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Balancing the Environment and Business: Changing Markets

Capstone Projects aim to sustain both the economy and the environment.

Changing Markets The tragic oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and recent deadly coal mine and natural gas pipeline explosions should force each of us to consider the very real environmental and human dangers created by our energy consumption. As a society, we are poised at a pivotal point at which new energy technologies are rapidly advancing, public awareness and concern about energy are heightened, and political will is beginning to shift towards actions and policies that may lead toward a more sustainable energy future.

It is no surprise, then, that E-IPER's Joint MS students from the Graduate School of Business are seeking opportunities where they can have an impact in the emerging clean energy sector. Renewable portfolio standards, energy storage, peak power, and smart grids and meters are topics in which E-IPER students are focusing their academic work and represent business opportunities where graduates are finding exciting positions.

This Spring the first group of students completed their Capstone Projects, a new requirement for the Joint MS degree through which students demonstrate how they have integrated their professional school training with the science, engineering, and technology they have learned through the Joint MS. By design, the Capstone Project gives students flexibility to work on a project that may help launch their career and produce a product such as a business plan or market analysis that they can highlight in their job search. Students may consult with faculty and other students or collaborate with an outside client.

For their Spring quarter projects, five Joint MS-MBA students took on several challenges within the clean energy sector. For his project with Primus Power, Understanding Utility Requirements for Grid-Scale Batteries,Michael Dawson identified utility needs and market opportunities to address the intermittency problem posed by renewables - that is, loss of power generation when the wind dies or the sun is obscured - by improving the capacity and efficiency of energy storage systems. Mike Dorsey and Brenden Millstein's project, Carbon Lighthouse, Leading the Way to a Carbon-Free Future, developed a start-up business to capitalize on the opportunity to enable corporations to reduce their carbon footprint and still remain profitable via a "one-stop" engineering and financing consultancy. For her project, Opportunities in Energy Efficiency, Sumi Kim also looked at business opportunities in energy efficiency and financing, focusing on the residential sector and retrofit financing incentives created by the new Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) policies being implemented in some communities. Finally, working with Joby Energy on her project Evaluating Business Opportunities for Joby energy, HighAltitude Wind, Sandrine Dury analyzed the opportunity for tethered wind turbines that fly more than 1,000 feet up - to contribute a less intermittent, higher capacity, and lower cost renewable energy supply to existing energy sources.

The students presented their projects to the E-IPER community at a symposium on June 1, 2010 Whether or nor these intriguing projects grow into successful ventures, they clearly demonstrate the role that science, engineering, and technology can and should have in the emerging clean energy economy.

Image credit: Brenden Millstein, Founder/CEO of Carbon Lighthouse