Energy News Around BU

Mayor Menino a Welcome Addition to BU

November 14th, 2013 in Uncategorized.

Two decades of hands-on leadership seen as invaluable asset

by BU Today Staff

Outgoing Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino (Hon.’01) chats with students at the press conference announcing that he will codirect BU's new Initiative on Cities. Photos by Cydney Scott

Outgoing Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino (Hon.’01) chats with students at the press conference announcing that he will codirect BU's new Initiative on Cities. Photos by Cydney Scott

Students and faculty welcomed the announcement yesterday by President Robert A. Brown that outgoing Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino (Hon.’01) will join BU in February as codirector of the Initiative on Cities (IoC), a new center that will invite leaders of cities around the world to share their hands-on knowledge with academics and scholars from BU and other universities.

Lucy Hutyra, a College of Arts & Sciences assistant professor of earth and environment, who has written often about the growth of cities, said the new initiative “provides an opportunity to bring together science and policy in potentially transformative ways.”

“As a major research university in Boston, we have a responsibility to connect our scholarly research with the needs of our community,” Hutyra said. “With 20 years of experience running Boston, Menino understands how policies are developed and implemented, and can help take our science to the streets and community in an effective manner. The knowledge, leadership, and innovation from this new Initiative on Cities can spread to other cities to make smarter and more efficient cities.”

The IoC will also tap academic expertise in disciplines across the University, among them engineering, education, health care, law, economics, and environmental studies, and will sponsor symposia, convene meetings to support policy makers, and hold an annual meeting, where city leaders from around the world will discuss such things as urban governance and the impact of climate change. It will be affiliated with BU’s Frederick S. Pardee Center for the Study of the Longer-Range Future and will study the governance and organization of the world’s swelling urban areas. Graham Wilson, a CAS professor and chair of political science, will codirect the IoC.

Speaking Wednesday at the press conference announcing his appointment, Menino pointed to the University’s “long history of contributing knowledge that makes a difference in the world. I look forward to playing my role in that great tradition, and making sure that our cities thrive for years to come,” he said. “We are going to work together to talk about economic issues and environmental issues. We are going to take scientific talk and turn it into street talk.”

Enrique Silva, a Metropolitan College assistant professor of city planning and urban affairs, said he found the new initiative “very bold and sophisticated.”

“It’s innovative in that it recognizes that no single discipline owns the city,” he said. “It also recognizes that to work on the city, and the range of issues that the city presents, the University needs to harness the various research and disciplines that we have here. The initiative will break silos and allow us to look at urban issues much more creatively.”

Natalie McKnight, interim dean of the College of General Studies and a professor of humanities, was among the crowd of students and faculty attending the press conference. “Menino mentioned that increasingly it’s the case that the bulk of the Earth’s population is moving into cities,” she said. “That’s why it’s so important to study how to have sustainable and high functioning cities. As a scholar of 19th-century Britain, I’ve studied how London was burgeoning, but had no sewer system, so illness and disease took over. Today in major cities there are similar problems that need to be worked out.”

Students at the standing-room-only event at 100 Bay State Road said they were pleased that Menino, who said a few weeks ago that he had received offers to lecture and organize conferences at Harvard, Northeastern, Brandeis, and Suffolk universities, had decided on BU.

“I’m glad that Menino chose BU,” said Devon McCarthy (CAS’16). “It rocks that we got him over Harvard.”

President Robert A. Brown (far left) and Menino at the standing-room-only press conference.

President Robert A. Brown (far left) and Menino at the standing-room-only press conference.

Jonathan Candelaria (COM’15), a First Year Student Outreach Projectcoordinator working in urban engagement last summer, said he’s excited to see such a prominent political figure come to BU. “What really interests me, though, is that he’ll be focusing on urban issues while he’s here,” he said. “Having studied some of Boston’s urban issues this summer, I’m eager to see what kind of societal impact he hopes to make through the BU community.”

“After being mayor for almost two decades, the wealth of experience and knowledge Menino brings will definitely enhance our campus,” said Cissy Hu (SMG’14). “I think it’ll be just great to have him on campus as a resource.”

