Being an Engineer

S5E13 Paul Lee | Cities of the Future & Renewable Energy

March 29, 2024 Paul lee Season 5 Episode 13
S5E13 Paul Lee | Cities of the Future & Renewable Energy
Being an Engineer
More Info
Being an Engineer
S5E13 Paul Lee | Cities of the Future & Renewable Energy
Mar 29, 2024 Season 5 Episode 13
Paul lee

Aaron Moncur interviews Paul Lee about his career in renewable energy engineering and his role in the documentary "Cities of the Future." They discuss emerging sustainable energy technologies and the challenges and opportunities in transitioning to renewable sources

Main Topics:

  • Space-based solar power
  • Vertical air taxis
  • Wind and solar farm technology
  • Hydrogen fuel cells
  • Smart buildings
  • Battery storage
  • Rooftop solar costs
  • Engineering collaboration
  • Cities of the future film

About the guest: Paul Lee is a renewable energy engineer in Los Angeles who is always searching for new ways to harness energy from sustainable sources. His current work involves planning resources for a 100% clean energy city as an Energy Policy Analyst with the Mayor’s Office of Energy and Sustainability of the City of Los Angeles.  He has also worked on developing projects such as utility scale wind, solar, geothermal, biomass resources as well as energy storage such as batteries, pumped hydro, and other emerging technologies. 

Links:

Paul Lee - LinkedIn
American Society of Civil Engineers

About Being An Engineer

The Being An Engineer podcast is a repository for industry knowledge and a tool through which engineers learn about and connect with relevant companies, technologies, people resources, and opportunities. We feature successful mechanical engineers and interview engineers who are passionate about their work and who made a great impact on the engineering community.

The Being An Engineer podcast is brought to you by Pipeline Design & Engineering. Pipeline partners with medical & other device engineering teams who need turnkey equipment such as cycle test machines, custom test fixtures, automation equipment, assembly jigs, inspection stations and more. You can find us on the web at www.teampipeline.us

Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Aaron Moncur interviews Paul Lee about his career in renewable energy engineering and his role in the documentary "Cities of the Future." They discuss emerging sustainable energy technologies and the challenges and opportunities in transitioning to renewable sources

Main Topics:

  • Space-based solar power
  • Vertical air taxis
  • Wind and solar farm technology
  • Hydrogen fuel cells
  • Smart buildings
  • Battery storage
  • Rooftop solar costs
  • Engineering collaboration
  • Cities of the future film

About the guest: Paul Lee is a renewable energy engineer in Los Angeles who is always searching for new ways to harness energy from sustainable sources. His current work involves planning resources for a 100% clean energy city as an Energy Policy Analyst with the Mayor’s Office of Energy and Sustainability of the City of Los Angeles.  He has also worked on developing projects such as utility scale wind, solar, geothermal, biomass resources as well as energy storage such as batteries, pumped hydro, and other emerging technologies. 

Links:

Paul Lee - LinkedIn
American Society of Civil Engineers

About Being An Engineer

The Being An Engineer podcast is a repository for industry knowledge and a tool through which engineers learn about and connect with relevant companies, technologies, people resources, and opportunities. We feature successful mechanical engineers and interview engineers who are passionate about their work and who made a great impact on the engineering community.

The Being An Engineer podcast is brought to you by Pipeline Design & Engineering. Pipeline partners with medical & other device engineering teams who need turnkey equipment such as cycle test machines, custom test fixtures, automation equipment, assembly jigs, inspection stations and more. You can find us on the web at www.teampipeline.us

Aaron Moncur:

This is your invitation to leap ahead in your engineering career. The inaugural product development Expo PDX. happening in Phoenix, Arizona on Tuesday, May 14 2024 brings you face to face with the engineering elite. These aren't just any speakers. They're the industry's highest performing product development engineers ready to share the methods and strategies that have defined their success. Imagine learning design for manufacturability from those who've redefined it, diving deep into tolerance analysis with pioneers exploring novel engineering applications for Excel and unlocking unique 3d printing strategies all in one place. These high caliber engineers will open their playbooks offering practical hands on lessons forged over decades in the trenches of innovation. Don't miss out on this unparalleled opportunity to absorb the wisdom of those who've led the charge in engineering breakthroughs. PDX is your chance to not just meet but learn directly from these legends of engineering. Mark the date may 14 2024 In Phoenix, elevate your skills, ignite your creativity and join a community of growth minded engineering professionals at PDX. Learn more at Team pipeline.us forward slash PDX.

