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Sunday, May 15, 2016

KENJI'S GOLF SAFARI: Day 5/6--A Focus on the Florida Solar Energy Center

Kenji's Golf Safari generally goes golfing in the morning.  We feature different drinks:
  • Day 1:  Red and White Wines
  • Day 2:  Bloody Mary
  • Day 3:  Day of intolerance
  • Day 4:  Gin Martini
  • Day 5:  Red and White Wines
We usually meet late in the afternoon for intellectual exercise and advanced imbibition.  To the right Kenji Sumida, and below, David Block, watching over one of our session servings, which featured Margarita:


The members of Kenji's group are all from Hawaii, except for Dave, who is from Florida.  I don't remember when we first met, but it was somewhere in the '70's.  I thought, in this period of travel, it was a good time to describe the Florida Solar Energy Center (FSEC), which is the largest state-related solar organization, with 140 employees, currently directed by James Fenton.

Dave began as one of the original seven faculty members in the College of Engineering at Florida Technological University (FTU) in 1968, after gaining a PhD in Engineering Mechanics from Virginia Polytechnical University.   He is originally from Iowa.  In 1978 FTU became the University of Central Florida (UCF).  I recall when I first knew Dave that his university had around 2,000 students, while the University of Hawaii at Manoa had 20,000.  Today?  UCF = 61,000 students, with the largest undergraduate enrollment in the World.  UH?  Still around 20,000.


During the First Energy Crisis, the Florida Solar Energy Center (FSEC) was formed in 1974, as was the Hawaii Natural Energy Institute (HNEI).  I vaguely recall that someone named Howard Harrington was working in the College of Engineering at the University of Hawaii in the early '70's, and left for Florida, where he became the first director of FSEC, which is attached to UCF.  It must have been three decades ago when Dave hosted a golf safari to Sebring, Florida, where the out-of-town guests were Richard Rocheleau (leftwho is presently director of the HNEI), Charles Kinoshita (who just retired as an Associate Dean at the University of Hawaii), Tadashi Matsunaga (right, who is now president of the Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology) and me.  These golf safaris can be very influential in affecting a participant's future.


David Block became director of FSEC in 1977 and served in that role for a quarter century.  He still is "almost" full time there.  I did not became director of HNEI until the mid-'80's, retiring after 15 years as head, and that was 17 years ago.  I maintain an office at HNEI on our Manoa Campus, spending my time mostly writing books, giving talks and, supposedly, mentoring people.  Dave has published a book, The History of the Florida Solar Energy Center, which can be purchased for $25.  Contact JoAnn Stirling at 321 638 1014.  We have travelled together through the Orient and Europe.

He and his wife Sharon in 1988 joined the HNEI team to Moscow for the World Hydrogen Energy Conference (I chaired the gathering in 1990 when it was held in Honolulu, and Dave was in charge a few years later when the conference went to Florida), followed by a driving tour throughout Europe.  In 2000 we golfed at St. Andrews and the next day Carnoustie, which the previous year had hosted the Open (also known as the British Open).  They had specially built a new hotel at the course, and the room I had on the ground floor could listen to the players talking at the first hole, and just to the right, the 18th.

FSEC and HNEI have always had a close relationship.  Paul Yuen, a former HNEI director, in the '70's, was contracted by FSEC, on a project led by Block, to write a report on OTEC.  A decade later, Louis Rotundo of FSEC, who had previously worked for Florida Senator Lawton Chiles,  helped me in saving the OTEC budget.  Read the details.

Louis and I also also had a fateful meeting during this period about the future of hydrogen.  To make a long story short, Dave and I wrote a report to the the U.S. Department of Energy on hydrogen priorities, and got Senator Spark Matsunaga to submit it to the Secretary of Energy.  Dave sent Louis to join me in a DC meeting with USDOE officials, and they flew in experts from their national labs to ridicule our report.  However, after half an hour of agonizing diatribe, we were able to convince these criticizers that we were not there to steal their money.  We indicated we could get Congress to provide a regular budget, which at that time was zero.  The next hour of this monumental session was they instructing us on how best to get funds to them for hydrogen.  Thus, from zero in the mid-eighties to a hydrogen budget larger than the solar technology program a dozen years later.  The sudden resurgence of possible hydrogen cars I reported on yesterday (scroll down to read it) would not have occurred without this meeting.

Today, David Block is still monitoring a joint project with HNEI on something to do with EVs and chargers and the like.  My lifetime link to FSEC is that I donated some money to the Center some time ago, which got me a plaque with my name on the back of a seat in their auditorium.  I requested that this seat be somewhere in the last row.  I've sat in it.

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