The UCSB brown-bag forum on spatial thinking presents

Spatially-explicit environmental assessment of renewable transportation

Roland Geyer, Bren School of Environmental Science, UCSB

12:00 p.m. Tuesday, April 28, 2015 | Phelps Hall 3512 (map)

roland_thinkspatialAbstract. Growth in biofuel production, which is meant to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and fossil energy demand, is increasingly seen as a threat to food supply and natural habitats. Using photovoltaics (PV) to directly convert solar radiation into electricity for battery electric vehicles (BEVs) is an alternative to photosynthesis, which suffers from a very low energy conversion efficiency. Assessments need to be spatially explicit, since solar insolation and crop yields vary widely between locations. This paper therefore compares direct land use, life cycle GHG emissions and fossil fuel requirements of five different sun-to-wheels conversion pathways for every county in the contiguous U.S.: Ethanol from corn or switchgrass for internal combustion vehicles (ICVs), electricity from corn or switchgrass for BEVs, and PV electricity for BEVs. Even the most land-use efficient biomassbased pathway (i.e., switchgrass bioelectricity in U.S. counties with hypothetical crop yields of over 24 tonnes/ha) requires 29 times more land than the PV-based alternative in the same locations. PV BEV systems also have the lowest life cycle GHG emissions throughout the U.S. and the lowest fossil fuel inputs, except for locations with hypothetical switchgrass yields of 16 or more tonnes/ha. Including indirect land use effects further strengthens the case for PV.

Roland Geyer is Associate Professor at UCSB’s Bren School of Environmental Science. Prior to joining the Bren School he held research positions at the Centre for Environmental Strategy, University of Surrey, UK, the Centre for the Management of Environmental Resources, INSEAD, France, and was consultant in financial risk management for AMS (now part of CGI) in Germany. Since 2000 he has worked with a wide range of governmental organisations, trade associations, and companies on environmental sustainability issues. In his research he uses the approaches and methods of industrial ecology, such as life cycle assessment and material flow analysis, to assess pollution prevention strategies based on reuse, recycling, and material and technology substitution. Roland has a graduate degree in physics from the Technical University Berlin and a PhD in engineering from the University of Surrey, UK.

The objectives of the ThinkSpatial brown-bag presentations are to exchange ideas about spatial perspectives in research and teaching, to broaden communication and cooperation across disciplines among faculty and graduate students, and to encourage the sharing of tools and concepts.
Please contact Andrea Ballatore (893-5267, to review and schedule possible discussion topics or presentations that share your disciplinary interest in spatial thinking.

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ThinkSpatial: Roland Geyer