Arizona Horizon Banner

October 5, 2011

Host: Ted Simons

Arizona Technology & Innovation: ASU Solar Collaboration

  |   Video
  • Arizona State University will lead a new national Engineering Research Center to solve challenges of harnessing solar power in economically and sustainable ways. Quantum Energy and Sustainable Solar Technologies, or QESST, will be directed by Christina Honsberg, a professor in ASU's School of Electrical, Computer and Energy Engineering.
  • Christina Honsberg - Professor in ASU's School of Electrical, Computer and Energy Engineering
Category: Technology   |   Keywords: Engineering Research Center, Sustainable Solar Technologies, Quantum Energy,

View Transcript
Ted Simons: Arizona state University is leading a new national research center that looks to receive usize the energy industry. The center is a collaboration of Universities, energy companies, and entrepreneurs committed to solving the challenges of harnessing solar power in economical and viable and sustainable ways. Quantum Energy and Sustainable Solar Technologies, or QESST, will be directed by Christina Honsberg, a professor in ASU's school of electrical, computer, and energy engineering. I recently talked with her about the project. Thank you so much for joining us.

Christina Honsberg: Thank you for having me.

Ted Simons: What is the goal of this project?

Christina Honsberg: QESST is a new engineering research center that's funded by NSS and the department of energy. And the goal of it is to advance photovoltaics, or solar energy. You'll see solar energy on calculators or on other consumer electronics, and what we want to do is make it not just power calculators, but make it powerhouses, businesses, make it essentially power the U.S.

Ted Simons: Basically make it economically viable.

Christina Honsberg: That's correct.

Ted Simons: And how do you do that?

Christina Honsberg: There are two pronged approach we use. The first is that you have to get the performance up. So the measure of performance for a solar cell is efficiency, and if you make the same block of material produce more power, then you're paying for the material, but you get more energy out of it so costs go down. One of the key focuses we have is to make -- get a double win. You produce more power and lower the cost at the same time.

Ted Simons: And that -- I guess that would slide into also the idea of manufacturing as well.

Christina Honsberg: That's right. There's about 50 companies who are involved with us, and about seven other Universities on the project. And actually the company involved is quite unique. So rather than just having a technology that goes into the lab and then after three years we talk to industry and see if they're interested, industry is involved from the beginning.

Ted Simons: Industry involved right from the beginning, talk more about that public-private partnership and how important that is.

Christina Honsberg: So the industry is growing very rapidly. It's been growing at 40% a year for nearly two decades. And so this gives a very strong opportunity for Universities to get their new technologies out to industry. But the pace of the industry is such that if you've been developing in technology for three years, they've grown 40% for three years. They're already beyond what you may have done. So having a partnership between the two of them is absolutely essential to get the technology to develop rapidly.

Ted Simons: Now, the goal, the majority of new electricity in 10 years. And the idea could be 1.5 billion people being affected by this? That would be another goal?

Christina Honsberg: Yes. So presently 1.5 billion people don't have access to electricity. So our goal is to make solar cells a little like the cell phones. So the people who don't have electricity also generally don't have land lines. But they've actually just completely bypassed land line and are now using cell phones. So for the developing world, rather than putting in the utility grid the way we have here, the goal would be to just go right to solar or right to technologies that are distributed.

Ted Simons: And again, in terms of economic viability, does that make sense?

Christina Honsberg: Yes. Absolutely. Right now it makes sense already in a lot of markets, so the cost of it is actually dependent on where you put it in. The more sun you have the more electricity you have. So it makes more sense to put it into sunnier locations. So in sunny locations with relatively high electricity costs, it already makes viable sense, so there are markets like that in the U.S. Also it always makes economic sense for what's called peaking power, so peaking power is where the utility company charges you more for your power near solar, noon, or near the middle of the day. So it's economic for that as well.

Ted Simons: Without getting too much into particles turn nothing waves and waves turning into particles, I know the quantum mechanics is a part of this particular project.

Christina Honsberg: That's right.

Ted Simons: How?

Christina Honsberg: Actually this is a very interesting part. Maybe a succinct way of saying what we want to do, we want to bring the semi conductor revolution to energy. Quantum mechanics is the basis of computers, of all your cell phones, it's the basis of the information technology revolution. And photovoltaics is actually a very unique energy source. Every other energy source has rotating machinery, but not photovoltaics. You just shine light on it and it generates electricity. So this has a couple implications. No moving parts. We don't use any water, we don't emit any pollutants. So it's a very clean, very long lasting, very distributed technology. I think another implication of it is that the semi conductor industry has grown enormously and has impacted everybody's lives. And we think that the photovoltaic industry can grow as enormously and in 10 years just the same way you see a computer everywhere, a cell phone err where, you'll just see photovoltaics on everybody's house.

