Just One Question (Part 2): What Energy or Climate-Related Work Are You Doing?
See part 1 for more answers.
I have just started as technical director of the Swiss watch firm IWC (which was founded by an American engineer in 1868) in Schaffhausen, Switzerland. We are the first watch manufacturer who tries to offset its CO2-footprint.
– Olaf Eichstädt ’90
I am an associate professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering at the University of Akron working on National Science Foundation-sponsored research involving thermophotovoltaic energy conversion. The devices we are building convert thermal energy into electricity using rare earth oxide fiber structures. We are developing an understanding of the effects of microstructure (crystal structure, grain size, defect density) and macrostructure (fiber diameter, fiber packing) on the narrow band emission of these materials. Our hypothesis was that nanofibers-based emitters should be more efficient than other forms. We have shown that this hypothesis was correct. We are now working on developing prototype devices. We hope that someday these devices could recover 10 percent of the wasted energy in every vehicle, translating to lots and lots of gasoline savings – 14 billion gallons in the U.S. alone.
– Ed Evans ’91
Until recently I worked for General Mills, and I now work for Campbell Soup. As we talk about corporate social responsibility and sustainability, energy and carbon footprints are certainly part of the discussion. In addition, the impact energy prices and biofuels production is having on food prices is pretty dramatic. Since diesel fuel prices have skyrocketed, and therefore it has become far more expensive to ship raw materials and finished products between our facilities and to our customers, we have had to consider raising the price of our products to compensate.
– Brett Buatti ’92 Th’94
My entire career since graduating in 1992 has been in energy. I am currently a principal with U.S. Renewables Group, one of the only (for the moment) private equity firms in the United States focused exclusively on investments in assets in the renewable energy sector.
– Scott Gardner ’92
I am on a volunteer committee for the City of Solana Beach, Calif., called the Clean and Green Committee. We are developing a climate action plan right now, which is a blueprint for the city, based on a mayor’s agreement with 12 objectives that the city signed onto in 2007.
– Annie Kaskade ’92
I work for Ballard Power Systems in Burnaby, British Columbia, which develops proton exchange membrane (PEM) fuel cells for use in a variety of power applications. PEM fuel cells produce electricity from hydrogen fuel and have high efficiency and no emissions. Most notably, we are working together with Ford and Daimler on their fuel cell vehicle programs. My husband and I are also quite focused on conservation at home. Last September, we installed two kilowatts of photovoltaic panels on our roof, and we expect to generate 30 to 40 percent of our annual electricity needs via the sun. I was president of the Dartmouth solar racing team for a few years, so it feels great to be harnessing the sun yet again on a daily basis.
– Laura Iwan ’93 Th’94
After leaving Dartmouth, I pursued an international master’s degree at the Royal Institute of Technology in Sweden in sustainable energy engineering with a focus on sustainable power generation. I’m now completing this degree by working on my master’s thesis at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory out in Colorado. I have just started a six-month thesis project where I am working on a wind-to-hydrogen project, using wind (and photovoltaic solar) electricity to produce hydrogen through electrolysis. I am specifically working on a cost analysis sub-project, but I am taking part in a variety of areas and learning a lot about the integration issues of renewable energies and hydrogen production.
– Genevieve Saur ’93
I’m the chair of the Concord (Mass.) Comprehensive Sustainable Energy Committee. We’re working to promote energy conservation and efficiency as well as renewable energy in the town for residential, commercial, and municipal sectors. Right now we’re focusing on municipal issues because we have a budget for town buildings and there are fewer decision makers involved. I’m also leading a high-profile team of local politicians and notables in something called the Low Carbon Diet, which is run by the Mass Climate Action Network.
