On April 27th 2017, we hosted the finale of Hacking for Energy at the famed World Room at the Columbia Journalism School. The event was the culmination of our landmark class where graduate students from Columbia, NYU, and CUNY were given the opportunity to spend 14 weeks developing solutions to some of the hardest energy problems facing major organizations. Each week the student gave updates on their development in class to a set of six instructors experienced with the Lean Launchpad methodology. They also received regular guidance from their team mentor as well as their Industry Host. The five student teams combined completed 500+ interviews in the 14 weeks, and at least two are planning to continue working on their projects after class to turn their projects into companies.
We kicked things off with some opening remarks from PowerBridgeNY’s Jim Alosie and Julia Byrd, who welcomed the audience attending both in-person and via livestream. They spoke about how all the student groups applied for the course in the Fall of 2016, and the teams sitting in the rooms got to participate in the course, beating out 23 other applications. After Jim and Julia spoke, Travis Bradford, Director of the energy concentration at Columbia SIPA and founder of the Prometheus Institute who also gave the weekly energy lectures throughout the semester, spoke about his experience with the students. He said, “For the students to be able to work through the ideas very quickly, adapt in turn to the changing conditions as they understood the problems, and the circumstances that they found themselves to innovate in...I am just really really proud of how much progress they made in 13-14 weeks.”
Travis’s remarks were followed by three individuals who played important roles in the success of the class: PowYorker’s Industry Host Andrew Reid from Con Ed, EVE’s Industry Host Daniel Hullah from GE, and SunToWheels’ Mentor Joel Ndreu from Related. All three spoke about how they interacted with the teams over the course of the semester, including providing guidance and introducing them to potential interviewees. ConEd even introduced PowYorker to other device manufacturers that they work with, and the team ended up taking a tour of the facility! Joel Ndreu, who also is a serial entrepreneur, noted that the class is unique because it “teaches people a rigorous framework on how to approach problems and how to try solving them. I am excited to see where these students go, we will probably see cool things from them in a few years.”
After the Industry Host remarks, we dove right into the presentations. Each team was given 15 minutes to present their findings to the audience and the five members of the teaching team. After each presentation, the teaching team gave comments and feedback to the students on both the presentation and their work in the course. Below is a brief overview of each project.
Industry Host: IBM
Challenge: Transactive energy is an emerging approach for integrating and coordinating Distributed Energy Resources (DER) in electric systems. A major challenge is understanding how to assign value to the contribution of individual DER assets that provide services to the electric system.
Proposed Solution: An energy data aggregation tool that collects and analyzes data beneficial to energy project valuation and analysis
Industry Host: GE
Challenge: The penetration of electric vehicles in the passenger fleet is currently extremely low but is expected to increase rapidly over the next 10+ years. There is limited public (i.e. non-residential) charging infrastructure in place today and the economic models for build out are unclear. Are there ways to use technology to develop new business models to speed up the roll out of infrastructure in advance of market expansion?
Proposed Solution: A platform that helps multifamily EV owners quickly find and schedule reliable EV charging at fast DC chargers
Industry Host: NYU Office of Sustainability
Challenge: NYU's Capital Projects & Facilities Department, which includes the plumbing, electric, recycling and paint shop, uses a variety of vehicle types that are powered by gasoline. Develop a system to switch all of NYU's gasoline based vehicles to electric vehicles.
Proposed Solution: Helping universities achieve sustainability goals by providing an electric vehicle leasing service.
Industry Host: ConEdison
Challenge: Underground infrastructure is difficult to access but critically important to monitor and maintain. Each year, there are a number of incidents of smoking and even exploding manholes. There are sensors in the manholes, but battery life is a constant challenge. Power harvesting technologies are needed, but due to the wide variety of offerings, it is difficult to identify which solution would be best.
Proposed Solution: EMF power harvesting solutions for monitoring utilities' infrastructure networks to increase safety
Industry Host: SolarCity
Challenge: Individuals with energy resources such as solar, batteries and flexible loads (i.e. appliances, EVs) can shift between being a consumer and supplier of energy. Sometimes they have excess capacity, but other potential consumers do not know about or cannot access that excess capacity. If providers could connect with potential users, they would be able to generate revenues for sharing their excess capacity or by shifting their consumptions while users would have access to the required energy resources at a potentially lower cost. However, currently there is no easy way of connecting these two groups.
Proposed Solution: A distributed energy resource IoT platform for EV users
After the student presentations, we closed out the event and the students networked with the attendees from the energy industry. Head here check out photos of the event and the full livestream.
We could not be happier about the outcome of the class and would like to take a moment to acknowledge and thank all the individuals who played a role in getting Hacking for Energy off the ground.
Hacking for Energy will be taking a break for a couple weeks, but will be back in the summer to start planning Spring 2018. To stay update and learn how get involved, sign up for our mailing list.