Ted Simons: It's like 10 years ago smart phones weren't so smart.

Christina Honsberg: That's right.

Ted Simons: 10 years from now, photovoltaic will be a lot smarter than it is now.

Christina Honsberg: That's right.

Ted Simons: How did ASU get involved?

Christina Honsberg: ASU is a leader in solar energy, particularly in photovoltaics. We have a large set of experimental facilities for it, so it was pretty natural that ASU went and led the engineering research center. And of course we're also very dependent on our partners, so our partners in this are California institute of technology, MiT, University of Delaware, Georgia tech, we've got a bunch of partners. And of course University of Arizona is one of our partners too.

Ted Simons: And the government is interested obviously as well when you mention the -- is this considered vital national interest?

Christina Honsberg: Yes. It's of enormous national interest. Par of it is pure economic interest. This is going to be a trillion dollar industry. Right now Germany and Japan hold the lead in it, but the U.S. is certainly going to be the next big market, and it's absolutely essential that the U.S. grab as much of that trillion dollar market as it can. It's a clean technology, so you can make money, make jobs, and help the environment all at once.

Ted Simons: And you mentioned the University of Delaware among those participating. We were talking beforehand, Delaware is a leader in solar technology.

Christina Honsberg: That's right.

Ted Simons: How did that happen?

Christina Honsberg: They -- I think they've long had strong focus on making chemicals, and a lot of the semi conductors is quite closely related to the chemical industry.

Ted Simons: OK.

Christina Honsberg: I think it's another example of how strength in one industry you can use it to piggyback and to get a leg up on a new industry.

Ted Simons: When Arizonans see a Delaware leading the pack, you wonder what's going on in Arizona? Last question, what is going on here in Arizona?

Christina Honsberg: So the -- we have a very rapidly growing program, we've got a lot of courses on it, so ASU is very heavily involved in it, University of Arizona is heavily involved, and not only the University, but of course solar is the largest U.S. producer, and so they are -- their headquarters are very close to here. They recently installed a new P.V. plant. There's actually several companies that are here, sun tech is another very large manufacturer, they're in the Phoenix area with a production plant. Soy tech is another concentrating manufacturer, they have their major research labs here in addition to them there's a lot of sales offices here. So Arizona is -- has the sunlight, it's a very high-tech city, which is needed for solar, so it's a natural place to have it.

Ted Simons: And it sounds like a project like this can be a good educational tool as well.

Christina Honsberg: Absolutely.

Ted Simons: Very good. Thanks for joining us.

Christina Honsberg: Thank you very much.

Metro Phoenix: Underground

  |   Video
  • Amy Silverman, managing editor of the Phoenix New Times, talks about some of the secret spots and underground places the publication unearthed for its 2011 "Best of Phoenix" edition.
  • Amy Silverman - Managing Editor of The Phoenix New Times
Category: Community   |   Keywords: secret spots,

View Transcript
Ted Simons: Last week the "Phoenix New Times" released its best of Phoenix issue for 2011. The publication always searches high and low for the best things to do and places to go in the Phoenix area. But this year new times did some extra digging to try to discover the valley's underground. Here to explain is Amy Silverman, managing editor at "Phoenix New Times." Always good to see you.

Amy Silverman: Thank you.

Ted Simons: Idea for this underground -- we're not talking just metaphorically, you're talking literally under the ground.

Amy Silverman: Yeah.

Ted Simons: How did that come about?

Amy Silverman: This is the 19th year I'd work order best of Phoenix, so for the last seven or eight I've edited it, so I like to keep it interesting. Not that it's not interesting, but we try to come up with a theme to keep people entertained. And for a while I've been pushing underground on our art director. He has to agree with it. Because I just thought it's just interesting to think about what goes on. Partly I thought it would be a finite topic, because the dirt is so hard. I grew up here and my parents explained we couldn't have a basement because the dirt was so hard. I thought there will be a couple things to write about. We can write about some sort of figurative underground things in the music scene and we'll be done.

Ted Simons: Yeah.

