Northwestern, the Institute for Sustainability and Energy at Northwestern (ISEN) and Exelon Corporation, a Fortune 150 energy company, announced an initial five-year research partnership on Monday, May 16. The partnership will be focused on clean energy innovations.
With Exelon’s market expertise and Northwestern’s research capabilities, the partnership sets up a streamlined process of bringing innovations and technology from the lab to commercial use.
“At Exelon, identifying technologies that are about to emerge and then capitalizing on them – rather than reacting to them – is at the core of our mission and strategy to better serve customers,” Exelon spokesperson Paul Adams said. “Our partnership with Northwestern University is a key part of this strategy and will help us identify and develop innovations that will help us improve the reliability of the power grid and advance the transition to clean energy.”
Michael Wasielewski, ISEN’s executive director, said the first project is partnering to design and build an energy efficient house for the Solar Decathlon in the summer of 2017. Northwestern was selected to participate in this competition that is being sponsored by the Department of Energy.
“Exelon is going to be helping us in a variety of ways because they’ve actually done this with virtual modeling and so they’re going to work with us to use what they’ve learned from their virtual modeling to actually help us build a physical house,” Wasielewski said.
He also outlined the variety of other projects being researches. For example, he said there is work being done to explore different types of solar cells and also to create ways to store renewable energy. Wasielewski said that grids would “go crazy” when using renewable energy because of the fluctuations in power, so some sort of storage technology is needed.
“One of the secrets, so to speak, of what goes on on this campus, which ought to be more well known, is the fact that we’ve got a huge amount of research on energy related problems and sustainability problems for that matter, too, and especially with regards to renewables,” he said.
This is the University's first major agreement with an electric power company, and ISEN’s first big industry partnership. ISEN has a space of its own in the new J wing of Tech. The partnership plan is for this to be a joint space where a project can be executed, and then Exelon can “provide a direct avenue to be able to test things at a larger scale, Wasielewski said.
“What we are going to do is have a evaluation committee thats going to essentially look at proposals from both sides, from Exelon and from Northwestern, and there will be some mechanism whereby we can fund these proposals and then set up a project for a given period of time and then actually execute the project,” he said.
Wasielewski added that they are still seeking other forms of involvement, but not just in the areas of science and technology, but across academic fields such as public policy, business and law. He said they are working with other institutes on campus, such as the Institute of Policy Research, to bring intellectual assets together.
“Basically I think people should be aware of the fact that ISEN is a real resource on campus for making all of this happen and we’re going to continue to push ahead in the future to do even more things of this sort to not only benefit our own people here, the students and the faculty and everybody involved in this, but also to benefit society,” Wasielewski said.