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Zero Carbon Emission Energy: The State of Research, Common and Emerging Technologies, and Future Trends, A Roundtable Discussion

When: June 9, 2022, 3:30 pm - Thursday

Where: Ezell 363

Session 5

Session Abstract

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has documented that: (1) traditional energy generation accounts for around 70 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, and (2) global energy emissions need to be reduced to net-zero to slow increases in global temperatures. Tennessee has become a crucible of innovation by Google, Facebook, Ford Motor Company, and the Tennessee Valley Authority in the use of new, zero-emission energy technologies such as solar photovoltaics, and a new, modular nuclear test project. This roundtable addresses these developments in the context of related research and practice and their implications for the future.

Paper Abstracts

Nick De Vries, Silicon Ranch Corporation, “Solar Energy: Recent Growth and Future Opportunity for a Zero Emissions Technology”

Founded in 2011, Silicon Ranch entered a U.S. solar market dominated by companies from Europe, the American West, and the Southwest. As a recognized solar industry leader, their investors include Shell, TD Greystone Infrastructure Fund (Global Master) L.P., Manulife (John Hancock), and Mountain Group Partners. Their business model thrives in states without solar portfolio standards or incentives competing against all generation technologies and includes over 4 gigawatts of solar and battery storage. This discussion addresses common misconceptions of solar energy, technology trends, future market expansion, and their holistic approach to land management, which the company has trademarked Regenerative Energy®.


Rusty Towell, Abilene Christian University, “Advanced Nuclear Research and Development: ACU NEXT Lab’s Molten Salt Research Reactor and the Natura Development Plan”

Advanced reactors build on the only safe, reliable, and carbon-free energy source making it even cleaner, safer, and more efficient.  The Nuclear Energy eXperimental Testing  (NEXT) Lab at Abilene Christian University has partnered with the NEXT Research Alliance (NEXTRA) to design, build and operate a research reactor at ACU.  This molten-salt cooled, liquid-fueled, research reactor will be the first advanced reactor licensed for operation by a university with sponsored research agreements between Natura Resources, LLC and four universities. This discussion addresses the advantages of nuclear power, the status of the MSRR, and plans for commercial deployment.


Jim Rossi, Vanderbilt University Law School, “Public Utilities at the Climate Crossroads”

Regulated electric utilities have long helped to keep customer rates low.  At the same time, utility regulation has protected incumbent energy infrastructure, often reflecting obsolete technologies that lock-in carbon emissions for future generations.  Utilities are at a crossroads, as addressing climate change presents a fundamental challenge to the traditional public utility paradigm.  The path towards decarbonization requires some fundamental changes to the utility business model.  Electric utility regulation can help to promote decarbonization, but it must also evolve towards carbon-informed consumption, zero-carbon generation technologies, and cleaner delivery of energy.


G. Dodd Galbreath, Lipscomb University, Convener

  • Nick De Vries, Silicon Ranch Corporation, “Solar Energy: Recent Growth and Future Opportunity for a Zero Emissions Technology”
  • Rusty Towell, Abilene Christian University, “Advanced Nuclear Research and Development: ACU NEXT Lab’s Molten Salt Research Reactor and the Natura Development Plan”
  • Jim Rossi, Vanderbilt University Law School, “Public Utilities at the Climate Crossroads”
  • Katharine Hayhoe, Nature Conservancy, Respondent

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James Cone with conferee at the CSC in 2017

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Pulitzer Prize winner Marilynne Robinson delivering the CSC plenary address

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Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), delivering the CSC plenary address.

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US Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith delivering the CSC plenary address

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David Brooks engaging conferees during breakfast at the CSC

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