Harper Schmidt (COM’14) was in the crowd with fellow members of the BU Public Relations Student Society of America. “We spoke to him about his new role on campus,” Schmidt said. “He invited us to come by and meet with him in his office as soon as he gets to BU.”

“Someone who has had such a long and influential run as mayor of Boston and in politics in general is an incredible addition to the backbone of academia at BU,” said Michelle Ortega (CAS’14). “Even though he might not be directly teaching, his presence will only enrich the perspectives available to students and bring new and refreshing ideas and questions to the forefront of discussions on campus.”

Menino received an honorary degree from BU in 2001, and at the 2013 Commencement ceremonies in May he was awarded the Boston University Medallion for his service to the community. At the same time, Brown announced that the Boston Scholars Program, which awards merit scholarships to graduates of the city’s public schools, would be renamed the Thomas M. Menino Scholarship Program and recipients referred to as Menino Scholars.

Menino Lands at BU

November 13th, 2013 in Uncategorized.

by Art Jahnke

Mayor will lead new initiative on urban life in the 21st century

COMMENCE

Longtime Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino (Hon.’01) receiving the Boston University Medallion for his service to the community from President Robert A. Brown (right) and BU trustee Alan Leventhal (Hon.’09) at the 2013 Commencement ceremonies. Photo by Chitose Suzuki

Boston University will bring the 20 years of expertise of one of the most accomplished mayors in the country to the Charles River Campus next semester. Outgoing Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino, whose leadership transformed Boston from a city that seemed to be running in place to a magnet for entrepreneurs, artists, and young professionals, will join the BU faculty in February to help lead an initiative that will define the politics and services, such as education, health care, transportation, and technology, needed for cities to thrive as economic hubs in the 21st century. Menino and BU President Robert A. Brown will announce the appointment at a press conference at 10 a.m. on Wednesday at 100 Bay State Rd. The event is open to the BU community.

 

Menino (Hon.’01), who leaves office in January after choosing not to run for a sixth term, will become codirector of the Initiative on Cities (IoC), which will convene the best current and former leaders of cities to share with academics and scholars from around the world their practical knowledge of how urban areas drive growth. The IoC will be affiliated with BU’s Frederick S. Pardee Center for the Study of the Longer-Range Future and will study the governance and organization of the world’s swelling urban areas. Graham Wilson, a College of Arts & Sciences professor and chair of political science, will codirect the IoC.

Researchers such as Lucy Hutyra, a CAS assistant professor of earth and environment, have predicted booming urban growth in the first decades of this century. Hutyra sees a tripling of urban spaces worldwide by 2030, and many experts believe that the quality of life of five billion city dwellers may depend on innovative solutions developed in academic settings.

“Today, more than any time in our past, the economic and cultural future of countries around the world relies on the development of major cities as hubs of knowledge creation and economic growth,” says Brown. “Developing cities into thriving, inclusive, and sustainable environments must be at the heart of our agenda as a university in the heart of a great city. It is a singular opportunity to bring Tom Menino to Boston University to help lead this initiative. Through his visionary leadership of the city of Boston, Mayor Menino has shown himself to be at the forefront of the thoughtful, long-term planning and governance needed to create great cities. My hope is that the Initiative on Cities will help cities around the world be successful in the decades ahead.”

The Initiative on Cities will tap expertise in disciplines across the University, among them engineering, education, health care, law, economics, and environmental studies. It will also recruit faculty from other universities. The initiative will sponsor symposia, convene meetings to support policy makers, and hold an annual meeting, where city leaders from around the world will discuss such things as urban governance and the impact of climate change.

“Cities are the engines that drive regional growth,” says Menino. “Jobs, economic development, housing, and education all contribute to their success or failure, but it’s the leadership of those cities that makes the difference. I believe that is why this Initiative on Cities and its priorities are so important. I am honored to have this opportunity to continue to help American cities thrive. Our country depends on their success, and I am confident that our best days are ahead.”

Menino, who is Boston’s longest serving mayor, has been a powerful advocate of improved educational opportunities, public safety, housing, and economic opportunity. He began his career in public service in 1983 as a city councilor, a seat he held for nine years. As a councilor he brought the Main Street program to Boston to help rebuild the neighborhood business districts that have been essential to the city’s growth. He served as chair of the council’s planning and development committee and of its finance committee, which later became the ways and means committee. Menino is best known for his support of neighborhood development, his campaign against illegal guns, his promotion of the city’s Innovation District on the South Boston waterfront, and his efforts to make Boston more bicycle-friendly.

