Clean Energy and Sustainability Innovation Program

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 at local, state, and regional levels. Selected student teams received summer funding and were 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.

UConn students Robert Avena (left) and Sumeet Kadian (right) walk through the dark Hop River Trail tunnel in Bolton Notch State Park that runs under Interstate 384 in Bolton, CT on June 25, 2022. The duo conducted a feasibility study during their first-year Service Learning class that recommended the installation of lighting through the tunnel, which the Connecticut Department of Transportation and Department Energy and Environmental Protection are working to implement. (Sydney Herdle/UConn Photo)
(Sydney Herdle/UConn Photo)

UConn President Radenka Maric and Eversource’s President of Transmission & Offshore Wind Projects, Bill Quinlan, give their endorsement and enthusiastic remarks on this program in UConn Today. The six selected finalist teams include a total of 16 students – seven undergraduates and nine graduates – representing 18 departments within the College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources; the School of Engineering; the School of Business; and the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences. 

The teams will present at the 2023 Sustainable Clean Energy Fall Summit to a panel of industry, utility, research and state professionals. The winning team(s) will be funded to continue their research through the next academic year.

Project  Student Name UConn Mentor Eversource Mentor
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
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
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