By Molly A. Seltzer
Expert panels discussed the best pathways to expand the use of clean energy from the deployment of offshore wind power to new techniques for producing biofuels at the Andlinger Center’s annual meeting on Friday, November 9.
The day-long event was the seventh annual meeting sponsored by Princeton E-ffiliates Partnership, a program that offers corporations an opportunity to collaborate with Princeton researchers on developing innovative solutions in energy and the environment.
The meeting’s keynote speaker, N.J. governor Phil Murphy, emphasized the importance of creating an innovation economy to drive environmental and economic progress in the state. He also pointed to the role of universities to convene industry and academic leaders to stimulate these technologies. [See full coverage of Murphy’s talk here.]
“It’s meetings like this where ideas can be pulled from the air and shaped into real-world solutions, where challenges are identified and then they are answered,” said Murphy. “Higher education is right smack in the middle of that. We can make New Jersey not just an adopter of new methods and innovative problem-solving, but we can make New Jersey a global leader in the process of their creation.”
The meeting featured panel discussions on research breakthroughs and the challenges of developing low-carbon alternatives to fossil fuels for power supply and transportation. Topics included using microbes, such as yeast, to produce useful fuels, developing less polluting and quicker-curing cements and creating ammonia for transportation and other activities. Along with Princeton faculty, panelists also included representatives from ExxonMobil, Lanzatech, Harvard University and the National Institute of Clean and Low-Carbon Energy, the research arm of China Energy Investment Corporation. Kris Ohleth, a senior manager at Ørsted, the world’s largest offshore wind developer, spoke about deploying enough ocean wind turbines off New Jersey’s coastline to power hundreds of thousands of homes in the state with the Ocean Wind project and others. Ohleth pointed to the almost exponential increase in turbine size and capacity in the nearly three decades of industry growth since Orsted installed its first offshore wind farm in 1991 in Denmark.
Rebecca Ciez, distinguished postdoctoral fellow at the Andlinger Center, said that hearing from industry was particularly valuable. “I really liked the pairing of professors with different industry experts to provide the different perspectives on these energy technologies, which you don’t normally hear on campus,” she said.
The meeting concluded with a poster session featuring research from undergraduate and graduate students, and university researchers. The research ranged in topic from finding strategies to integrate ridesharing into fleets of driverless vehicles to recovering nutrients, such as nitrogen, from wastewater to building technology to capture water from air.
“The meeting was an opportunity to talk about the challenges we face in getting great technologies to a place where they have scale and impact,” said Yueh-Lin (Lynn) Loo, director of the Andlinger Center. “It was time to think about where are we are with technology development and market maturation; share ideas on how to overcome challenges, whether they are technical, financial or policy-related; and reinvigorate the people who are working on these issues.”
Loo, the Theodora D. ’78 and William H. Walton III ’74 Professor in Engineering, is co-founder of Andluca Technologies, a company using transparent solar cells to power smart windows that control the amount of light and heat they transmit, yielding savings on heating and cooling costs and increasing occupant comfort.
Other participants at the meeting included Ralph LaRossa, president and chief operating officer of PSEG Power, and Jeanne Fox, former president of New Jersey’s Board of Public Utilities, and representatives from E-ffiliates members including Siemens, PSEG, NRG Energy, ExxonMobil and American Water.