Paul Lee:

I can and want to pay more for like a cleaner, more sustainable seizure but you know a lot of people can't like for them like can we really ask them to like pay more for something that they don't immediately benefit from?

Aaron Moncur:

Hello, and welcome to the being an engineer Podcast. Today, we are privileged to speak with Paul Lee, a renewable energy engineer in Los Angeles was always searching for new ways to harness energy from sustainable sources. His current work involves planning resources for 100% Clean Energy city as an energy policy analyst the Mayor's Office of Energy and Sustainability of the city of Los Angeles. He also worked on developing projects such as utility scale wind, solar, geothermal, biomass resources, as well as energy storage such as batteries, pumped hydro and other emerging technologies. Paul, thank you so much for being on the show with us today.

Paul Lee:

Aaron, thanks for having me. It's great to be

Aaron Moncur:

All right. Can you tell me what made you decide to here. become an engineer?

Paul Lee:

Yeah, this story goes back to when I was in high school in my physics class. Oh, but Oh, there's one, there's one thing I need to update you on is because I'm currently in a career transition. And so I no longer working for the city of Los Angeles. But I will be starting a career with the US Department of Energy. So congratulations in the same that's exciting, clean energy space, and then I'll be starting in a few short weeks. Wow, congratulations.

Aaron Moncur:

That's terrific. Thank you. So there's a lot that you've done, obviously. But I think the focal point for much of this interview is going to be based on a film that you were featured in the film is called cities of the future.

Presenter:

Imagine a world where life on Earth is totally sustainable. Solar energy powers entire cities. Flying cars travel on highways in the sky. This isn't science fiction. The creators of Dream Big invite you on a journey into the future where today's engineers are designing solutions that will change the way we live.

Aaron Moncur:

Can you tell us a little bit about what this film is and what your part in it was?

Paul Lee:

Cat. This is this film. It's produced by the American Society of Civil Engineers. And really the goal of it is to highlight the engineering profession specifically civil and really envisioning what the cities of the future could be. And it's spotlighting engineers, young engineers, engineers from all disciplines. It's highlighting different cities and technologies to really inspire mostly people that want pursue engineering and also to highlight the field. Do us make us look cool, and also to make us more appealing to students who want to pursue engineering in the future? So yeah, monthly travel across the world highlighting cool stuff. And then really given this vision about what cities could look like, decades into the future, I'm

Aaron Moncur:

Really curious about how your role in this came to be. I mean, that's kind of a big deal, right? Getting to be participate as a character, if you will, in this film. Give us the backstory on that. How did that happen? Yeah,

Paul Lee:

It's a little surreal. I think I'm still like, getting to grips with the reality of what's happening. But I've been involved with AC the American Society of Civil Engineers ever since I was in college. And I've been, you know, well involved, I was selected as one of their quote unquote, new faces of engineering, submitted a handful of videos, so they knew who I was. And the American society, they filmed a film in the past called Dream big, very successful, it was it was on Netflix was narrated by I think, Jeff Bridges. And that was a hit. And that was inspiring a lot of kids to become engineers. And I think they, this was a time for a sequel. And they were looking for and then ended up in the previous movie, and dream big, they highlighted a handful of engineers, and they kind of want to do the same thing. And that interviewed a handful of younger engineers who work to camera shy. And I'll select it to be to be one of the people to be featured and interviewed with the director and one thing came after the other. And lo and behold, I'm in the film.

Aaron Moncur:

Amazing amazing. So what are some of the technologies that are showcased in in the film? I mean, you mentioned that you traveled, I guess, across the world? What were you looking for specific things? Or did you already know about kind of new and emerging technologies in the field of energy and sustainability, and you went to those places, specifically to see what was happening there?