Menino received an honorary degree from BU in 2001, and at the 2013 Commencement ceremonies in May he was awarded the Boston University Medallion for his service to the community. At the same time, Brown announced that the Boston Scholars Program, which awards merit scholarships to graduates of the city’s public schools, would be renamed the Thomas M. Menino Scholarship Program and recipients referred to as Menino Scholars.

Stephen Burgay, BU’s senior vice president for external affairs, says that when the University extended the invitation to the mayor, it was careful to take preventive measures to avoid conflicts of interest. “When we reached out, we learned that the mayor had set up a process to allow him to consider future opportunities without creating any conflicts of interest,” says Burgay. “He had a third party act as an intermediary in conversations with potential employers, and was very clear that he would be recusing himself from any discussions of city-related business involving those enterprises.”

Burgay says the single largest piece of business between the University and the city involves a request for an amendment to BU’s master plan that would allow construction of a laboratory building for integrated life science and engineering research next to Morse Auditorium. That request has been submitted to the Boston Redevelopment Authority, after the Boston University Community Task Force process was completed successfully, he says. On another municipal front, the University was recently granted permission from the Boston Public Health Commission to conduct Biosafety Level-3 research at the National Emerging Infectious Diseases Laboratories (NEIDL). Burgay says those discussions began months ago and were held exclusively with the Public Health Commission.

Menino recently told a forum at the University of Massachusetts Lowell that he has received offers to lecture and organize conferences at Boston, Harvard, Northeastern, Brandeis, and Suffolk universities, according to the Boston Globe.

BU Profs Take Energy Conservation from Lecture Hall to Real Life

November 5th, 2013 in Uncategorized.

Assessing, revamping energy use at Roxbury’s Madison Park Village

By Leslie Friday

BU’s Madison Park Village team: MET’s Enrique Silva (from left), ENG’s Michael Gevelber, CAS’ Robert Kaufmann, and SMG’s Nalin Kulatilaka. Photos by Cydney Scott

BU’s Madison Park Village team: MET’s Enrique Silva (from left), ENG’s Michael Gevelber, CAS’ Robert Kaufmann, and SMG’s Nalin Kulatilaka. Photos by Cydney Scott

The next time you walk into an office lobby that’s freezing on an August afternoon or an apartment that’s sweltering on a January morning, consider this: buildings are energy hogs, responsible for more than 40 percent of all of the energy consumed and the carbon emitted in the United States. So, improving buildings’ heating, cooling, and electrical systems would seem a no-brainer. But curbing a building’s energy consumption isn’t as simple as flipping a switch; better technology must align with building occupants’ attitudes and behaviors to ensure the highest level of efficiency.

Four Boston University professors have recently taken on that challenge, teaming up with BU’s Sustainable Neighborhood Lab (SNL) to see how they can improve energy efficiency at Madison Park Village, a low-income housing complex in Roxbury, Mass. City councilor Tito Jackson, who represents Roxbury, first connected BU staff and faculty with representatives from theMadison Park Development Corporation nearly two years ago to discuss how to improve the complex’s energy use. The team was able to tackle the project thanks to grant funding from IBM and Wells Fargo.

Jim Quirk, a Wells Fargo vice president, says the project fit nicely with the bank’s philanthropic mission of supporting basic clean technology solutions. “We’re really not interested in a solar panel on a $10 million townhome in Louisburg Square,” he says. “That’s nice, but that’s not really what we want to do. We’re looking for a significant impact for someone, not a feel-good project.”

The timing of the project works well for Madison Park Village, which is undergoing an extensive renovation. Russell Tanner, the corporation’s director of real estate, says the energy project also “gets residents more engaged in the process and more cognizant of the impact on their lives.”

