the campus group, water consumption, growing up and use your costs going up, service disruptions going up.

And as I mentioned, he’s really, I want our distribution. So how do we apply this model to that? Well, we, my credit assessors. I’ll get full credit for this came up with four fundamental innovations. One was going from fossil natural gas to renewable power to going from venting waste heat to add. To actually recover heat as fuel moving from a steam based system, a high energy system to a lower energy system around chilled and hot water, which, uh, is, is a real game changer in terms of efficiency and the amount of energy that’s consumed.

And then finally going from a zero energy storage scenario to a system that had both electric. Has both electricity and thermal storage. Um, and when we look at these, this, these are really, really cool, but they are the product of a fundamental rethink of basic assumptions. Does it have to be natural gas?

Doesn’t have to be a fossil fuel. No. All of a sudden renewables are possible and we have to waste this feat. What we’ve been wasting he per decades, but, well, let’s rethink that. Let’s think about recovering that heat. Does it have to be Steve? Well, everybody uses team. We’ve been using Steve for decades.

Okay. But let’s look at our end users and say, can we, is there a better. And hot and tank water turned out to be that solution and finally energy storage, which is a fundamental component of this, uh, new world of renewable energy that we’re we’re faced with. This is where it came out. And I’m going to walk, I’ll walk through this pretty quickly.

Um, this is what the assessee project is, and as you can see. On a couple of, there are some dates on here. A couple of them just happened. This, we have two solar projects. If you start at the left side of the screen, one went online in 2016, down in Southern California, that supplied about two thirds of the electricity of facility.

Um, the second one just came online. We just got the rim in a few months ago, um, and that has solar and electric storage. Those feed into the California system and are delivered to Stanford. Uh, redundant substation capacity feeding into really the central piece of the system, which is called the central energy facility.

And if you look it up, ceci.stanford.edu, I think, um, you can see a lot of really cool pictures and explanation, but basically what it is. Combination of electric driven chillers driven by that renewable electricity and heat recovered yours, taking the waste heat. Often a huge portion of the inputs to that lab.

Um, taking the waste heat and recovering those to make more thermal energy for the cameras and then running through a 22 mile, um, new distribution network around the campus that was built as part of this, um, plus some rooftop, solar and, uh, local solar in that mix as well. And lo and behold, Um, obviously greenhouse gases and Wootens come down because we’ve substituted renewable energy for natural gas, water consumption, way down like millions of gallons, a day, way down, um, huge in California, huge anywhere, but especially huge in California, both from an environmental standpoint and a cost perspective and use your costs way down, even with.

A cost department service interruption. This system is more reliable than the old system, which operationally is fantastic. And distribution losses have gone down by an order of magnitude, an order of magnitude from the 30% range to about the three to 4% massive costs, massive efficiencies. So that was.

Opportunity renewal and transformation. We had an opportunity with the end of life of the cogen plant. We had the need to renew those services in the campus, but we looked transformation. We challenged our fundamental assumptions to get to a transformative. Now all energy is compromised. Everything in life, it’s not that much.

Right. And there are a couple of significant, significant compromises that were made that we’re now actually working on solutions for mitigations, for what is that? The capital cost. Are significant. And this is really a paradigm of this brave new world of renewables. You have very high conditional capital costs.

You save money over time with lower operating costs, but Stanford was very lucky to have both the money and the borrowing capacity to cover those additional capital costs. I see a lot of innovation possible here. If you’re a less affluent institution or corporate, or what have you, we need to figure out how to make this thing feasible.

This sort of solution feasible for those who don’t have the resources in Stanford. Does the other big compromise is that we have tied our electric reliability and now our thermal reliability to the California power. And as I think most folks know that is not the most reliable grid. We’ve had an incredible reliability historically, but is that reliability and not going forward is the resilience of the grid enough going forward.

That is something that we’re looking at. Because again, if that power shuts off, not only do we lose our electricity to keep the lights on, we also are paying on. Fairly small about in the scheme of things, thermal storage, um, at the facility before a supply shock. So next steps, we are, uh, almost out of the doubling the drilling capacity of the plant because frankly, the campus has grown a lot faster than we expected.