– Brian Crounse ’94 Th’95
I am a consultant with IBM and I am involved with green supply-chain solutions. IBM research developed a carbon analyzer tool. We modified it for a heavy equipment manufacturer’s forest products division. The tool can measure the carbon emissions created in the supply chain. Currently we can assess inbound and outbound transportation, and it will be able to assess facility carbon creation. The tool also allows scenario analysis to understand how you can decrease carbon emissions while also calculating transportation and inventory metrics. This allows trade-off analysis of carbon, inventory turns and cost, transportation cost and frequencies, service level agreements, and packaging costs.
– Chad Boucher ’95 Th’96
I am a research engineering specialist with ExxonMobil Upstream Research Co. in Houston, Texas. I work at ExxonMobil R&D, in particular the offshore and Arctic division. My previous role was metocean (meteorological and oceanographic criteria) team leader, and now I am leading a research project in the Arctic section.
– Oleg Esenkov Th’95
I am responsible for the procurement of new power plant projects at RWE Power in Essen, Germany. We are currently facing an investment program of 9 billion Euros until 2014. The investment program includes: one 2,100-megawatt lignite, one 800-megawatt combined cycle gas turbine, and two 1,600-megawatt hard coal fired power plants with the most advanced efficiency; the world’s first zero-CO2 power plant (integrated coal gasification and carbon capture and storage); fluidized bed drying for increased efficiency of future lignite power plants; a CO2 scrubbing prototype; and clean development programs.
– Michael Müller Th’95
My wife, Kirsten Glass ’95, a large-animal veterinarian in Lyme, N.H., just finished sponsoring a B.E. project at Thayer to make her truck more efficient and environmentally friendly.
– Brian Spence ’95 Th’96
I’m working as a research analyst for a boutique investment bank in Atlanta. I see a lot of interesting ideas in the energy space, ranging from hydrocarbon sources such as natural gas, oil, and coal-bed methane to alternatives such as wind projects. The difficulty in finding new sources – along with global geopolitical issues and the need for the U.S. to become more self-sufficient and greener at the same time – have brought the U.S. energy market back to life in the last few years following decades of underinvestment.
– Patrick Orie ’96
I work for the venture capital team at GE focused on the energy and water markets. We are solely focused on investing for GE in early-stage companies in the renewable energy, energy efficiency, water technologies, and the traditional energy markets (oil and gas, energy generation, carbon capture).
– Andrew Lackner ’97 Th’99
I work for Tesla Motors. We are making a high-performance electric sportscar. Two other Dartmouth alums work here, too: Krispin Leydon ’99 Th’01 and Diarmuid O’Connell ’86.
– Matt Senesky ’98 Th’99
I do Fluent CFD simulation work for Fuel Cell Energy in Danbury, Conn. We build 1- to 3-megawatt molten carbonate fuel cell power plants. We also do solid oxide fuel cell research. I do gas flow simulations to support both the research and manufacturing groups in the company.
– Joe McInerney Th’99
I’m a research assistant professor at the University of New Hampshire environmental research group. We are working on sustainability in the highway environment, which focuses on conserving energy, water, and materials while reducing emissions into the environment.
– Jeffrey Melton Th’99
As an analyst at Forrester Research, I spend a majority of my time studying the major trends and drivers of new technology adoption. I focus most of my research on software applications that support product development. Tools that support better energy-efficient or environmentally compliant decision making are definitely a hot area right now. Since a large percentage of a product’s energy performance is committed during the concept and design stages of a product’s life cycle, these types of applications can help designers make a big difference in terms of a product’s environmental impact once its being used in the marketplace.
– Roy Wildeman ’99 Th’99
I’m leading the product development at a company called Advanced Transit Dynamics. We are working on bringing to market products to make the world’s trucking fleets more fuel-efficient. Our CEO is Andrew Smith Tu’07, and we have Jeff Grossmann ’06 Th’07 working with us as well.
