Thursday, September 17, 2020

Back on Campus at a Hybrid Event Combatting Global Warming

Greetings from the Super-floor of the Marie Reay Teaching Centre at the Australian National University. I am taking part in a Carbon Energy for the Asia-Pacific Project Workshop.  This is my first time at a face to face activity on campus for months, due to COVID-19. The workshop is in hybrid mode, with some people in the room and some remote, via Zoom video conference. I had the option of participating from home (appropriately I am classified as one of the "cloud" participants in the project). But I have not seen my colleagues for months and I wanted to come in.  So far the technology has worked fine.

The Marie Reay building is suited to social distancing, as the floors are flat and the furniture is movable. The superfloor has been set out with tables which normally accommodate seven people (as shown in the stock image). Today each two rectangular tables have been pushed together to a make large square one, with one or two people on each side. This reduces the room's capacity in the already low density cabaret format by half.

A hand held microphone was used for audience input. This presented the problem of sterilizing the microphone between users. Microphone on a stands at fixed location would be an alternative (with an optional foot switch). A telepresence robot would be a more complex option.

This workshop is using the traditional format with a series of speakers with slides, each followed by questions from the audience. There is a slight modification, with the MC inviting remote participants to turn on their microphone to ask a question, or post it to the chat. The image of the speaker is not being transmitted, just slides. Switching from a presenter in the room to a remote one required some verbal negotiation, much like using a two-way radio. This slowed down proceedings a little, but is perhaps a good thing as it can at times be difficult for the audience to keep up with highly technical presenters.

As for the content of the workshop, one point of interest is that large renewable energy projects on indigenous land will, ironically, be unable to provide power to the local community. There will be mega watts of power being exported, but none can be provided from the large systems for the locals. The obvious solution is to require those putting in large projects to provide small independent local systems. The problem then is how are these systems maintained?

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