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The Global Energy Prize annually honors outstanding achievements in energy research and technology from around the world that are helping address the world’s various and pressing energy challenges.

Richard Goldstein: gas generation is more reliable than renewables


Sergey Brilev: A very good afternoon to all of the subscribers of the Global Energy Association. We are continuing today our series of chats for the people, who've been shortlisted for this year's Prize and today we're talking to DR Richard Goldstein from the United States. Hello, Dr Goldstein.

Richard Goldstein: Hello. Pleased to be here

Sergey Brilev: Let me try to introduce you in simple terms, you are considered the pioneer in velocity and other optical measurements. Dr Goldstein was nominated for development of cooling designs, widely used in high performances gas turbines, normal and important measurements in thermal convection and major leadership roles in the engineering community. Dr Goldstein, when I was reading your profile I came across a word, which is familiar to most people, who've been to a secondary school, but which given the circumstances of our chat is rather surprising. Doppler. The doppler method. What does the doppler method got to do with your research?

Richard Goldstein: Well, the doppler method is an optical technique, that I was one of the early pioneers on a number of years ago. It measures the doppler shift of light radiation, actually laser radiation from a moving particle, so you can measure flow velocity optically.

Sergey Brilev: Usually, this word is referred to Astronomy and we're talking about energy here.

Richard Goldstein:  This is not directly energy, it's measuring velocity, which you have to know in terms of your energy transport.

Sergey Brilev:  Tell me more about.

Richard Goldstein: Well, basically, a doppler shift is a change in frequency of light due to motion of the transmitter or in this case the reflector. You scatter light off of particles and you measure the change in the frequency of that light and that's a measure of the velocity of the particles. So, the particles are small particles that you add to a float, so you can follow the flow. It's a widely used technique now. We worked on that with few others and I worked on the development hall 40 years ago.

Sergey Brilev: I've been asking wider questions to all the people, who have been shortlisted, because it's up for the technical experts to decide the fate of you and, of course, our International Committee, but we are in a turbulent world and in the world, where the energy environment is changing.  So, let me ask you this, in Russia more than half of electricity is generated by thermal power plants, and the situation is indeed similar in other European countries and in the United States. What is surprising is, that for some reason we hear a lot about renewable energy, so for some reason, it's quite explicable actually and hydrogen etc. but almost nothing about the heat power. Why?

Richard Goldstein: Well, in the U.S, we're not as good as many countries in Europe are on renewable energy, but one of the reasons is as in Russia we have a lot of gas. I was just talking to someone the other day, who's an expert on this, and he said, you'll never find a coal power plant, being built today in the U.S there are all these gas, these combined cycle plants, which have amazingly high efficiencies of the order of 65 percent. When I was a student some years ago, if you had a power plant, that had 35 percent thermal efficiency, were happy, now these go to 65, it's just amazing. But it's mostly gas now. We have some nuclear, but we're not building any more nuclear. The main thing, that we're building today are these combined cycle gas turbine, stem turbine power plants, using a gas as a fuel, natural gas.

Sergey Brilev: Are the renewables going to replace the traditional energy?

Richard Goldstein:  Pardon. Are they replacing the traditional energy? Well, they're replacing coal. Coal had been…44 percent of our power, used to come from coal. Electric power now it's going
towards zero.

Sergey Brilev: What do you say to the coal miners?

Richard Goldstein:  That's a problem, get a new, get a different job. I mean, that's a political problem.

Sergey Brilev:  Well, it is, but is there maybe something on the horizon for the coal industry, so maybe starts coal-based chemistry industry, that sort of things. 

Richard Goldstein: I don't think, so I mean, it's very hard. I mean, they talk about clean coal here, but there's no such thing really as clean coal, I mean, you burn coal you get a lot of carbon dioxide or you combust it in any way, you'll get a lot of carbon dioxide.  I think, coal is on the way out. It is a political question because there are a number of states very strong coal mining industry and and It's a tragedy for people, that have worked in that industry for a lifetime and then suddenly the industry goes away. So, it is a tragedy.

Sergey Brilev: Last week, I heard a piece of news about even oil and gas companies stopping exploring new oil and gas fields, because they think that renewables are going to replace just everything in energy. Do you believe in that?

Richard Goldstein:  Well, it would be nice. I'm a big fan of renewables, but I'm a big fan of some things, that aren't always so popular. The problem is, renewables are very hard to get started and tend to be very capital intensive. It also tend to be not quite as reliable or regular. I mean, the renewables other than maybe hydropower and some wind power are tend to be transient. The sun doesn't always shine, so you don't get solar power in the evening, even water power is dependable. Well, if you had a gas plant or even a coal plant, or a nuclear plant you could run those 24 hours a day.