Paul Lee:

For so the movie had a specific angle I wanted to take. So I've been in the clean energy industry for about seven years now. And I've seen all the technologies or a handful of them. Everything from established to things that are up and coming. And the movie, I think it had to strike a balance between technologies that were very, kind of WoW, on screen. Yeah, as well as Are these like new technologies? Are they going to be contributing to the cities of the future? And so yeah, I can talk a lot about my personal work in technologies that I've seen, and then some of the technologies that were featured in the film. And one of them, just to highlight is Caltech. They're developing, sending, like solar panels into space, and beaming that energy down. Because you know, on planet Earth, Wow, interesting, finite surface area, right? To glare. Yeah. And then in space is theoretically infinite. And so they're developing technologies to launch these panels into space, and have like, really interesting mechanisms to like, unfurl these these solar panels and like microwave technologies to beam it down to earth. I think that's a very promising technology, like not maybe in our generation, but in generations to come. And we're also waiting.

Aaron Moncur:

I had never heard about anything like that. Yeah,

Paul Lee:

it's very, like, the cutting edge of research.

Aaron Moncur:

So is that technology that that exists? Specifically the wireless transmission of that energy back to Earth? Or is this this is bleeding edge research that's happening in the hopes of developing that technology?

Paul Lee:

Well, I mean, Wireless energy transfer? I mean, it's been around it's like microwave technology. I mean, they cell phone communication is, you know, it's like Wireless energy transfer. Right? So it's like, it's like light, and you're just like, down it?

Aaron Moncur:

What point will we be able to drive our electric cars without having to plug in that kind of that kind of power? Right? Is that part of the cities of the future?

Paul Lee:

I've heard, like, maybe every one of our cars has an internal fusion fusion reactor, and we just never have to plug in. But um, I mean, that specifically isn't future, but we are envisioning what technology could evolve to us. It's a combination of things very far into the future. Technologies is very near and dear now, as well as technology that's like worked in the past forever. I mean, we went to Amsterdam, people, the primary mode of transportation is biking. And the reason why it's great like you don't, we don't have to use new technologies to advance a society. We can just use existing technology that just works well and maybe just needs to be, you know, resurfaced or repurpose. Yeah.

Aaron Moncur:

What are some of the other technologies that maybe if you could break them in To kind of two categories one, like the wow factor technology that may not ever come to fruition, but would be really cool if it did, versus the technologies that, yeah, there's a high degree of confidence that this stuff is is either already exists or is about to exist. And in the next 2030 years, you're probably going to start seeing this.

Paul Lee:

Yeah, I think they're Yeah, they're all like fall on a spectrum of so called, like, technology readiness. I think the space solar is definitely pretty far out. As far as whether or not we'll see that in commercial applications. Another technology that we highlight, I think it's kind of like, there's almost there are these ideas of kind of vertical air taxis. So these are just like, bigger versions of drones. And apologies to Jovi, because I think that's like a gross oversimplification of the technology. But these are, like quieter than helicopters way more efficient, they brought on battery power. And essentially, like, this is what people kind of almost think about when they think about like flying cars. So like people stuck in traffic, like we've just unlocked all of the airspace for people to get from point A to point B in like dense urban environments. Yeah, and I know that certain cities are experimenting with it, or they want to start kind of putting this out there and letting people try it.

Aaron Moncur:

Of course, there's going to be a difference between what we think is going to happen and what actually happens, but based on what the film highlights as the potential for air travel in the future, you mentioned it was kind of like a large drone. To help us build a little bit more context around that. I mean, is it is it really, you know, four rotors above your head spinning? Or is there an enclosure around it? What does that look like? What is the experience like for the person inside? Yeah,

Paul Lee:

so I didn't I didn't personally get to write inside it. But like, they're just going through all those approvals. But yeah, they have it has four rotors on top all battery powered. And as a pilot's theoretically derail, you know, pilot these things to be completely autonomous. Yeah. And then seating for, you know, maybe for accessory.