The BU team is taking an interdisciplinary approach by drawing on each of the members’ field of expertise. Robert Kaufmann, a College of Arts & Sciences professor of earth and environment, will crunch the numbers to determine variations in energy consumption among the village’s four buildings. Michael Gevelber, a College of Engineering associate professor of mechanical engineering, is determining which energy systems are already in place and whether they are delivering the promised results. Based on his findings, he will make suggestions for ecofriendly technology upgrades. Nalin Kulatilaka, the School of Management Wing Tat Lee Family Professor in Management, will propose financial incentives that could encourage landlords to invest in technology improvements and tenants to use energy wisely. And Enrique Silva, a Metropolitan College assistant professor of city planning and urban affairs, will examine residents’ energy consumption habits to better understand how they could be influenced toward conservation.

What’s neat about this project, Gevelber says, is that “it’s bringing together these four totally different people with different perspectives to work on this…real problem for the city of Boston and for the people who live here.” Gevelber used to meet weekly for coffee with Kaufmann and Kulatilaka to discuss how to translate energy conservation theory into practice. This project now gives them, and Silva, who joined the team at the suggestion of SNL’s administrative director Linda Grosser, a chance to do just that.

 

Kulatilaka (right) helped train Boston high school students last summer to conduct surveys at Roxbury’s Madison Park Village. Photo courtesy of Linda Grosser

Kulatilaka (right) helped train Boston high school students last summer to conduct surveys at Roxbury’s Madison Park Village. Photo courtesy of Linda Grosser

Work on the project began in May when the BU team and research assistants designed a survey to assess Madison Park Village residents’ energy consumption and conservation. They recruited and trained a handful of local high school students to conduct the door-to-door surveys, with the goal of collecting 100 by summer’s end. Only 40 were returned completed.

The teenagers ran into unexpected challenges in administering the survey, says SNL project manager Marta Marello (GRS’13), who supervised the youth. Some residents were not available because they worked full-time or had young children who demanded their attention. Others spoke only Spanish or were reluctant to share personal information with relative strangers. Still, the BU professors think they received enough information from the surveys that were returned to compare to utility bills paid by property management and arrive at a baseline for the village’s energy consumption.

Madison Park Village is in many ways the perfect project to study how technology and occupants’ attitudes shape energy conservation, because the landlord pays for electricity and gas in two of the buildings and tenants pay in the other two. The property management team has given BU access to the bills it pays, but the residents who pay their own utilities have been more hesitant to share that information for privacy reasons or out of fear of being judged in the event they have overdue accounts.

“We’re asking for the privilege to go into their homes and poke around with questions and issues that could be embarrassing or incriminating,” Silva says. “You have to be sensitive to the residents’ life situations…without stigmatizing, without making assumptions.” There is a history of researchers swooping in to conduct studies without benefitting the local communities in which they work.  The professors’ goal is to “change that paradigm,” he says.

Silva is now in the process of identifying families willing to participate in more in-depth interviews and in-home observations so that he and his colleagues can link residents’ attitudes regarding energy consumption with their actions. What he discovers will help determine which incentives might push residents toward energy conservation. “Technology itself does not nudge people” to change, he says. “It’s how people relate to technology.”

Using a combination of hard data and behavioral observations will help the BU team analyze what Kulatilaka calls the split incentive problem—that tenants living in units with utilities included “have very little incentive to act prudently,” while those paying for their usage do. He thinks a solution lies in providing both landlords and tenants with rewards for energy conservation. For example, if the professors can determine how much money would be saved monthly by installing a new energy-efficient HVAC system within a building, then that money could be passed on through regular payments to tenants and landlords. For every dollar saved, 20 cents would go to the resident, and 80 cents to Madison Park.

Meanwhile, Gevelber is creating an inventory of engineering systems within the buildings, determining whether they are user-friendly and if further upgrades are necessary. Landlords might pass by a window cracked open in the dead of winter and envision dollar signs floating in the air. “We always blame the occupants for wasting energy,” Gevelber says, but one problem could be that “buildings are designed in such a way that there’s no temperature regulation in each room, no way to adjust it, and the system is just running.” He says that’s a mechanical, not a human, problem.

If the BU team’s approach is successful at Madison Park Village, it could become a model for other housing developments in the city. (Kulatilaka says representatives from Dorchester’s Codman Square Neighborhood Development Corp. have already contacted them about the possibility of working with the BU team.) Finding a model that works in Boston could have major global implications, considering that more than half of the world’s population currently lives in an urban area and the World Health Organization projects that 7 out of 10 people will live in a city by 2050.