Amy Silverman: I think 85 categories later, and we were very worried we'd missed something.

Ted Simons: You didn't miss something I found fascinating. I've seen this on central Avenue, these glass tiles on central. And I thought that's decorative. How pleasant that is. You found an underground bowling alley, and this was literally across from the westward Ho.

Amy Silverman: right near the journalism school on central. I heard about it for a while. We actually gave it a best of a couple years ago, but we thought it was urban legend.

Ted Simons: What we're watching is a camera going under the street and it's -- there's a big room down there.

Amy Silverman: We tried for months to get a tour of this bowling alley. We kept going to the westward ho because we heard rumors, first that an architect had been down there, we finally track her down, no, I haven't gone down. Then an artist, and I was on Facebook one day and this photographer posted that he was at the underground bowling alley. Immediately I called him and said, you're there? You got a tour? How do we get a tour? He said no, I just heard about it. I have a friend that D.J.'d a party down there 15 years ago, and I'm interested. So he came down and he and one of our writers and I sort of scoped the scene. I left them there, and they lowered David's very expensive or maybe it was Claire's photography equipment through one of the little holes.

Ted Simons: That's what we're looking at. That's a big room D this serve the --

Amy Silverman: that's what we understand, that it served the westward ho, but we were never able to take to anybody about it. Just a couple days before publication a friend of mine dug up a brochure from the gold spot bowling alley from the '40s and it turns out did it exist.

Ted Simons: Something I think I knew existed, at least did exist, but it's still in operation is an amethyst mine at four peaks.

Amy Silverman: At the farthest peak is an amethyst mine. The only commercial amethyst mine in the United States. And the least accessible in the world apparently.

Ted Simons: You've got to really work to get back there.

Amy Silverman: It's a 4½-mile hike -- you can take a helicopter, which is what our writer did. She got offered a helicopter tour so she took it. And they mined the amethyst. This man and woman, she had a baby so I think she took time off, and they mine them by hand.

Ted Simons: Do they own that mine?

Amy Silverman: They don't. They work for the people who own it. The AMETHYST are tumbled, cut in the Thailand and sold -- they're set and sold at a jewelry store in Fountain Hills.

Ted Simons: And helicopters are used for the most part to bring supplies in and take the stuff out?

Amy Silverman: They have to mine it by hand, they can't use equipment.

Ted Simons: Wow. Interesting. I tell you what, gorgeous stones. Only one in the United States. Working mine. Let's keep it moving. The Morton salt plant in Glendale.

Amy Silverman: There is a salt plant in Glendale, it's 15 to 30 cubic miles of salt underground. They stick metal piping down there I guess, and they pump water. So they say you end up with brine, you get salt water and they put night a solar pool which I think is they leave it in the sun to dry out. And then they use it for water softening products.

Ted Simons: And this is all -- this has been happening in Glendale for what, 20, 30, 40 years?

Amy Silverman: M-hmm.

Ted Simons: Underground? Look at that. Now it's above ground. All right. No blasting. Very clean operation. All right. You have an underground bus station that I think almost everyone watching has passed and they don't realize that they passed. First, where --

Amy Silverman: I never knew.

Ted Simons: This is under the deck park tunnel.

Amy Silverman: When you're on I-10 approaching the tunnel, if you look there's this kind of boarded off area that goes down into a $9 million facility that the city built. This was in the early '90s. And then things didn't go so well economically. They needed another $20 million to finish it and I guess when light rail came through that finished that idea.

Ted Simons: So I believe it was described as an intermodal transfer station. Which means $9 million for not much.

Amy Silverman: Nothing.

Ted Simons:Can you use it, can -- basically --

Amy Silverman: they should have parties down there.

Ted Simons: It's a bus termal under the deck park tunnel. They can still use that, can't they?

Amy Silverman: I guess they could, but it would take so much money to finish it, they don't want tomorrow I was surprised they were so friendly about it. ADOT gave us a tour.

Ted Simons: Speaking of trying to make something of what is as opposed to what it should have been, is anyone thinking of doing any renovation to that old underground bowling alley?

Amy Silverman: You're back to the bowling alley.

Ted Simons: I find it fascinating.

Amy Silverman: I don't know. I don't know. I do don't think so. Claire our writer really wanted to get in there and she stuck her head, there was a sort of grate area, our central so cops are driving by all the time. It was hot, August. She was about ready I think to head down there, she's a youngster. And she heard some animal noises. Someone is living down there.

