Jacques Chirazi: "I’m an environmentalist, so I’m always looking for ways to improve how humans live on this planet."
For Jacques E. Chirazi, who has managed the Cleantech program for the City of San Diego since 2007, the phrase for the future is biomimicry innovation.
Simply put, that’s the science of innovating from nature’s genius and then applying that knowledge to solve human challenges.
In his role, Chirazi helps create new jobs, generate additional revenue through new economic activity, and improve environmental quality.
As a UC San Diego Extension instructor, Chirazi shares an upcoming 10-session course – “Clean Energy/Clean Tech” – with fellow instructors Robert Gilleskie and Frederick C. Speece, from Oct. 9 through Dec. 11.
A graduate of San Diego State University, Chirazi earned a master’s in international environmental policy from UC San Diego’s Graduate School of International Relations & Pacific Studies.
Q: What’s the most fulfilling aspect of your every-day job with Cleantech?
A: It’s really about having a positive impact on my community. A lot of the projects I do are about improving overall quality of life and providing new, innovational tools that people can use, whether it’s in energy or transportation.
Q: What’s the most rewarding part of being an Extension instructor?
A: I always tell my students that I’m here to share my passion and my knowledge. But I’m also constantly learning from them, as well.
Q: After the course is over, do you sense your students have changed the way they view the concept of clean energy?
A: I think so, yes. In fact, many of my former students come back and tell me that they’ve changed their career path, or that they now have a different outlook on their life. They’re excited about getting involved in making more sustainable choices as part of their long-term goals.
Q: What are the basic tenets of clean tech?
A: Way back when, we used to call it “Sustainable Development.” In my heart, I’m an environmentalist, so I’m always looking for ways to improve how humans live on this planet. Finding a way in which we could balance human growth along with a greater stewardship of the earth – it’s really about trying to find a balance between economic development and our environmental policies.
Q: What should we be doing more clean-tech lives?
A: For all of us, it starts within your own sphere of influence. Such as, you and your family having a greater sense of conscience, in terms of gratitude for the limited and diminishing natural resources we have. Every day, we make decisions about all kinds of things – whether it’s about the car we drive or the food choices we make. And it’s about asking ourselves: Can I save time, energy and resources by doing something else? I really want us to be thinking about how we can do more with less.
Q: What kind of car do you drive?
A: I drive a very old Honda, which is not the most energy-efficient car. But I do try to use mass transit as much as possible. I usually take the bus, but from time to time, I have to use my car. However, I’m also a member of the car-share service, which is a program that I manage.
Q: What’s the future of battery-powered cars?
A: I think the future is going to come from innovators like [Tesla founder] Elon Musk, who is really changing the world of energy. In a very short time, he’s shown the world that the era of the battery is changing very fast through innovation, research and commercialization. Very soon, we’ll have battery-powered cars that can travel a range of 200 to 300 miles between re-charge stations.
Q: What makes San Diego such a prime locale for clean tech?
A: One factor is our universities, led by UC San Diego and SDSU. They are magnets for world-class researchers and innovators. These are places where new technologies have been created and commercialized. On top of that, we have our climate, not only the weather but the investment climate. We have a very diverse economy and a very skilled workforce in industries such as biotech, with skills that can easily be transferred to clean tech. Plus, we’re on the border with Mexico, which has a lower wage rate. We also have a close proximity to Imperial Valley, with a huge amount of land and potentially a lot of solar installations and manufacturing sites.
Q: What’s the next big idea in clean tech?
A: In my opinion, the holy grail of this space is energy storage. We know how to generate a ton of solar and wind energy, but we don’t yet have a viable way to store renewable energy in a way that’s cost effective. What’s going to happen is a combination of energy grid systems that will be fully integrated with renewables and energy storage combined. That way, we’ll be able to take power from where it’s generated to where the need is and the people are — in homes, businesses, and cars.