– Chuck Horrell ’00 Th’01
I’m a director for the Technology Transition Corp., which manages the National Hydrogen Association and the Carbon Management Council. Separate from my day job, I’ve helped to put together a team that will be competing to win the four-person division of the Race Across America. We race this June to bring attention to alternative modes of transportation and carbon-neutral choices. Our goal is to make it from Oceanside, Calif., to Annapolis, Md., in under seven days of 24/7 riding and get as many people as we can to pledge to live carbon-free during the week that we race.
– Patrick Serfass ’00
I recently defended my Ph.D. thesis on infrastructure requirements and impacts for ethanol and hydrogen at Carnegie Mellon. My most interesting project involved modeling ethanol production and distribution in the U.S. The goal was to figure out where it should go, how much it would cost, and emissions from transportation in an optimal scenario. The project showed that ethanol should be used regionally, near where it is produced. High blends (E85 as opposed to E10) should be sold in order to maximize regional use. If ethanol is produced in the midwest and shipped for use in California (this is the case for much of our current production), there are no economic or environmental benefits from using ethanol instead of gasoline.
– Heather Wakeley ’00 Th’02
Before going to graduate school in architecture, I worked for Redefining Progress on ecological footprint modeling (which seems largely driven by the carbon cycle and fossil fuel consumption), and for Energy Nevada and Nordic Windpower (related enterprises developing utility-scale wind power). I am currently finishing my master’s degree in architecture at UC Berkeley, where I am a teaching assistant for an energy and environment course. My design thesis is partly about importing resource footprint into urban areas through facade-implemented growing of food and biomass.
– Christian Cutul ’01
I work on energy conservation for the Harvard Green Campus Initiative. I manage new construction services, a group that works with new construction and renovation projects at Harvard. We review designs, work with design teams to incorporate green features, and manage the LEED certification process.
– Jesse Foote ’01 Th’02
I am an assistant professor at Elizabethtown College in Pennsylvania and am involved in research into energy storage for renewables, as well as stand-alone solar and wind installations. I also am involved with an entrepreneurial research project in collaboration with two Ph.D. students at Thayer, Dax Kepshire Th’06 and Ben Bollinger ’04 Th’04. This project, which is being developed through the start-up company SustainX, involves a new method of compressed air energy storage. I will be spending six weeks this summer at Hanover working on this research with Dax and Ben.
– Troy McBride Th’01
I’m working now as a project coordinator for Lifewater International. We do international water development by training indigenous organizations in shallow well drilling, pump repair, sand filter construction, latrine design and promotion, and hygiene education. I’m the manager for all work in Zambia and Mozambique. I got a master’s from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo last year and have been simultaneously working for Lifewater since July 2005. I hope that my research can be a foundation for biodiesel fuel production from wastewater treatment algae. The research I did showed very positive results in terms of potential lipid oil yields, and since the main food source for the algae is human and animal waste, it’s really a win-win situation. It’s going to be published, I hope, in a special renewable energy issue of the Journal of Environmental Engineering.
– Adam Feffer ’02 Th’03
My new company, VisibleEnergy, will provide residential power consumers with an energy-monitoring device and an online community. The monitoring device will deliver a low-cost data feed from the consumer’s electricity meter to the VisibleEnergy data processing center. Our website will translate usage into meaningful terms, allow users to compare their consumption with similar homes, and provide tailored recommendations for cost and energy savings. Our team (my wife, Sarah Kate Fishback ’02, and I) recently won the $5,000 top prize in the consumer division of the Duke Startup Competition.
– Luke Fishback ’02 Th’03
I volunteer to help run an energy conservation program in our elementary school in Rockville, Md. It is done by fifth-grade students, and I am their leader. We do an energy patrol, celebrate the classrooms that conserve the most, and study energy issues, sources, and conservation benefits. Lots of success.
– Katya Kovalskaia Th’02
I work as a consulting engineer for the energy and resources team of the Rocky Mountain Institute, a nonprofit that does consulting and research work in all aspects of energy and resources. I have only been with RMI for a few months (I was doing energy analysis for green building design for an HVAC firm prior to this), and am currently working on a research project called Next Generation Utility, which looks at the need for a new electric utility paradigm.