Ted Simons:OK. Underground opium dens where lots of folks go to see ball games. Talk to us about this.

Amy Silverman: When they did the excavation for the basketball arena, in the late '80s they knew already that had been Phoenix's Chinatown. I had no idea, if you go to the pueblo grandE museum you can see this -- I think you'd have to ask, but there's a huge collection of artifacts that they unearthed. And one of our write Darrin Erstad a lot of research to Phil Mickelson out just what was there, because one of the rumors we heard early on was that there were tunnels that they ran opium through under the city. And that was kind of intriguing.

Ted Simons: Sure.

Amy Silverman: Well, it wasn't quite that good. But they did, when they did their digging they did find some evidence that there had been OPiUM dens.

Ted Simons: I was reading the entry, in 1910 the three largest restaurants in Phoenix all Chinese food restaurants.

Amy Silverman: M-hmm.

Ted Simons: Isn't that something?

Amy Silverman: M-hmm.

Ted Simons: All right. Now to get you on the program I believe we had to agree to show this next one. I don't think it has much to do with anything underground.

Amy Silverman: Oh, is this our figurative --

Ted Simons: this is the nativity scene in a garage in Chandler? Is that --

Amy Silverman: yes.

Ted Simons: What in the world are we talking about here.

Amy Silverman: That wasn't to get me on the program. Maybe as -- I'm intrigued by these things. But there is a priest who has collected 1200 nativity figures, and every Christmas he sets them up in his garage in Chandler. They occupy most of this multicar garage. And you have to know him or know someone who knows him to get access. And they were among the most beautiful photos we got. One of our art critics took them.

Ted Simons:And he's basically runs like a different church somewhere else, and in his -- is this always -- is it a permanent installation?

Amy Silverman: No. Hoe just sets it up at Christmas. Butt but he's collected them since 1955.

Ted Simons: Were you surprised at how much -- this was more of a secretive thing. But the other stuff was literally underground. How much underground stuff there was, you had to be surprised.

Amy Silverman: Tons. And there's a whole lot more. This is like a product shot. Go to our interactive map online, and you can see video and photos, and hear interviews. I was really surprised.

Ted Simons: I guess the writers at new times were as well.

Amy Silverman: Yeah. We did make Robert write about his basement. We have a basement review.

Ted Simons: So can we all maybe get -- I'm going back to this bowling alley. Can we get together and get the westward ho, why are they being so secretive?

Amy Silverman: I will say that last week they called and offered us the tour of the westward ho we've been asking for. So if you keep an eye on new times we'll have a piece about that soon and we'll try to answer all the questions that we've had.

Ted Simons: All right. We'll keep an eye on that. Goodness, if there's some sort of something going through from one side to another, we need to know about it good to have you here.

Amy Silverman: Thank you, Ted.

Ted Simons: That is it for now. I'm Ted Simons. Thank you for joining us. You have a great evening.

University Funding

  |   Video
  • Arizona Board of Regents Chairman Fred DuVal talks about the Board’s $800 million budget request to fund Arizona University System operations in fiscal year 2013.
  • Fred DuVal - Chairman Arizona Board of Regents
Category: Education   |   Keywords: budget, fund,

View Transcript
Ted Simons: Good evening, and welcome to "Horizon." I'm Ted Simons. The Arizona board of regents is asking lawmakers and the governor for more money to operate state Universities. The board recently approved a state funding request for next fiscal year that's about $120 million more than Universities got this year. But according to most board members, the request is a fraction of what Universities really need. Here to explain is chairman of the Arizona board of regents, Fred Duval. Good to see you again.

Fred Duvall: Nice to see you as well.

Ted Simons: 800 some-odd million dollars, 18% increase from the current fiscal year. Why so much of an increase?

Fred Duvall: First let's put 90 perspective. State investment in the University isRs 4 years ago was $1.2 billion. We've taken significant cuts. That's been taken about roughly equal in actual cuts out of the Universities themselves and tuition increases, which are pricing students out of our product and a real concern. So we're going to the legislature this year and say, OK, three years in a row of cuts. We've got money in the budget this year, let's try and begin a process of restoring some of these cuts and get these Universities back on track.

Ted Simons: $36 million for permanent additions to base funding. Permanent additions.

Fred Duvall: Additions which then become part of the base and become part of the ongoing budget expectation as opposed to one-time which is largely buildings in almost every case large classrooms to facilitate this enormous enrollment growth we've had. And we need a place to teach them.

