As the social and monetary costs of a fossil fuel-based economy continue to mount, business capital is seeking less risky energy investments, fearing the stranded assets of the fossil-fuel industry as renewables like sun and wind out-compete it in the marketplace. Recently, we've once again seen the instability of oil prices that are easily disrupted by the spurious decisions of foreign oil cartels.
Expensive fracking techniques in the U.S., once hailed as our key to energy independence, suddenly are rendered questionable as oil prices drop below the costs of production. Even when oil revenues are high, fracking depends on generous taxpayer handouts to be viable -- in essence a corporate welfare system.
This is a time when public universities such as Texas A&M can lead the transition from the fossil fuel economy to technologies that are sustainable in terms of job production, energy cost savings, a clean environment and freedom from geopolitical disturbance. The electric grid has up to now been dominated by a unidirectional power stream, originating at a production plant and distributed outward to customers.
In the future, smart-grid electricity likely will flow both ways, as consumers become mini-power stations, harnessing their own energy generators to send power back to the grid, lowering their utility costs while creating resiliency in the system.
Texas A&M has the technical expertise to lead by example. A specific project might be to recruit the seats and turf in Kyle Field to serve as solar panel platforms, transforming the stadium into a power plant between games. As a model of applied engineering and monetary efficiency providing two income streams (games and power), such a high-profile project likely would garner favorable international attention. The first universities to dual purpose athletic arenas and other structures would capture low-hanging fruit. Other campuses would follow.