Aaron Moncur:

Oh, wow. Okay, so not just individuals, but groups of people. Yeah. Okay. What else what other technologies were presented during the film that were particularly interesting. There

Paul Lee:

are the, like, the technologies that I've worked on, which is like renewable power. So just solar wind, just large, large swaths of solar fields and, and wind farms. And because just just the density of the energy that we need, and kind of like the availability of it, we're just going to need to have just astronomical volumes of these renewable sources. So that's, that's being highlighted. Another technology that's being piloted our smart buildings. So there was a building in Amsterdam that put in a lot of like, the sensor arrays that kind of open and close it's built, like it's Windows based on like the occupancy rate. So like a building that kind of like, understands the occupancy and cake dynamically changes its state accordingly. So it's like a smart building, so to speak. And I know like that's, that's been deployed and like places here and there, but it was really cool to see it like in an entire office space. Yeah,

Aaron Moncur:

I bet. And you were you got to be there in person, right? For a lot of

Paul Lee:

this. Yeah. That was very cool.

Aaron Moncur:

So what was your role? Were you kind of like the subject matter expert, and they did highlight a technology and then that you talk about it? Is that how it happened? Yeah,

Paul Lee:

my role is really, I think it's, I play multiple hats in the movies like one Yeah, I'm the subject matter experts. I'm also like this mentor that's mentoring. This group of kids, they're competing in the science competition, like city like future cities. They're creating a model of what they're envisioning to be a future city. And they're looking for Me for guidance. And I'm sort of traveling the world seeing inspiration, mentoring these kids giving them tips on how to build their projects. So a little bit yeah, for me, it's like I'm bringing some subject matter expertise in my domain, which is like energy. But I'm also like, exploring different opportunities and also different technologies that can like that I can learn from and also inspire these kids in the film that are also using that information and knowledge to to excel in their competition.

Aaron Moncur:

Yeah. Let's go back to wind power generation. And I sometimes drive to California. In fact, I was just there twice actually been there twice this year already on a couple of business trips. And there are these giant wind farms, right, that are that are just outside of the city. Like as you're going into LA. You know what I'm talking about?

Paul Lee:

Yep. Out of Palm Springs. Yeah. Ah, yes, yes,

Aaron Moncur:

yes, that's right. They're right in Palm Springs. Yeah. And we noticed that it looked like anyway, there were almost like different generations of these windmills. Can you talk a little bit about how that technology has advanced and and what some of the newer generation Wind energy has is offering that the older generation isn't offering and where we're going in the future for that? Yeah, for

Paul Lee:

wind technology? Yeah, wind has just been a staple of clean energy for decades. And yeah, when you when you see when you go, you see like, yeah, these are, they're all kind of different, but also kind of similar. So I know a lot like some of them are built using like a trust network. Some of them are on like a monopole. And there's a really like a difference in like, so trust system was very prominent when labor costs were cheap. And mature material was expensive. And it's since flipped. We're now material costs are cheaper, labor is expensive. And so that's this is the transition of the economy. Additional advances in wind technology, it's really like size. So just being able to transport enormous blades, because I think you get like a cubic increase in power, like the higher up you go as a function of writing. And so the higher that we can build wind turbines, the more power that we can get, and much more efficiently. So so Another advantage is just being able to build taller, and also being able to build off shore.

Aaron Moncur:

And that's the overall height of the tower, not the length of the blade itself.

Paul Lee:

It's a combination of both like, the height and the length of the blades, and then okay, equations that people can can derive. And I'm sure just like the specs that you can look up, but yeah, yeah, it's really a height. That is like the most important part.

Aaron Moncur:

How long are those blades? I'm sure they vary, right. But like some of those in Palm Springs, it's hard to gauge from the road, right? But they're, they kind of be just gigantic.

Paul Lee:

They are pretty massive. I don't have a number at the top of my head. Okay. But yeah, okay. I'm just one Google away. So.

Aaron Moncur:

Right, right. Okay. Let's see. I'm sure you were able to hear about and maybe you already had pretty good understanding of this. But policymakers as as they relate to as their activities relate to clean energy, renewable energy and thinking towards the future, right cities of the future? What What advice would you give to policymakers who are looking to contribute to the development of sustainable future oriented cities?

