NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

Systems Engineering Seminar

Engineering Clean Energy Systems

Presented by:
Dr. Alex Pavlak, PhD, PE, President, Thales Research, Inc.

June 7, 2011, 1:00 p.m.
Building 3 Auditorium


Engineering Clean Energy Systems

America has been taking an evolutionary approach to clean energy system development - look at what exists today and ask how can it be improved. Good things can come from this approach including a host of energy efficiency improvements, natural gas, the smart grid, and quick returns. But an evolutionary approach by itself leads to ugly systems, false starts and dead ends where additional progress can be made only by scrapping expensive investments and starting over. Engineers do not build systems this way. We have been trained to think strategically: first clarify the goal, then develop a plan to achieve the goal. In late 2009 President Obama declared a very good strategic goal - big CO2 emission reductions in a 2050 time frame. For engineers, the obvious next step is to conduct a strategic scenario analysis, evaluating the feasibility of the many different approaches to satisfy that goal. Strategic scenario analysis is quite simple because it ignores the confusion of legacy systems and current policy. But, this analysis is not being conducted, why? Could it be that we do not know how to engineer America’s clean energy future?

This presentation is based on a paper titled Strategy vs. Evolution (pdf 228 KB) published in the November/December 2010 issue of the American Scientist.



Photo of Dr. Alex Pavlak Alex Pavlak is a PhD Professional Engineer with 40 years experience creating unprecedented systems, major combat systems and systems architecture, alternate energy, and managing a variety of R&D programs. He is the president of Thales Research, Inc. He holds several patents on wind turbines and static solar concentrators. His core competencies are systems architecture, energy systems and combining systems engineering with fact-based policy making. He received his Ph.D. in mechanical engineering from Stevens Institute of Technology.



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