– Kendra Tupper ’02 Th’03
I joined ExxonMobil five years ago after receiving my degree at Thayer. Last fall I transferred to a position in Doha, Qatar, within our liquefied natural gas (LNG) business. We work on the global development of marketing plans to monetize natural gas reserves, as well as day-to-day marketing of associated products and related businesses. I am currently living and working in Qatar, the world’s fastest growing economy, working on the world’s largest and most technically complex natural gas projects. We are (probably) in the “golden age of natural gas,” as once-regional markets for domestic pipeline natural gas become interlinked globally by the emergence of a growing LNG business. The use of natural gas as a fuel, particularly in power generation, is important component within plans that consider the use of cleaner burning fuels as a way to reduce emissions, including CO2. The growth of the LNG business makes this increasingly more possible across the globe.
– Garth Castren Th’03
After Thayer I got my master’s in technology and policy, and civil and environmental engineering at MIT. There I worked on modeling renewable energy technologies (wind and solar specifically) and economic policies (renewable energy portfolio standards, tax subsidies, guaranteed government buy backs) for the MIT Climate Change modeling research program. I am currently teaching math and science in a public school in New York City and often include energy topics in my courses. I have offered a renewable energy elective and a course on energy use and the environment.
– Alan Cheng ’03 Th’03
I am working on an energy problem as part of my thesis here at Stanford (I graduate from the master’s program in June). I have teamed up with a fellow product design grad student and together we are exploring the world of solar from new perspectives. What if everyone, even renters, could own small-scale solar and do their part? We have been researching perceptions around energy and environmentalism and have found an opportunity to create products in the solar sector that allow young, environmentally conscious people to express their individuality and empower optimism around energy choices. We aren’t trying to increase solar efficiency or reach grid parity, instead we’re trying to celebrate the possibilities of solar.
– Emilie Fetscher ’03 Th’04
I work at SunPower Corp. doing design engineering for domestic systems in California and New Jersey and international in Italy and Korea. The sun is so hot right now! Being in the renewables market, it is interesting to see how little the environment is involved in the day-to-day working life. I have overheard many say how we are in competition with wind, and comments like this make me realize how large a role policy has in creating this new marketplace for all sustainable technologies to exist. We’ve just moved into an old Ford factory in Richmond, Calif., and the company is about to install one megawatt of solar on its rooftop to become off-grid. Taking on a vertically integrated approach, the company designs and manufactures the solar panels, and designs and installs arrays. Making the simple design/build process more convoluted is the concept of financing, as many large power plant systems are priced such that outside financiers purchase and sell solar electricity to the customer. In trying to balance the multi-variable design and sales constraints, I often think back to my operations research class, and realize that behind this multivariable system of equations, I am offsetting carbon each time I turn on my computer.
– Adam Han ’03 Th’04
For two years I was working at a consulting firm within their energy and environment business consulting group. There we did a lot of work with utilities, ranging from energy sources (coal, gas, etc.) to transmission lines to distribution networks. A bit of work I did was in the photovoltaic and wind arena. For the past year I’ve been working at a private equity fund on their U.S. and natural resources private equity team. Although I’ve spent the bulk of my time working on more general private equity managers, I’ve had some exposure with natural resources managers ranging from oil and gas to clean tech.
– Ethan Levine ’03 Th’05
I work for a management consulting firm in Atlanta, Ga., and we do about 80 percent of our work with energy clients, mainly large utilities and government entities. I’ve been involved in the energy industry in an organization redesign for the country’s largest state power authority, new generation development and resource planning for a top-ten utility, and I authored a white paper on carbon capture and storage.