Paul Lee:

I spent, yeah, I spent a considerable amount of time like in the policymaking space. So sometimes being a policymaker myself, sometimes being a bridge between policymakers and engineers, and just getting like a different perspective on how decisions are made. Because oftentimes, the engineering solution doesn't really jive well with what people want broadly. And I would say, let's, to policymakers that want to build future cities, we have technologies, like we have solutions in place, it's just a matter of how much they care, and how much do you want to push, because the one that some of the biggest causes really like political capital, political will costs, like in order to make the energy transition happened, now, it's not going to be cheap. And so really, like getting people on board, like, Hey, your your power bills gonna go up, that's going to be uncomfortable, but it's going to be, you know, we're gonna, we're gonna see great benefits, maybe, like, maybe not as much in the short term, but definitely in the long term. And this is where you really need that like political leadership. And these policymakers that have like a longer term vision of where society can be, instead of like, just focusing on like, short term and next election cycles. So like, if they do truly care, like making policy decisions that are durable and long lasting, and enables us engineers to build the things that we are recommending. is really my advice. Like we have to think of like the technologies we have now to build a city of future that's like very sustainable, and how are people to find sustainability? Like we have a lot of those technologies and now we just need to like build it. Yeah.

Aaron Moncur:

Can you think of any any stories off the top of your head, maybe you were directly involved in them? Or maybe it's another group that you're familiar with, but where how engineers developed a new technology that that is being used in some sort of sustainable nature right now, whether it's wind or or hydro or something else all together, and any stories that come to mind where I A new technology was developed this that's being used now,

Paul Lee:

that's being used now. So really, a technology is very interesting now is hydrogen is using hydrogen as a form of long duration energy storage. So, so really a crux of the problem of like a full energy transition is like, like that vast stockpile of energy. So right now, like you can stockpile coal, you can just have mounds of coal laying around. And on a rainy day, you could just burn all that coal when when you know, like the clouds covering the solar panels, and there's no wind blowing, you can stockpile tons of natural gas until like these caverns, but they all have like these problems, they can like these things leak and coal can get in the water. And so there hasn't been an exact equivalence for hydrogen, or some sort of renewable technology, like batteries are okay, but they don't have like the energy density or the stockpile of batteries, like it's impossible, like you need like a mountain of batteries. And this is like not feasible. Whereas like technology, whereas hydrogen, like specifically hydrogen derived from renewable sources, so you use electrolysis zap water, you can split it into hydrogen and oxygen. And you can keep the hydrogen molecules. Either you can either burn it through a generator, generate electricity, or you can use it through a fuel cell to generate power. And that's a technology like hydrate has been around forever. Fuel cells have been around forever. It was just right now we're I think the technology and the cost, and everything is sort of coming together where hydrogen could be the next next big thing for the energy transition. And we are like California at least is like planning on building a lot of hydrogen systems as part of its energy portfolio.

Aaron Moncur:

That's really interesting. And it makes me want to ask you about EVs. Right? I mean, EVs, they have become much more popular than they were before thanks largely to Tesla. But now other companies are jumping on that bandwagon. But there's only almost been like, a backsliding a little bit right. I know, Ford had early predictions of of the volumes that they were going to be manufacturing in terms of number of vehicles. Right, Evie? Vehicles, it's a duplicate as an electric vehicle vehicles. Anyway, they've, they've since revised those numbers and cut them down, it was in half, or something a lot less. And there's been speculation around the world that there's just not enough raw materials in the earth to satisfy the demand for for what it would take to really truly make that transition to to EVs like, you know, for the vast majority of folks out there who are driving a vehicle. Now on the other hand, there's there's hydrogen, which there was there have been kind of fits and spurts of, of hydrogen fueled vehicles. But it's never really taken off in the way that EVs have been our this situation where there's starting to be some infrastructure for EVs, and we're starting to learn or at least there's speculation that might not be enough raw materials to to really fuel the volume of batteries. We need to have any any comments or opinions on how that all is gonna play out. Yeah,

