Clean Energy and Sustainability Innovation Program 2024

UConn and Eversource are pleased to announce that the Clean Energy Sustainability Innovation Program is being offered again in Spring 2024. 

UConn is committed to sustainability and taking the necessary steps to reduce its carbon footprint, foster environmental justice locally and globally, and prepare for climate extremes.  UConn recognizes that these challenges will take innovation and buy-in from the entire university community. To this end, UConn is partnering with Eversource Energy to support students interested in participating in the design of our energy future through a funded innovation competition that could lead to a grant-funded research program. This is a unique opportunity for teams of undergraduate and graduate students to propose their own ideas to facilitate a clean energy transition. Selected student teams will receive summer funding and be paired with mentors from the UConn faculty and Eversource Energy, to support the development of ideas on the real-world dimensions and details of the clean energy transition.

We welcome all students across the university to pitch their “grant ideas” to explore local sustainability challenges that matter to them.

Student team Austin and Pranavi celebrate after being awarded at the Clean Energy Summit 2023
2023 Challenge winners Austin Gelinas ’25 (END) and Pranavi Rebala ’25 (CLAS) celebrate with UConn’s Emmanouil Anagnostou, Board of Trustees Distinguished Professor in Civil & Environmental Engineering and the Eversource Energy Endowed Chair in Environmental Engineering and Eversource’s Carissa Sedlacek, Director of Transmission Interconnections & Solutions and Vandan Divatia, Vice President of Transmission Policy & Compliance and Don Swinton, Senior Director of Development, School of Engineering

Through this summer program, students will get to workshop their ideas in both an academic and industry setting and develop the skills to apply critical thinking to their clean energy sustainability ideas.  Teams will present their projects at a university-wide Sustainable Clean Energy summit in September and be eligible to receive additional funding and support to extend their research and development throughout the 2024-2025 academic year.

Through this program, students will:

  • Develop their interpersonal communication and critical-thinking skills
  • Receive a summer stipend to work with UConn faculty and Eversource managers to get your team’s idea in development
  • Learn about the ins and outs of research development and problem-solving
  • Access opportunities for research and internship with Eversource
  • Contribute to the decarbonizing efforts of UConn and long-term sustainability goals of Connecticut towns and municipalities

About The Challenge

Connecticut has committed to getting all its energy from zero carbon sources by 2040 and reducing statewide emissions by 45% by 2030 and 80% by 2050. At the same time, the state has an ambitious Economic Development Plan to attract and retain a growing population, while supporting and generating inclusive economic opportunity within innovative and specialized industries. Both goals require a modernized electric power grid to integrate new renewable energy sources, meet the increasing electric demand and maintain reliability in the face of climate change.

A comprehensive solution to this challenge would address each of the following questions:

  • What transmission and distribution infrastructure upgrades, and new sources of generation, are needed to meet both the clean energy and economic development goals? What benefits can generation and power grid enhancements provide to communities?
  • How can Connecticut towns achieve their clean energy and economic development goals while ensuring that the benefits of the transition are shared equitably? How can vulnerable or disadvantaged populations in Conn. towns benefit from clean energy technologies and infrastructure development?
  • How can these goals be accomplished while also ensuring environmental and community impacts are minimized, and community benefits are prioritized? Who should influence how and when decisions are made at the local level?

Areas of research that could also support local objectives cover, but are not limited to, economic modeling and analysis, legislative and policy changes, financial evaluation of costs to customers and/or developers, rate of growth of renewables and electric load and impact to the transmission and/or distribution electrical grid, integration of new energy technologies to meet anticipated load growth, other approaches to reduce emissions, etc. Teams are encouraged to work with local governments and/or organizations as part of their project. UConn and Eversource can assist teams in connecting with local decision makers.

Application Materials

Interested students must submit a project application to by May 17, 2024 which includes the following:

  • One application in a PDF file per team that lists the names, majors, programs and expected graduation dates of each team member, as well as personal statement from each team member that includes their activities on campus and their motivation for applying (how this program can support their study and/or career, not to exceed 250 words);
  • A one-page scope of work outlining the proposed solution for further study, including a possible location, town or city;
  • A list of deliverables (reports, presentations, building dataset, generating maps, etc.,) the team plans to produce during the program; and
  • An approximate inventory of data available as well as datasets they would need to acquire from UConn, Eversource, or other sources.

We highly encourage using data from Sustainable CT ( to supplement any data you may be missing. By completing this process with the town or city of the student team's choice, both parties have a clear understanding of what is expected from each other during the program for successful project completion.

Team Requirements

Teams must be two or three students (undergraduate and/or graduate) from a minimum of two different disciplines. 

Program Timeline

  • Teams will need to submit proposals by May 17, 2024.
  • Teams will be selected by Eversource and UConn committee by May 31, 2024.
  • Students of the selected teams will receive a fellowship ($2,500 lump sum) to work on their “grant idea” in the period of June 01 – August 23,
  • Teams will be supported by two mentors: a UConn faculty and Eversource staff.
  • Team members will have the opportunity to spend time at Eversource during the summer.
  • Each team is expected to present their “grant idea” and summer work at the 2024 Sustainable Clean Energy summit on September 23, 2024.
  • The winning team(s) to be selected at the 2024 summit will receive a continuation grant to further develop their “grant idea” throughout the academic year in close collaboration with an Eversource department.

Mentor Selection

  • Students may suggest their UConn faculty mentor or allow the committee to assign their team to a respective UConn faculty.
  • The committee will match the student projects with select Eversource personnel and departments after their selection.