– Bob Neill ’03
I’m doing doctoral work in the natural resources and earth system science program and part of the ocean process analysis laboratory at the Earth, Oceans and Space Institute at the University of New Hampshire. I hope to be able to use my research to help site offshore wind farms. I work on a sensor called SeaWinds on the QuikSCAT satellite. This instrument is called a scatterometer and is basically a space-borne radar that measures backscatter, the signals reflected off centimeter-scale waves on the ocean surface. These little waves are generally caused by wind, so the strength of the backscatter signal can be interpreted through a geophysical model function to derive wind speed and direction. I’m still in the evaluation phase, but if I have good results, I’ll begin developing a high resolution wind climatology with a web-based interface. This would provide useful information for companies and communities interested in the offshore potential of their area. Some of the major wind energy companies in Europe already use satellite data for siting purposes, and one (Garrad Hassan) has shown interest in my work. Additionally, the nine-year record of data from QuikSCAT means that this research might have additional climate change-related impacts – I could attempt to look for any significant differences between the overall wind patterns in 1999-2000 vs. those in 2007-2008, for instance.
– Amanda Plagge ’03 Th’04
I’m a second-year Ph.D. student at Purdue University and part of a research group that is working on GaN-based white LEDs. The project is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy as part of its solid-state lighting initiative. My part of the research group does the characterization work, which is mainly transmission electron microscopy.
– Patrick Cantwell ’04
I’m a student at MIT, and my research is on how renewable generators fit into modern electricity markets. I’m writing a thesis on how different ways of pricing electricity would change revenues of renewable generators, and I also do some work in quantifying the avoided emissions that can be attributed to new renewable generators or energy efficiency projects. We start with data that the EPA collects for its Continuous Emissions Monitoring system. They measure the CO2, SO2, and NOx coming out of every electricity generation unit in the country by hour. We want to figure out which of those plants are “on the margin” – for example, if someone turns on or off an air conditioner or we install some wind generation, which fossil generators will reduce their output in response. We have a simple program that identifies those generators for each hour (currently we do it from 1999 to 2006) and we take an average of their emission rates as the system’s marginal emission rate for that hour. Then we can compare that emission rate to historical wind speeds by hour for any site. Basically we are answering the question, “If we built a wind turbine in this location in 1999, how much CO2, SO2, and NOx would have been saved?” The main insight/surprise that we have had is that the hour-by-hour operation of the power system is so complex that looking at aggregate numbers (such as annual emissions or renewable generation) can give misleading results. We found that emissions rates on the margin (i.e., from the most expensive plants that are operating at any instant) are much more variable and on average larger than average emission rates; and emissions have seasonal and daily patterns, so it is important to see how they line up with hourly wind speeds or sunniness. The work I have been doing with a research group includes applying this to some test cases in New England. The project I’ve been doing on my own is “Effects of Real-Time Electricity Pricing on Renewable Revenues and System Emissions.” Real-time pricing (RTP) would mean that the price of electricity that you and I pay would vary by hour, depending on how expensive it is to generate in real time (we would have a meter in our house to give us the price). I modeled the effect that this would have on solar and wind generators by looking at how wind speeds and solar radiation line up (hour-by-hour) with price changes due to RTP. We found that the effect isn’t much different than the effect on the average fossil generator (for the four New England test cases I considered). The price for electricity and the wind/solar generation are more random, hour-by-hour, than I expected.
– J.P. Connolly ’04 Th’04
I work for Northern Power in Barre, Vt., which designs and builds wind turbines. Right now we are selling a 100-kilowatt wind turbine and will be producing a 2.2-megawatt turbine in one to two years. The wind market in the U.S. is just starting to develop and grow. Over the next few years I believe we’ll see large increases in wind farms across the country. My job focuses on the power conversion from the wind turbines rotor to grid. Efficiency is key in this area, since typical wind turbine applications stack up turbines and that can eventually lead to large power losses. The “lossiest” components in the converter are typically the magnetics and switches. My design focus is on the magnetics that are used to boost the voltage to a level needed for the grid. To figure out what design changes are worthwhile in the magnetics, we often attach an effective initial cost to any changes to see what the upfront financial cost is and when it would be paid back.