Ted Simons: Is that going to be a tough sell, the permanent aspect?

Fred Duvall: We're mindful that we are not fully out of the recession yet. Economists indicate there will be $300 million in new money and our basic case is this -- about a billion and a half of new money came in through prop 100, that was a sales tax which the voters passed largely on the basis of protecting education. We haven't seen any of it yet. This is the last year of the prop 100 money. What we're saying S. one-time money, one-time needs.

Ted Simons: The budget request also calls for funding discrepancies to the tune of $15 million. Funding, what kind of discrepancies?

Fred Duvall: Historically the way the state has invested in Universities is based upon enrollment. There's a formula based upon how large each University is. That formula hasn't been funded since 2009. As a result, because NAU and ASU have grown faster than U of A, their per student commitment from the state is less. And what the legislature has asked us to do is to isolate what that number was and then indicate to them in order to bring those other two universities up to parody with U of A on a per student funding bases what would that number be, and that's reflected in our question.

Ted Simons: The lone dissenting voice on this budget request, because he thinks it's going to be the hurting the U of A.

Fred Duvall: Instead of lifting the other two schools to catch up to the U of A, that what this will do is give those who are critics of Universities an opportunity to take everybody down to the lowest common denominator.

Ted Simons: Is that the result of a study bite legislature?

Fred Duvall: It was an assignment in the budget last year asking us to do a study and isolate what the disparity number is. We've done that about 76 million dollars in the aggregate in our budget proposal suggests that we deal with that disparity over a five-year basis. $15 million of this year's request moves the Universities towards parity.

Ted Simons: Was there also I think I see here an assignment for performance-based funding to get -- I know you're big on that.

Fred Duvall: Yes.

Ted Simons: I guess has it been done? Is it figured out? You start in 2014?

Fred Duvall: We are -- we have a draft proposal, we're going to use this year to talk it through. It's going to be complicated. It's a complete paradigm change to go to a performance-based model. So this budget is sick, it's the first time the Universities have not gone in and said, based upon enrollment growth here's our budget request. That would be about $173 million over the last three years. We recognize that old formula doesn't apply. The new formula will take a year to implement performance fund can. This year we'll do one-time needs, primarily classrooms and go to performance funding next year.

Ted Simons: And also studied the information on like student centered financial aid, just a financial aid model. What did that assignment come up with?

Fred Duvall: There are -- we've looked at best practices, there's a number of ways to do it. Many states have very large financial aid packages that are state money as opposed to tuition set-asides. We've looked at some states have loan forgiveness based upon students who stay in state, become taxpayers and adding jobs. A number of different ways to do it, and we've provided choices for the legislature.

Ted Simons: Back to that performance-based funding thing. Not quite as tough a sell to the legislature do you think?

Fred Duvall: I don't want to count noses yet, but it changes the conversation from one of, here's how much more money we need, to, what do you want us to produce to meet the work force needs for the future, viability and competitiveness for the state of Arizona? If that's what you want us to produce, fund us to make that happen.

Ted Simons: What are you hearing from lawmakers?

Fred Duvall: Very encouraged by the innovative thinking we're showing, our willingness to change the model. If you look at the performance-based funding model, if you look at this Newark tech which your where we've blown through the walls between the community colleges and universities, seamless transfers, hybrid pathways, those two in combination Adrew Morrill attic reform proposals and you think -- I think the legislature, many of them give us credit for doing something different.

Ted Simons: Are there models out there, can we look at a state and say that's what we want to aim for, or that's something we want to avoid?

Fred Duvall: Bits and pieces, but in its entirety, in its ambition, size, we're really the best practice. We are the state that other states are coming to to look at and say, how is it you're merging your systems into one integrated system that produces more degree opportunities in more placing at a lower cost.

Ted Simons: And again, as we mentioned earlier in the program, this is in mind of this sales tax, this temporary sales tax, this money going away. You talk about changing goalpost and changing targets.

Fred Duvall: It will go away, and next year they'll say the sales tax is gone so we can't afford in universities. That probably is right. This is the year that the taxpayers, we've made a promise we're going to invest in education. There's money this year to do so. And I believe we have a moral commitment to do it.

Ted Simons: for the most part the board is in unanimous agreement?

Fred Duvall: Absolutely.

Ted Simons: Very good. Thanks for joining us.

Fred Duvall: Thank you.