“Energy 101” this week at Wednesday Nite @ The Lab

Hi WN@TL Fans,

I will miss this week’s talk, but I hope you won’t.

This was my second trip to Senegal, nearly 20 years after my first one.  A score of years enables some piercing perspective on what in my observations are similar and what’s blow-me-out-of-the-water changed.  And since this week’s WN@TL topic is energy, I’ve been toting some of the differences between here and home.

First, the Sun.  It’s nearly overhead this time of year.  I had to plan on dealing with a solar blowtorch.  Shade isn’t just solace, it’s defilade.  Life both in the city and in the village slows from midday til about 4.  But then folks & families with small kids stay out and about on the streets or in the parks til midnight and beyond.  You’d think a country rich in solar resources would be checkerboarded with photovoltaic panels, but not yet.

Second, air-conditioning.  I am a weak Westerner, and AC has become Essential, whether it’s in the car or in the hotel room.  The four nights at resorts without AC meant erratic & shallow sleep under mosquito nets.  On a fifth night in a Dakar hotel with AC, a thunderstorm knocked out the power and converted my room from a 70 degree oasis to an 85 degree sauna in about 20 minutes.  But AC is a luxury here for all but the upper echelons and for rich visitors (including me).

Third, transportation.  Wow, the variety of ways to get around is breath-taking, and literally so considering how wide-spread is the use of Diesel engines.  Even in a city of several million people, folks get around not only by cars, taxis, and busses, but also on motor scooters and motorcycles (mostly two-cycle), and notably on horse- or mule-drawn single-axle charettes, and especially on foot.  I didn’t see electric vehicles or hybrids of any type, nor EV charging stations.  There were two liquid fuels:  diesel at 755 CFA/liter and 87 octane gas at 990 CFA/liter, country wide.

Finally, building materials.  This is a nation of farmers and fishers, of entrepreneurs and masons.  Senegal sprawls in buildings built of rebar-reinforced concrete and home-made concrete blocks.  Cement is to Senegal as wood is to Wisconsin.  But most of the buildings I saw here under construction have no insulation, and corrugated metal roofs are much preferred to the old-school thatch roofs that kept houses from heating up compared to the metal replacement.

In these and other ways, how in Senegal energy is produced, stored, delivered and used, and how the energy costs and benefits are toted up by the consumer and by the state, gave me much to contrast with Wisconsin.

On July 12 Andrea Strzelec of the College of Engineering will provide her insights into ways to look at the interplay between energy & power and how these help us to make decisions on how we fuel our cars, light up our factories and offices, keep our homes comfortable, and reduce our environmental impacts. 

Description:  Energy is everywhere! While we use it everyday, few of us can probably actually come up with a good definition for energy. Additionally, we learn about the Law of Conservation of Energy – but then why do we have conservation campaigns? If energy is conserved, why do parents need to constantly remind kids to turn off lights when they leave a room?? What is the difference between “energy” and “power”? What about “entropy”? how does that matter for energy transfer and use? These are the energy terms we need to understand in order to make wise decisions about energy use and public policy – so let’s dive in to energy!

Bio:  Dr. Andrea Strzelec the Program Director for and faculty in the Master of Engineering in Engine Systems online degree program in the College of Engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She is also appointed as an Associate Research Scientist in the Departments of Mechanical Engineering and Nuclear & Engineering Physics.  Andrea’s research interests are in energy!!! Specifically, she studies the release of energy via combustion, exhaust aftertreatment, and sustainable fuels. She is the PI of a $3M DOE award on these topics. She is the current Chair for Energy & Propulsion Activity for the Society of Automotive Engineers and was elected Fellow in 2022. She is a passionate advocate for science outreach – specifically for thermodynamic and life cycle analysis of transportation energy.

Explore More:  http://andreastrzelec.com

Hope to see you soon — in person, by YouTube livestream or by Zoom — at Wednesday Nite @ The Lab.

Tom ZinnenBiotechnology Center & Division of Extension, Wisconsin 4-H