Randall Coleman paper on Nikki Noushkam

Randall Coleman
Armond Aghakhanian
BUS 301
11 October 2011

Guest Speaker Nikki Noushkam, PE, REA

Nikki Noushkam is an engineer with many years of experience in the energy industry.  She has worked with companies like Exxon Mobile and as a Registered Environmental Assessor for the government.  Nikki's real world experience allowed her to present her view of five categories of renewable energy.  The categories were hydro power, solar power, wind turbine, geothermal, and energy created from biomass.  Nuclear power was excluded due to the issues involved with disposing of highly radioactive materials.  According to Nikki, no power source is impact free but sustainable energy should be able to continue providing power without a long-term detrimental impact on the environment.
According to Nikki, In 2009, 11.6% of California's energy came from renewable sources in the five categories listed above.  This number is mandated to go up to 33% for California from renewable sources of power in the future.  Nikki covered cheap and effective sources of power like hydro power which is created from dams like the Hoover and Shasta.  These dams provide about 9.2-14.5% of power to California, and she covered the reasons why these are unlikely to be built in the future due to environmental impact and the impact on water flows.  
Nikki also covered wind power and the wind farms like those seen in Palm Springs and Tehachapi Pass.   Wind power is cost effective at about .60/KwH but places where wind power would be most effective, like offshore and in the planes are difficult to put wind turbines due to protest or lack of infrastructure.
Of the five categories, one of Nikki's favorite sustainable sources was solar power.  The area of solar power shows great potential as a sustainable source of energy.   With Solar power costing between 1.16-3.12/KwH, solar power is not currently as cost effective as coal, or wind, but because of its ability to be installed locally, it does not require as much infrastructure to be in place as the other two sources.  The costs associated with solar may also go down as economies of scale start to increase.  Although solar has a few drawbacks, like degradation of material over time, and cost, as technology improves, the drawbacks should become less of an issue.
In my opinion, Nikki did a great job covering the five sources of power from a technological and cost vs. benefit standpoint, but I would have liked to hear more about her opinion on a comprehensive energy policy that needs to be developed in order to take advantage of all the technologies.   She briefly mentioned at the end that the United States is lacking an energy policy, but what can be done to fix this and move the U.S. forward in spite of the competing special interest groups that are in place to preserve the current system?  This is the key question I would like to hear addressed in more detail.