Paul Lee:

I mean, it's like fascinating to like, dig into like, the global supply chain. It's like, I'm sure I'm sure someone's like, run the numbers on like, do we have enough cobalt? Like for the full energy transition? And like, what are their earth minerals that we need? I would say so there's been some debate regarding using hydrogen for kind of vehicle fuels. But so from, from what I've seen, and from what I've been kind of, like pitched in, like what the analysis have shown is that hydrogen is a very promising technology for these like, quote, unquote, like hard to decarbonize sectors and warrant industrial fund. So like port operations, perhaps even like aviation, or or like shipping, like shipping boats, trucks, things that need like, a huge volume of energy to go like very long distances. Hydrogen could be a very, very, like very promising technology, because the only way to add more battery power is to stack more batteries. The batteries are heavy, and so you get like this, like diminishing return curve. As far as just like adding batteries for four more miles. I don't know where that's gonna go. I think that's like a function of like the market and the economy. I mean, this inflation's pretty bad right now. I think we're still recovering from the pandemic as far as like recovering our supply chain. So it's hard to tell really, I don't have a crystal ball. I think it's just gonna be like how fast technologies develop is one gonna win over the next who is making these investments, but hydrogen isn't out of the game, as far as like fueling the transportation Actor specifically again, like it's

Aaron Moncur:

making a little bit of a comeback right now. Yeah. Going back to the film, and renewable energy for cities, what technology do you think is going to be the most immediate that gets implemented into, you know, more of our daily living into the power grid? And, you know, to some extent, many of these already have been, but is there going to be a, you know, tidal shift in one energy or the other, say, in the next 10 years, do you think?

Paul Lee:

I think in the next 10 years or so, I mean, there's a lot of like economic analysis where just just the price of solar the price of like batteries, like conventional, solar, conventional way, and these, these things are starting to like asymptotically, like level out, but they're still, the costs are still reducing every year. And, like battery, lithium ion battery technologies, like for energy storage, those are receiving like a much the slope of the cost reduction is very steep. Like it hasn't really like asymptotically bottomed out. And so what I think we'll we'll really see is like no further deployments of wind and solar, a lot of these times the marginal costs are beating out coal, sometimes even natural gas. So like, just economically, you'll see these replacements was more progressive states, more progressive areas, like you'll see a more aggressive push for renewables. But I think what we'll see in the next 10 years is like more deployments of like lithium ion batteries for energy storage, because they have like, just from an economics and electrical engineering and like power flow, like, like a power systems perspective, just having more batteries on the grid is great. It solves so many problems like not to get into the weeds of like voltage regulation, and frequency regulation. And like all these different like, like benefits that batteries have on the grid. And the grid operations is like kind of like suck these things up. Because it just enhances the value, like you get more more bang for your buck on the power system, installing batteries, and the lower the the cheaper they get, the more value they bring. And so like that's my prediction is like, we're gonna keep seeing a steady increase of renewables. But like an aggressive increase in battery and energy source technologies on the grid.

Aaron Moncur:

Yeah. You mentioned the the costs for some of these energy sources, continues to go down. How do you feel about solar and the expectation for future costs to implement soar? i A few years ago, put solar panels on the roof of our home? And it was stupid expensive. Honestly, if I had to do over again, I don't think I would do it because I just have not seen the returns on on what it cost to put the solar panels on. Do you see the cost of solar dropping precipitously over the near future? Or is it going to continue to be you know, fairly expensive? I