And climate change has happened a lot faster than we expected. We are working on hour by hour building level thermal load forecasting, which sounds really geeky, but it’s really important and huge opportunities. Both for an improved customer experience, as well as improved, um, uh, environmental and economic outcomes for us.

And then as we move down that list, you know, from things that we’re actually doing to things that we’re probably doing to things that we’re still looking at 24 7 clean energy, um, the last 10% of fossil fuel conversion, um, perhaps lake water, heat exchange, you know, as an additional heat. For the facility.

Um, all of these things are, are presentations into themselves under themselves, but a really interesting next steps is we optimize this. So, um, I hope that was helpful. I, I want to talk through the operational strategic framework, the decarbonization journey, but I hope you’re able to take a couple of things away from.

What is this paradigm of the new human equation, where sustainability, resilience and justice are coequal variables in how we define success. You then drill that down to what we do, which is opportunity, renewal and transformation, but then looking at the project itself and looking at an opportunity. To adapt some of the things that we’ve done in our living lab of Stanford to create a win-win with, to create an operational woman from the campus and economic wind from the campus and environmental and, uh, for the planet.

So, um, with that, um, I, at this point I would take any questions, but I will turn it back over to beer. 

[00:23:56] Peter Perri: A thank you, Lincoln. That was fantastic. And it’s really great to see the progress that Stanford’s made just since the last time we spoke, which is incredible. Um, so the rate of change there is, uh, is accelerating.

It seems, and I think that’s a, that’s a huge win for Stanford for the planet and for other universities, small city. They’re looking on to try to figure out how they can make, uh, these kinds of, uh, changes a reality. Um, I think that’s incredible. Would you mind if I asked you a couple of questions? So the first thing that came to mind for me is what impact did the students have?

Um, both on pushing for the goals and, you know, maybe some Stanford alumni that help on the execution side. It really a curious. It’s, 

[00:24:42] Lincoln Bleveans: it’s a, it’s a very powerful community. It’s a great question because it’s a really powerful community. Obviously, these students are way smarter than I am, um, which is wonderful.

And they have a lot of great ideas. We actually bring a lot of interns into what we do across the groups, uh, that I manage. Um, But you’re seeing, you know, it goes back to this Gen-Z you think of not taking no for an answer or even slow for an answer. There is a steady and relentless and very necessary question up from the students.

To make these things happen and make them happen sooner rather than later and better rather than worse. Um, so that has been a really, really powerful thing and it is so much fun. And so on point with our mission as a university, To bring the students through the facility and explain to them how all of this works.

Uh, we’re actually ramping that up. We’re going to have a sustainability dorm on campus that the pre-court energy Institute is going to be running. And I am really excited to take the great work that’s been done with the students already and really turbocharge that going forward. And then, you know, the other side of that is that whole ecosystem.

Stanford is the beating heart of Silicon valley, the innovation capital of the world, in my opinion. And it’s just full of Stanford grads and racking with the university. And so there is a really beneficial, both pressure and access to horsepower, whether it’s the student, faculty, or the staff or the ecosystem more broadly, uh, The smart people who are really want to get these things done, you know, again, not just optimism for the university, but optimism, uh, you know, for the world.

So it’s a, it’s a really exciting environment. In fact, it’s, it’s insomnia producing for me, uh, insomnia for work, worry about things. I get insomnia from just thinking about all the possibilities. And how much human cloning I would have to undergo to actually get everything done. Um, which is a great problem to have, 

[00:27:11] Peter Perri: we almost took the next question out of my mouth, which is that ecosystem out there in the Northern California areas is incredible.

What, what have you noticed in terms of shifts, say away from the mental horsepower from call it, uh, you know, internet type high tech stuff and more into energy related innovation. 

[00:27:34] Lincoln Bleveans: It’s it’s been really fascinating. You know, I’ve been, I’ve been watching and part of energy, kind of energy tech energy venture capital for 20 plus years now.