Sergey Brilev: Another transformational example, that has led to huge energy savings and, in turn, monetary savings is your path-breaking engineering of film-cooling of advanced cast turbines. Does this increase the lifespan of the turbine blade?

Richard Goldstein: Yes, you know, I heard a talk at a meeting sometime and one of the co-inventors of the gas turbines Frank Whittle was there and he said, what amazed him about modern gas turbines, this was some years ago, was not, that they're so big, or they could drive such powerful things as a huge commercial airliner, but that they can run for thousands of hours without major maintenance. He said, when he ran these gas services, they ran for five minutes, they were happy, because they burned out. And what film-cooling is a means of protecting the turbine blaze. You have to realize when you get on an airplane, that the gas, coming into the hot section of the first foot stage is above the melting point of the blaze, not only the failure point, the melting point, so somehow you have to keep those blades from getting to that temperature. And film-cooling is just a technique, that we developed some years ago that's using almost every commercial or military engine.

Sergey Brilev: On the 8th of September we will announce the final results, the decision by the International Award Committee, who will in turn gather on the 7th to decide,  whom to choose out of 15 persons people. If you were present at the International Awards Committee meeting how would you recommend yourself?

Richard Goldstein:  Well, I recommend myself highly probably. But I’ll see, how things go.

Sergey Brilev: I don't want to brag, but in simple terms,

Richard Goldstein:  I do a number of things, related to energy film-cooling and gas turbines is one major one, but I do other things, I work on things related to solar energy, related to nuclear power. I've done a lot of things on energy, I've run a lot of meetings specifically on energy and both all over and also with some people from Russia, and energy has been a key parameter in most of my work. Some of it is very basic, so you don't always see the energy points, some things like film-cooling is pretty obvious, how it's related to energy.

Sergey Brilev: Now that you've mentioned the solar energy. Here's a tricky one. All of us admire the technology. It's so nice you've got the sun there, up in the sky you just put a battery and you go forward and forward, but the problem is, of course, with the panels themselves, because when you produce them, you, firstly, use some energy, but that's okay, let's pull it out of the brackets. But,also, the materials used in a lot of non-conventional energy are not so innocent. So, you save the planet from the kind of the pollution, that you have now, but you provoke new pollution. What do you do about this?

Richard Goldstein: Well, that's a problem you have to work on. You know, nothing, I think is free, so every solution has its problems to it, including solar energy. I'm not sure, that there's anything particularly negative in the materials that are used in solar energy systems, certainly in the flat plate collectors, that you seem to be talking about I think, that the materials are pretty standard and not particularly deleterious to the to the environment.  But there's still a lot of material in a more concentrated energy system.

Sergey Brilev: Very lastly. I try to make this conversation shorter, so that people know more about our laureates, but don't fall in love just with one of you. Very lastly, a lot of recipes, which come from our distinguished candidates are breathtaking and they're through 21st if not 22nd century. Yet, what preoccupies me always is that a lot of these inventions and a lot of these ideas are very good for the first world for the rich world are they applicable in the developing world? Aren't we making the gap even wider when we launch all those new technologies in the North, so to say, and we don't think really, if it's can be massively used in places like Latin America, Africa and developing Asia?

Richard Goldstein:  Well, certain things… I recall, going somewhere in Africa and we went to this village and all of a sudden, I heard some radio playing and what they had was they had a little solar energy panel, connected to a radio and it was doing was driving the radio, but they loved it. And the point is, in developing countries it's hard, because most energy systems are expensive and you have to have the money to do it, but you can't get away from it. There's no way to get free energy. I mean, true solar energy you can do things pretty neatly you can get hot water fairly simply, it's still not directly done, you have to still have a collector and a storage system and everything, but certain things are good, but to get power, electric power, which is the thing, that seems to be required to get our modern civilization going, then you have to have some conversion system and the conversion system tends to be expensive to convert it to electricity.

Sergey Brilev: Mr Goldstein it's typically said, that the difference between an optimist and a pessimist is that the pessimist is the same optimist but better informed.  But, in your case, I can see an optimist, which is well informed and which is and who is still an optimist. Congratulations.

Richard Goldstein:  Thank you. Well, I am optimistic about the future in the world, including what we call sometimes a third world, but I think the Third world requires investment from the First world. You know, they can't do it by themselves. It's not it's too far behind. They have to get it for help.

Sergey Brilev: Absolutely, Sir. Well we're answering the political conversation here, which I don't want to pursue, so, thank you so much and best of luck as far as the International Award Committee's decision is concerned

Richard Goldstein: Thank you very much! Appreciate the conversation. Stay well.

Sergey Brilev: Goodbye

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