Paul Lee:

think it's gonna, it's gonna i My prediction is that solar, we're gonna see like a steady decline in costs. But the thing is, like with solar on roofs, like a lot, a lot of is driven by policy, where each individual state or city has different incentive mechanisms for installing rooftop solar. There's a bit of a little bit like, you know, sometimes utilities don't like it when Yeah, customers install solar on the rooftop. So they get, like, kind of complicated that way. And then there's this whole debate about like, what's the value of solar on someone's rooftop, and this been like, debate for many years, especially in California, so that if people are interested, like they can, like the NEM, that energy metering 3.0, that debate kind of going goes into the nuances of the value the arguments for rooftop solar, how much to compensate people. So that's like a huge economic driver, that dictates the cost of specific rooftop solar, but there's still opportunities to like just bring the cost of solar down, like full stop. Like I think there's like a theoretical limit of like, like silicon based solar PV cells, I think it's like 50% efficiency. I think right now, most commercial applications are like 15% energy capture. And so there's like a lot of room to develop, maybe using like a the most advanced NASA's Solar cells like it has like pretty high efficiency. So like we still have like some headroom, as far as increased the efficiency of solar panels, just like by facial technology that can absorb light in both directions. And so there's new, like, technological improvements, like keep bringing the cost of solar down. Interesting. That's encouraging. Yeah, like a steady decline as opposed to like, like a really, really big dramatical. Yeah. Okay.

Aaron Moncur:

In cities of the future, so as far as I know, you're not an actor. You're an engineer. But yes, it's

Paul Lee:

very obvious that I'm not.

Aaron Moncur:

So I'm curious. What was that? Like, you know, you had this technical background and all of a sudden, you're in an entertainment industry environment. What were some things that happened during the course of filming that you just you never even knew to expect? Because it was so far outside what you're you Students and engineer. Yeah, it's,

Paul Lee:

it was interesting, like, experiencing the behind the scenes of a movie making process. So it was it was amazing just to seeing like how the crew like the professionalism, like the production, like logistics, like how things are filmed with the cameras and lighting and set up and sort of how the director kind of, like blocks everything for the perfect shot. So like, but for me, like the director was great, because like, that's sort of his specialty, where he's getting non actors to kind of look decent on camera. So the like, the type of shoes he would give, like, the directions he would give it very, like natural is not like, hey, act this way, or like get into like a zone and like, memorize lines, it's more so like, hey, imagine yourself in this scenario, that's very plausible. The thing is, is like I had to do like dozens and dozens of takes. That was really, to

Aaron Moncur:

get it just perfect, right? Yeah. How long did it take the entire filming process? It

Paul Lee:

took at least a year. So like, every few months, we would just have like a new, like filming opportunity. So like Singapore, Amsterdam, Washington, DC, various locations in California. So it was really spaced out for over the course of a year. It was a it was a it was a great experience.

Aaron Moncur:

So all the places that you visited was there one in particular that whether it was because of the you know, the city or the town itself, or just because of the technology, but do any of them really stand out to you as being just really, really cool or interesting or a valuable experience.

Paul Lee:

I so there are elements of each city that I absolutely loved. So in Amsterdam, it was really seeing a city that's, that can get by without cars, for the most part, like like such a walkable city, such as city that's just driven by bikes. And it was a decision that was consciously made by people, like, Hey, we're gonna decide to run our city primarily off of bicycling, which I love, and kind of like, minimize cars in the heart of the city. And I think I thought that was amazing. Because I would love it for cities like Los Angeles to like rely less on cars. And then in Singapore, Singapore was just amazing, because of the amount of greenery that the city is able to incorporate. Again, it's a really in like, it's near the equator, very humid. And so there's a lot of kind of natural vegetation, but just the way that they're integrating like nature into the urban landscape was was quite remarkable.

Aaron Moncur:

What are some of the biggest obstacles that you see for not just policymakers, but infrastructure, even engineers? Who are developing these technologies? What are some of the biggest obstacles for going from where we are right now to, you know, where we, where we hope to be 50 years from now? Yeah, I

Paul Lee:

think. So short term, kind of going into medium term, I think we are experiencing a labor shortage, like we don't have enough people to do the work that's needed. Which is crazy, which is crazy to me. Like,

Aaron Moncur:

like, there are a lot of people on the earth, right? Where does everyone? Yeah, like, we