And I’ve seen it wax and wane and I’ve seen. The venture capital community in particular, trying to apply that business model to energy. A lot of which is really not suited. It’s a much longer gestation. It’s much higher capital costs, um, much more difficult to do. And. I have seen a real sea change in that.

And I think a perfect example is Stanford’s new school sustainability, which is the John the door school, you know, one of the legends of metric capital, you know, we’ve, we’ve raised, I say we, it’s not me a 1.6, $1.7 billion. And the fact that, that, um, Provided a big chunk of that money coming from an absolute legend of the Silicon valley venture capital system to me is a huge signal that the venture capital community, the risk capital innovation capital community in general has really embraced this larger change in our world.

Around climate change and everything else, um, in a way that they haven’t before. So I’m, I’m just super, again, it goes back to human clothing probably, but I’m just super excited to see all of the, the opportunities that we have to make the world a better place and, and ultimately to do good while also doing.

Which I think is, uh, is, is exactly in line with where that sort of innovation capital needs to be. 

[00:29:30] Peter Perri: For sure. And there’s been so many funds that have announced that they’ve gone into the energy sector and it’s, it’s both energy mobility, sustainability, water, agricultural technology, food tech. It’s really been incredible on how many things that energy industry actually touches when you start to dig into it.

It’s a really big, broad industry with a lot of deep, deep knowledge. Um, Which I’m curious, which companies you see out there coming out of that ecosystem is, you know, sort of early, uh, winners that have, you know, maybe come out ahead a little bit of the pack and are starting to make an impact in terms of, uh, energy sector innovation 

[00:30:13] Lincoln Bleveans: mean, you know, I I’ll, I’ll start with the big tech, you know, the ones who used to be a little, uh, internet, uh, you know, Google is pushing very, very hard.

I’ve really looked forward to collaborating with them more. They’re pushing very hard on macro issues like 24 7 clean energy, which is, is, is one of the hurdles that we need to get over. Um, I’m not sure we know exactly how to do that yet. Yeah, absolutely. You know, big hydro, which we don’t have enough herb, uh, to make that easy.

I think that’s going to be a big challenge. Google’s at the forefront of that, but they’re also doing a lot of interesting things at the building. Um, and you really have to look at the whole value chain in order to create these really innovative solutions. So I would, I would call out Google on, on the big tech side, but then.

On the startup side, I have a couple of favorites and, you know, I’m, I’m, I’m conflicted in this answer because I’m on a couple of advisory boards of companies that I think are just absolutely incredible. So I’m, I’m, I’m, uh, I’m probably, I can’t give you a, uh, a, an unconflicted answer to that, but what you’re seeing to your point earlier is so much palpable B.

Devoted to this space. And the nature of venture capital is, you know, it’s invest in 10 and maybe one hits or whatever, the, whatever the rule of thumb is these days. But that to me is a commitment to the sector that will. Produce the results that I think really need to produce. I don’t know exactly which companies it will be, but when you put this much horsepower, both economic horsepower and intellectual horsepower behind something like this, and you add in this culture of innovation, Silicon valley defaults to possibly.

Most of the world defaults to impossible, but in Silicon valley, in that, in that ecosystem, um, the fact that it hasn’t been done yet just being somebody who hasn’t done it, you know, as opposed to the, it w we can never do, you know, even basically ever do that. So when you, when you combine the, the money and the people and that ethos of possibility, um, I, uh, I, I can’t wait to see what comes out.

[00:32:53] Peter Perri: Of course, this is a question a lot of people would love to know in locations all over the world. Right? How do you foster that culture of innovation? What is it about Silicon valley? Let’s them default to this idea of, you know, if it hasn’t been done before, that’s just sort of a challenge. It’s almost like it attracts more people to it.

How, how is it that way in Silicon valley versus say other other places where it isn’t that 

[00:33:16] Lincoln Bleveans: way? I think, I think Stanford has a lot to do. Uh, Stanford is, um, you know, as I said, it was really the beating heart of Silicon valley and. Spinning out so many people and so many ideas and having been successful in a lot of others.

