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Penn State at The Navy Yard energy program provides hands-on learning experience

By District Energy posted 11-02-2017 00:00


Press Release, Penn State News

Students shared their key challenges, steps toward a solution, key findings and learning outcomes with industry representatives after completing the 2017 Energy Innovation Leadership Experience program. Image: Penn State

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — During summer 2017, 29 students representing six universities from across the country spent 13 weeks at Penn State at The Navy Yard working to advance technologies in sustainable energy.

As part of the Energy Innovation Leadership Experience program, students from Penn State, San Jose State, Texas A&M, the University of Pennsylvania and Villanova were provided with hands-on learning experiences and internship opportunities with leaders in the sustainability industry.

Open to both undergraduate and graduate students, the program focuses on solving real-world problems related to energy efficiency and sustainability through an immersive coursework and internship experience.

“The Energy Innovation Leadership Experience program helps match students with specialty internships that they might not find on their own,” said David Riley, professor of architectural engineering and director of the student energy program. “These experiences are coupled with multiple hands-on courses that leverage the unique facilities of Penn State at the Navy Yard.” 

Courses available to student participants include Leadership in Building Energy Efficiency, which engaged students in energy assessments of small businesses in Philadelphia, as well as a Solar Design and Construction course that offered students the chance to work with multiple solar photovoltaic technologies. 

Students are also organized into clusters that reflect their internships to help broaden their collective experience and learn from each other. This summer included clusters focused on microgrid development, combined heat and power systems, energy storage, solar building systems, and building energy efficiency.

“One of the great features of the program is that most of the internships engage students in cutting-edge technologies and in some cases, start-up companies,” said Riley. “Their responsibilities were often research-oriented and focused on helping companies and faculty advance new methods. Multiple positions in the program were specifically targeted as research experiences for undergraduates to help students prepare for graduate school.”

Lisa Shulock, sustainable energy program manager at Penn State at the Navy Yard, said the effects of the program, now in its third year, are becoming more visible. The number of participating companies continues to increase and a number of students have received job offers in sustainable energy fields as a result of the program.

“The focus of the program on buildings and sustainable energy is key,” said Shulock, “Buildings generate 40 percent of U.S. carbon emissions. Making new and existing buildings more efficient is an important way to reduce energy costs and make impacts on emissions. In addition, our facilities and research programs at the Navy Yard allow us to also address how distributed energy production methods can be integrated into buildings.” 

Parangat Bhaskar, a Penn State energy engineering major, made such an impact during his internship that Will Agate, president of Net Zero Microgrid Solutions (NZMS), asked him to continue with the company during the school year.  

“Parangat’s contribution was extremely beneficial to NZMS so much so that we hired him to work with us part-time during the academic year to continue the important microgrid engineering and economic modeling work we are doing for customers throughout the world,” Agate said.

The experience culminated in a poster presentation session held at Penn State at the Navy Yard in August. Students shared their key challenges, steps toward a solution, key findings and learning outcomes with representatives of Penn State; Danfoss North America, a producer of products and services used across engineering fields; and the companies they interned with. Students interned with Enbala, GE Energy Connection, Intellimation, NECA Penn-Del-Jersey, Net Zero Microgrid Solutions, OSISoft, PECO, Penn State, PIDC, Private Energy Partners, Protogen and Square K Energy.

Danfoss North America partnered with Penn State to fund the 2017 Energy Innovation Leadership Experience. Additional funding was provided by Penn State’s College of Engineering, Office of the Executive Vice President and Provost and Office of Vice President for Research. The program was held at Penn State at The Navy Yard during summer 2017.

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