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New Unit of Energy from a "Godfather"

Watch out, Joule: there’s a new unit of energy measurement on the block that is oh so green.

The Rosenfeld, named after physicist and energy savings pioneer Arthur Rosenfeld, is defined as the electricity savings of 3 billion kilowatt-hours per year, the amount needed to replace the annual generation of a 500 megawatt coal-fired power plant, according to the press release from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL).

There are 54 co-authors on the referred paper in Environmental Research Letters out today that suggests this new unit. Rosenfeld is considered to be a “godfather of energy efficiency” and has been “credited with being personally responsible for billions of dollars in energy savings,” according to Lab communications.

Rosenfeld received his Ph.D. in Physics in 1954 under Enrico Fermi, then joined the Department of Physics at the University of California at Berkeley. He worked with, and went on to lead, the Nobel prize-winning particle physics group of Luis Alvarez at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. However he became very interested in energy usage and efficiency science, and in 1974, he began to focus his research in this field. He launched the Center for Building Science at LBNL and led it until 1994. The Center developed electronic ballasts for fluorescent lamps (which led to compact fluorescent lamps), low-emissivity windows, and the DOE-2 computer program for the energy analysis and design of buildings, for which Rosenfeld was personally responsible, as reported on the website of the California Energy Commission, for which Rosenfeld has served as a Commissioner for 10 years.

Now that he has completed two terms as a Commissioner, he is returning to LBNL to continue his research.

It is not every day that a new unit of measurement is announced, nor is it often that it is named after a physicist. Of course, this physicist already has a few terms named after him. The “Rosenfeld effect” clarifies “why California’s per capital electricity usage has remained flat since the mid-1970s while U.S. usage has climbed steadily and is now 50 percent higher than it was 40 years ago.” The term has been popularized by U.S. Secretary of Energy Stephen Chu, who has called Rosenfeld a hero of his, according to the press release.

There is also “Rosenfeld’s Law,” which states that the amount of energy required to produce one dollar of economic output has decreased by about 1 percent per year since 1845.

Ashok Gadgil, acting director of Berkeley Lab’s Energy and Environmental Technologies Division and one of the co-authors, says the timing of the Rosenfeld unit is particularly apropos. “We’re launching this definition at a time when we’re on the cusp, I think, from not worrying about carbon emissions to worrying like crazy about carbon emissions. It’s also a very practical way to think about energy resources.”


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