Um, but it’s also you as the leadership of the university, not just today, but going backwards, this, this real focus on innovation and entrepreneurship and making things real. Um, but I think also Silicon valley has a, a privilege. There is the privilege of failure in Silicon valley. And I don’t say that pejoratively, they in, in Silicon valley failure is something that happens a lot in the way to success.

Whereas, you know, again, maybe it’s the same thing as the possible versus impossible to fault. And there is an opportunity to fail at Silicon valley and then do something else and succeed that maybe isn’t as palatable. Just another. Um, that said, uh, that is, um, you know, when you think then look at that through a DEI J lens, there is, that’s also a privilege that is people who have enough money to pay.

Uh, in something. And so that’s something too, and that’s probably a completely different conversation, but that’s a, that’s an element that I think we still need to figure out that we still need to get a bit around. How can we make, how can we extend that culture? That’s innovative. Culture across a broader swell and society so that we can get all these braids and all this enthusiasm and all these people are intubated.

[00:35:16] Peter Perri: Yeah, I think that’s a really good point. You bring up and it’s interesting how the push towards sustainability is also starting to bring this movement along with it. Um, and, and I’m seeing the same thing where dollars have been going into the sustainability movement. And now the DIJ movements may be a little bit behind it, but now the dollars are starting to go there.

So it’s really exciting to see that happen because as you say, when there’s more brains involved, You’re more likely to find a solution in this climate change issue impacts everybody. So it’s, it’s really big. Um, what, what have you seen in that regard and DEI J within Silicon valley in terms of movement towards, um, wanting to create more, um, more just.

[00:36:01] Lincoln Bleveans: Uh, honestly, not enough. Um, I think we are really at the front end of that. Um, I know that Stanford as an institution has a very large part to play in that. And we are in fact, um, in a very, very intensive and very purposeful, very, um, intentional process of trying to figure that out within our own groups.

And. Try to find that model. Um, but it really is. Um, I wish I had a better answer for it, but it really is something, it is inseparable in my mind from climate change. It is inseparable from endemic. You know, when you look at, at a virus that is the virus doesn’t mean. You know, honestly, how, how well you’re dressed, how much money you make and climate change doesn’t care.

You know, climate change is in my mind, the really the first, um, geography agnostic challenge that human beings have ever faced. Well, let me save you from it longer. Yeah. But ultimately when you’re looking at sea level rise, when you’re looking at agricultural failures, when you’re looking at viruses and you’re looking at mass migrations, this is a truly a global phenomenon in the way that even world war two was not.

Um, and so even the cold war was not. And so to me, these things are all interrelated and that’s why I put them up as, as co-equal elements of this brave new world. Uh,

[00:37:56] Peter Perri: So I’ll, I’ll transition to a technical question because I haven’t asked any technical questions yet. You mentioned energy storage and energy storage is a little bit of a loaded word. It’s been around a long time, as long as I’ve been in the industry. What type of energy storage solutions are you guys implementing and why did you choose them?

Or maybe you’re looking at a few. 

[00:38:16] Lincoln Bleveans: Yeah, we, we have a couple, um, in operation now we have. Lithium-ion batteries out at our second solar project. We’re part of a product that that project is called slate. And, uh, it’s a, it’s a Goldman Sachs recurred energy Canadian solar projects near Lemoore, California.

And if you, if you look it up, uh, SLA T E you’ll see an aerial view of this lake, uh, solar panels, and then this. What appears to be like a subdivision of, of, uh, of, uh, shipping containers, full of batteries, a massive amount of battery capacity. And we went with that because it helps us better balance generation load, um, helps with the duck curve helps, uh, you know, it’s, it’s, it’s a way for us.

You know, again, to do, do good for the grid, but also do well in the, in the market, um, in terms of integrating our own renewables. So at lithium ion is, is the current standard for that. Um, so, you know, that makes sense in that context. The central energy facility, we have a significant amount of showing water storage and hot water storage that helps balance out fluctuations in, um, in demand versus production.