“If you can solve the problems of the city, you’re going to be able to solve global problems,” Grosser says. Energy use is a big part of that equation. “Cities are a major source of global energy expenditures,” she says, “but they presumably could also be the most efficient consumers.”

If Boston Were Smart

October 28th, 2013 in Uncategorized.

By Leslie Friday
Imagining intelligent traffic lights, parking spaces, buildings, and appliances
Watch the video about Smart Parking.
Last year, the Daily Beast named Boston the country’s smartest metropolitan area. The website was referring to the people of Boston, of course, not the city itself. But what if the city itself were smart? What if technology, designed by the smart people who work in Boston, could help us save time and energy and spare us from daily frustrations? We talked to some BU researchers who are studying, designing, and building the technology for a more enlightened city.

Professor Michael Caramanis (ME, SE) suggests that appliances connected to a home photovoltaic unit, like a solar panel, could be programmed to detect passing clouds and choose to cycle at a later time. (Photo by Flickr contributor Savannah Corps

Professor Michael Caramanis (ME, SE) suggests that appliances connected to a home photovoltaic unit, like a solar panel, could be programmed to detect passing clouds and choose to cycle at a later time. (Photo by Flickr contributor Savannah Corps

Smarter grid
Because the cost of electricity fluctuates throughout the day, depending on demand, smart meters that are currently available tell homeowners exactly how much energy they use and at what cost, encouraging them to delay energy-intensive activities until a time of day when demand and costs are low. Supported by a $2 million National Science Foundation grant, Michael Caramanis, a College of Engineering professor of mechanical and systems engineering, John Baillieul, an ENG professor of mechanical engineering, and two MIT faculty members are collaborating on a study of how these and larger-scale measures could result in a smarter electricity grid. In the United States, we lose about 8 percent of energy because it travels long distances between points of generation to use. Caramanis thinks the loss could be greatly reduced if we got our energy from closer and cleaner sources. A smarter grid could help us do that.

Smarter security
Security officers could sort through billions of hours of video footage and spot unusual events, such as someone attempting to enter a building in the middle of the night, using specially designed cameras with embedded algorithms. Janusz Konrad and Venkatesh Saligrama, both ENG professors of electrical and computer engineering, have developed the technology, supported by more than $800,000 in funding from the National Science Foundation, the Department of Homeland Security, and other agencies.

Smarter HVAC
BU engineers have designed software that, once uploaded to a building’s HVAC system, would measure airflow room by room and revise it to meet minimum standards, decreasing energy costs while keeping occupants happy. The invention earned Michael Gevelber, an ENG associate professor of mechanical engineering, Donald Wroblewski, an ENG adjunct research professor, along with ENG and School of Management students first prize and $20,000 in this year’s MIT Clean Energy Competition. The team plans to develop and market the software through its newly formed company, Aeolus Building Efficiency.

Smarter traffic lights
A smart traffic lighting system would mine GPS information from cars and smartphones and count the number of vehicles waiting at red lights. If there is no approaching traffic, it would switch lights from red to green. Christos Cassandras, an ENG professor of electrical and computer engineering and head of the Division of Systems Engineering, is testing this system on a model minicity in his lab.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Imagining Intelligent Traffic Lights, Parking spaces, Buildings, and Appliances

October 7th, 2013 in Uncategorized.

Bostonia showcases Smarter Cities.

By Leslie Friday

Follow this link for an overview of Smarter Cities research at Boston University.

Upgrading the Grid

September 30th, 2013 in Uncategorized.

New Algorithms Could Cut Costs, Add Renewables

By Mark Dwortzan

energy algorithms

The ARPA-E project research team at BU--Visiting Researcher Rebecca Carroll (ME), Research Fellow Xiaoguang (Xiao) Li (ME) and PhD student Evgeniy Goldis (SE) and co-principal investigators Professor Michael Caramanis (ME, SE) and Research Associate Professor Pablo Ruiz (ME)--viewing a map of congestion in the PJM power transmission network.