– Magdalena Dale Th’05
I have been working for GE Energy for the last two years, on both the gas turbine compressor and wind turbine aerodynamics teams. I had the pleasure of working with several Thayer grads, including Gunnar Siden Th’85, Dale Apgar ’04 Th’05, and Ryan Conger ’05. Most of my work focused on building 2-D or 3-D computational fluid dynamic models. Efforts for the wind team dealt with enhancing prediction capability to improve blade acoustics and general performance. Recently, I focused on power plant mechanical control upgrades to improve optimization and control. I just completed a large upgrade on one of the world’s largest geothermal power plants in Mexico. I just took a leave of absence from the company to explore other avenues of energy and climate change and complete my master’s in mechanical engineering.
– Eric Fitz Th’05
I recently graduated from Stanford with a master’s in civil and environmental engineering, focusing on atmosphere/energy issues. I am now working at an energy engineering/consulting firm in San Francisco. My work focuses on feasibility studies, project scoping, and implementation support for energy efficiency and renewable energy projects. Recently I have also been working on calculating greenhouse gas emissions reduction potential for renewable energy and energy-efficiency projects.
– Tia Hansen ’05
I work for DC Energy along with other Dartmouth engineers Steven Hsu ’01 Th’02, Lauren Cecere ’06, and Albert Kang ’06. We trade in the energy markets, with our key focus on the deregulated electricity markets, but also in natural gas. Our activities aid in driving pricing efficiencies for producers and users of power alike. The markets provide a means for aiding in economic dispatch of generation units to meet the demand of the system across the transmission grid.
– Daniel Hassouni ’05 Th’05
I’m a project manager for Tamarack Energy, a developer of renewable energy projects, in Essex, Conn. Tamarack primarily focuses on developing utility-scale biomass (clean waste wood) power plants. We are working on several such projects on the East Coast. Clean waste wood is a carbon-neutral (or carbon negative), renewable, low-cost, and environmentally friendly source of power. We are also working on several wind projects in northern New England.
– Cliff Orvedal ’05
I am currently working in the alternative energy field, doing research and development for Mascoma Corp. in Lebanon, N.H., along with a number of other Dartmouth and Thayer School alumni. My work focuses on feedstock pretreatment for the production of cellulosic ethanol.
– Matt Richards ’05
I’m currently in the first year of my master’s at the University of Texas in Austin – my graduate research is actually on wind turbine control systems. I’m also interning this summer in GE’s Power Systems group in Schenectady, N.Y., working on a study of high wind and solar penetration in the western U.S.
– Dave Burnham ’06
I work at Manasc Isaac Architects, which is located in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. My work is funded by a provincial agency (Alberta Ingenuity) that has a mandate to increase the amount of R&D in our province’s economy. I am conducting research with the intent of improving buildings that, among other things, use daylight and energy efficiently. I’m looking at how engineering analysis can be integrated into the architectural design process to achieve this end. I’m learning how to use and evaluate the widely disparate array of software packages available to facilitate the analysis of a building’s energy consumption. I’m also familiarizing myself with the design process of a sustainable building – which differs from the design of a standard building, primarily in the degree of coordination between members of the design team – to see how these tools can be integrated into that process. I’ve done a number of studies for several buildings that have been successfully used to convince clients of the benefits of design features that would optimize the amount of natural light in a space.
– Josh Kjenner Th’06
I work for Rumsey Engineers in Oakland, Calif. We design HVAC systems for energy-efficient buildings. We also serve as consultants to PG&E’s Savings By Design Program, which offers incentives for high-tech facilities that incorporate energy-efficient measures into their design. We perform the energy analysis for this program. The incentives are awarded based on the calculated energy savings.
– Hillary Price Th’07