But at the same time, in fact, my, uh, Ron Gower, my, my, the guy who runs the energy group for us, he and I were talking about battery technologies and what we might want to up. Over the next couple of years, as these things come to fruition, lithium-ion is incredible in very specific applications. It also has tremendous, uh, lifecycle environmental impacts, negative environmental impacts and costs.

Um, we are really excited in this living lab concept to take a very hard look at what’s coming next. How can we not only. Bring those to campus, but also how can we use battery technology, for example, to replace the diesel gen sets that we have in our building. Um, is there a way to take that, um, that greenhouse, those greenhouse gases, those bulletins out of our system over time.

So, you know, again, it’s, it’s trying to find the policy answers, but also the operational answers and to create those win-win wins, um, you know, over, over time in our. 

[00:40:58] Peter Perri: That’s really helpful. I’ll ask a finance question. You’ve got that big, uh, solar and battery project out there. You mentioned Goldman Sachs and some others, and how you Stanford’s been able to invest heavily with high upfront capital costs.

What financing innovations have you seen help get that? These projects financed. Um, and what advice would you have for others that are trying to get these big cap ex projects done? 

[00:41:24] Lincoln Bleveans: I think we, we we’ve done very, very well as a first step with project finance. I mean, if you look at what we were talking about, Yeah.

It’s 20 years ago. We are so far ahead of that now in terms of the structures that are available and the innovations that are available, the risks and the sophistication of the way that risks are allocated and the structures. But I really do that, but it still comes down to, for example, the power purchase agreement, having customers that have credit that is financing.

I mean, ultimately it comes back to those products. I look at something like the central energy facility and how do we roll that out? How do we, how do we make that feasible? Not just attractive, but feasible for a less affluent institution or government or what have you. And I feel like we really are at the beginning appealing that I need, and I really am eager.

In fact, I’ve been talking to folks at the business school and at the law school. How can we get our brains around this? How could we take that next step of innovation? Not so much from the engineering side and the operational side, but from the financing legal side so that we can not only say. Hey, come copy this.

But, and, and, and say, here’s how to copy it from an engineering standpoint, but also here’s, here’s some options that you can use to, to actually, you know, um, create the, uh, find the financing, um, you know, make it, make it work from that perspective. 

[00:43:12] Peter Perri: Yeah, it’s a, it’s a big area and there’s, there’s starting to be a lot of innovation and we’re seeing a lot in the private credit markets.

There’s an article in the wall street journal from Carlisle group, talking about the demand for private credit and how that’s going to help drive innovation in the, in the renewables and in, in, uh, climate change arena. Um, but, uh, yeah, it’s, it’s exciting times for sure. Lincoln. This has been awesome.

Before I let you go. What are you, what are you been doing for fun these days? How do you stay in shape? How do you, uh, uh, spend your, your time when you’re not, uh, having insomnia? 

[00:43:47] Lincoln Bleveans: Uh, well, it’s, uh, we’re actually the process of moving from LA to Northern California. So, um, that’s been, that’s been really exciting, uh, stressful, that exciting, but you know, I, to me.

And this is, this sounds like this is a pretty geeky answer, I guess, but I’ve been doing, I’ve had the opportunity to do so much speaking, um, both in the U S and around the world, talking about what Stanford’s been able to do, but also talking about innovation more generally. And how do we, how do we take these next steps in this brave new world of marks?

And to me at this point in my career, there are few things more satisfied. That, especially with a live audience to see those light bulbs go on and see people say, oh yeah, wait a minute. I gotta, I can see this through a different lens or, you know, that, get that thinking that thinking sparked in that innovation spark.

So that is a, is a big, uh, part of, part of my joy these days. Um, and you know, like this, I really appreciate the opportunity, um, to tell us. No 

[00:44:59] Peter Perri: Lincoln, it’s been an absolute pleasure having you. Thank you so much for being here. I’m Peter Perry. This has been Lincoln Blevins. He’s the head of sustainability and energy management at Stanford university.

And it’s been a pleasure having you on, uh, having you on power talks today. 

[00:45:15] Lincoln Bleveans: Thank you so much.

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