Additional Resources:

Further Reading

2023 Finalists

Project  Student Name UConn Mentor Eversource Mentor
Enhancing Connecticut’s Green Economy: Optimal Integration of Short-Term Hybrid Solar and Hydropower; Long-Term Implementation of Nuclear Power

“Our project proposes a comprehensive two-part strategy for New England's power grids, specifically focusing on the University of Connecticut, to address their heavy reliance on natural gas combustion. The strategy implements solar PV-thermal hybrid systems and hydroelectric energy to increase power production in the short run, while facilitating a long term transition to nuclear energy. The expected outcome is to diversify UConn’s energy sources through equitable and sustainable financing models."

Austin Gelinas ’25 (ENG), chemical engineering major Matthew Stuber, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor, Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering

Carissa Sedlacek

Director of Transmission Interconnections and Solutions

Pranavi Rebala '25 (CLAS), economics and urban and community studies major
Clean Energy Innovations: Revolutionizing UConn's Power Infrastructure

“Our research proposal aims to tackle UConn campuses' clean energy sustainability issue. We plan to retire the current natural gas-based Co-Generation Facility, reduce carbon emissions, and find a comprehensive energy solution for the campus. Our proposed solutions include comparing greenhouse gas emissions between the UConn microgrid and the Eversource grid, implementing load-shaping and demand management techniques, and exploring the use of energy storage solutions.”

Malachi Denton ’24 (ENG), environmental engineering major Diego Cerrai, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor in Civil and Environmental Engineering, Associate Director and Manager at Eversource Energy Center

Benjamin D'Antonio

Manager of Transmission Strategy and Economic Analysis

Malik Francis ’24 (ENG), computer engineering major
Kevon Rattigan ’25 (CLAS), chemistry major Marina Astitha, Ph.D.

Associate Professor, Civil and Environmental Engineering

Addressing UConn’s growing energy demand: Alternative Organic Fuel Sources and Sustainable Energy Consumption

 “The attainment of sustainability goals at UConn requires the implementation of a comprehensive strategy encompassing both social and technical interventions. In the technical domain, a plausible solution involves enhancing the Combined Heat and Power (CHP) plant to accommodate versatile feedstocks, specifically biomass and solar energy, thereby substituting the conventional use of natural gas. Complementing this approach, the integration of sensor systems within UConn's buildings can effectively monitor and display real-time energy and water consumption data, fostering increased consciousness among the campus community regarding resource usage practices and the ecological ramifications associated with individual buildings.”

Hasan Nikkhah, doctoral candidate in chemical engineering Ioulia Valla, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of Environmental Engineering Education

Jacob Lucas

Director of Transmission System Planning

Francesco Rouhana, doctoral candidate in civil engineering Burcu Beykal, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor, Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering

Dev Barochia ’25 (ENG), chemical engineering major
Exploring Solar Canopies and Alternative Solar Panels Options for UConn

“Team MEEM will be working on the research surrounding the installation of parking lot solar canopies and the potential to add solar panels to building rooftops by using thin film solar panels or solar shingles as an alternative, lighter-weight option. Implementing solar as a renewable energy source will help UConn with their carbon footprint because solar power does not produce emissions during the generation process. Examination of life-cycle assessments demonstrate that solar produces a smaller carbon output than traditional ‘cradle-to-grave’ fossil fuels, and will lower UConn's dependence on the traditional electric grid.”

Kevin Howson, energy and environment management master of science program, focusing on law; Chadwick Rittenhouse, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor in Residence, Department of Natural Resources & the Environment

Brian Rice

Director of Customer Solar Programs at Eversource Energy

Jacob Hyler, energy and environment management master of science program, focusing on sustainability
Julie Sandberg, energy and environment management master of science program, focusing on geographic information systems
Optimization of energy consumption and emissions reduction  in UConn campuses through intelligent energy management systems

“Our team proposes developing an intelligent energy management system for UConn campuses, starting with the main campus in Storrs, to fulfill the sustainability goals and address local issues. Leveraging small-scale systems like microgrids and incorporating data analytics, machine learning, and optimization approaches, we aim to reduce energy waste, promote sustainable practices, and compare the costs and emissions reduction characteristics of different projects. We will explore alternative clean energy sources such as biomass and food wastes, evaluate load-shaping strategies, and create algorithms to forecast the viability and availability of bio-renewable energy resources, ultimately aiming to develop a comprehensive roadmap for UConn's decarbonized and sustainable energy system.”

Anietie W. Williams, doctoral candidate in chemistry Zongjie Wang, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor, Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering

Ronald Araujo

Director - Energy Efficiency at Eversource Energy

Faith Wariri, doctoral candidate in computer science and engineering
A Real-time Behind the Meter PV Generation Forecasting System

“In 2022, solar provided 3.17% of Connecticut electricity, but the stochastic nature of solar PV generation poses significant challenges in reliable and secure grid operations. To address this problem, we will develop a Real-Time behind-the-meter Solar Power Forecasting (RTSPF) system that will use remote sensing to help with power dispatching optimization, overvoltage management, and clean energy transitions. This project has the potential to support statewide decarbonization and energy equity goals.”

Kexin Song, doctoral candidate in natural resources and the environment Junbo Zhao, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor, Electrical and Computer Engineering

Steffen Ziegler

Lead Engineer System Planning - Modeling and Forecasting

Sophia Zhang

Haoyi Wang, doctoral candidate in electrical engineering
Paul Zambrzycki ‘24 (ENG), electrical engineering major