Paul Lee:

need more engineers out here, we need more people to like, we need more construction workers and contractors, we just need, we just need more hands to build these things. And like, and also, like recovering from COVID, and supply chain and inflation, like things are more expensive. And also just cost like we're gonna have to pay for this. And like, do we have, like, are we willing to do that? Are we willing to, like, sacrifice now for a better future? And and I think that's a question like, for me, like I'm privileged enough that I can and want to pay more for like, a cleaner, more sustainable seizure. But you know, a lot of people can't like why people like they're not educated enough. Like they don't know, they don't have the means they don't have the disposable income people living from paycheck to paycheck, struggling to pay their electricity bill. I like for them, like, can we really ask them to like, pay more for something that they don't immediately benefit from? So I think that's gonna be a big challenge. It's like, how do we pay? And how do we make that how do we make that cut? Like, how do we absorb that cost in a way that doesn't make people suffer? In the short term? Very

Aaron Moncur:

insightful questions to ask. All right. Well, Paul, I'm going to ask you the question that I usually ask everyone, as we're winding down and finishing up the episode, which is specifically within the context of your role as an engineer, what is one thing that frustrates you? And also one thing that brings you joy? I

Paul Lee:

think, yeah, when I was, I was like, thinking about is like, Oh, I know. really frustrates me, I think some one thing that really frustrates me. And actually, when I was a younger engineer, I was very naive. I had all these like aspirations, and I wanted to do everything else. It's like, fix everything and all these like big ideas. And I was really seeing things like, like going into industry, and seeing so many things like operate in silos, where you have your team that's doing one thing, you have another team that's doing another thing. And then like, a solution, where if both of them work together, it will make everyone happy. But like, they just the teams don't talk, they don't collaborate. That was like the most like frustrating thing for me as a yarder engineer, and it still frustrates me to this day, because this notion of like, we do things a certain way, because that's the way it's always been done. But for me, that's like, like laziness. And I'm, like, you know, if we're gonna do the same thing, like, all the time, like, a task is going to be automated, like, Yeah, where's like, where's like, the innovation Where's like, the, the need to, like, do things better and collaborate. And so that's something that frustrates me to this day. And like, I'm always that person that's trying to like, I'm the annoying person to try and like innovate certain things, like against that wall. And then some of my biggest like, joys is when I'm able to break that wall. And I'm able to find solutions that like, aren't like prescribed necessarily, or like not, it's not code or is hasn't been done before. It's new. It's uncomfortable for people. But like, we go through this, like whole exercise, and like, everyone gets it, and we're able to, like use this new technology or new method, just to just to like, improve. So that's like one of the like, my biggest satisfaction to this one that's actually able to happen. And I'm like, in the room for one does. Awesome.

Aaron Moncur:

Love it. Well, Paul, will will wind things down here, but can you share? Where can people go to find the the movie cities of the future? Is it available now? Or do we have to wait for a while? So

Paul Lee:

yeah, just keep an eye eye out on like science centers that will be showing this. So it'll be where IMAX films are played, most likely in museums, science centers, it's starting to roll out in different cities. So just keep an eye out. It's bound to air wherever, wherever you are. Or follow ASCE, the American civil engineer, so they're doing a lot of events launch events for for the premiere of the

Aaron Moncur:

movie. Terrific. And how can people get in touch with you? For me?

Paul Lee:

I'm not too active on social media, but people can find me on LinkedIn. It's my full name. So Paul Suk Lee. So Paul, PAUL SUK LEE, just shoot me a message and I be happy to chat.

Aaron Moncur:

Awesome. All right, Paul. Well, thank you so much for being on the show today. I sure appreciate talking with you.

Paul Lee:

Yeah, likewise, this was great. You're a great host.

Aaron Moncur:

Thank you. All right, until Until next time. I'm Aaron Moncur, founder of pipeline design and engineering. If you liked what you heard today, please share the episode. To learn how your team can leverage our team's expertise developing turnkey equipment, custom fixtures and automated machines and with product design, visit us at Team pipeline.us. Thanks for listening

Paul Lee's motivation to become an engineer
Discussion of Cities of the Future film
Details on space-based solar power research
Advancements in wind turbine technology
Smart buildings technology deployment
Advice for sustainable city policymakers
Potential for hydrogen energy storage