When power transmission lines reach their capacity in a particular region during high demand periods, controllers have little choice but to tap local power plants to keep the electricity flowing and prevent blackouts. This practice, which favors expensive, local generation sources such as coal and natural gas over cheaper, typically more remote, renewable sources such as wind farms and solar arrays, adds an estimated $5 billion to $10 billion per year to the cost of running the US power grid. As more and more renewable generation sources join the grid and increase transmission line congestion, that price is expected to rise substantially.

To mitigate this cost, College of Engineering researchers and collaborators at Tufts University and Northeastern University have a plan that could enable controllers to exploit cheaper, renewable generation sources when transmission lines become congested. Supported by a $1.2 million grant from the Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Programs Agency (ARPA-E) in 2012 and an additional $1 million as of September, the researchers are developing algorithms and software that can produce short-term changes in the power transmission network that redistribute power across the network and utilize renewable sources without overloading transmission lines.

They estimate that the algorithms they’re developing will save $3 billion to $7 billion annually and significantly improve the resilience of today’s power transmission network.  Based on a fundamental law of physics dictating that electric current is distributed along the paths of least resistance, the algorithms are designed to discover, in real time, preferred reconfigurations of the transmission network.

In the "before" map above, high--red--electricity price areas reflect transmission line congestion (e.g., the red circle shows power flow at 101 percent of capacity). In the "after" map below,  low--green--electricity prices are made possible by disconnecting two remote transmission lines (shown by a circled X)--which relieve congestion (e.g., the orange circle shows power flow at 98 percent of capacity).  In the "before" map above, high--red--electricity price areas reflect transmission line congestion (e.g., the red circle shows power flow at 101 percent of capacity). In the "after" map below, low--green--electricity prices are made possible by disconnecting two remote transmission lines (shown by a circled X)--which relieve congestion (e.g., the orange circle shows power flow at 98 percent of capacity).

In the "before" map above, high--red--electricity price areas reflect transmission line congestion (e.g., the red circle shows power flow at 101 percent of capacity). In the "after" map below, low--green--electricity prices are made possible by disconnecting two remote transmission lines (shown by a circled X)--which relieve congestion (e.g., the orange circle shows power flow at 98 percent of capacity). In the "before" map above, high--red--electricity price areas reflect transmission line congestion (e.g., the red circle shows power flow at 101 percent of capacity). In the "after" map below, low--green--electricity prices are made possible by disconnecting two remote transmission lines (shown by a circled X)--which relieve congestion (e.g., the orange circle shows power flow at 98 percent of capacity).

“By removing a small number of critical transmission lines, you change the relative resistances across alternative  network paths, and electric power redistributes itself, relieving the congestion,” said ProfessorMichael Caramanis (ME, SE), the project’s co-principal investigator along with Research Associate Professor Pablo Ruiz (ME), who is leading the research effort. “If you disconnect the right lines, you can relieve congestion, increase use of inexpensive power sources and lower congestion costs.”

Having already implemented their algorithms in reproducing real-life situations in collaboration with thePJM transmission system, the largest power market in the US covering many eastern states, the researchers—with the recent addition of Professor Yannis Paschalidis (ECE, SE)—are now fine-tuning their software. Their immediate goal is to provide new ways of integrating wind generation with lower costs while strengthening the power transmission network. But to achieve that goal entails wrestling with a lot of computational complexity. Out of tens of thousands of transmission lines, the software must select a few, perhaps four or five, whose connection or disconnection will minimize the “spilling” or waste of inexpensive wind generation that might occur during high-congestion periods.

“Based on our understanding of power markets, in which prices can vary every five minutes at each node of the network, we can infer which lines would be beneficial to disconnect and which not,” said Caramanis. “When we disconnect a line, we also know how it will change the power flow over every other line, and how much we will gain by relieving the transmission network capacity a little bit. The idea is to optimize the network to reduce costly congestion.”

ARPA-E_Diagram1 2Over the next two-and-a-half years, the team plans to continue refining its algorithms in collaboration with PJM, two software companies and an energy consulting firm. It will also design tests and procedures to ensure that the dynamic reconfiguration of the transmission network causes no disruption in the security and stability of the power system. If the software is adopted across PJM or other vast transmission networks, controllers seeking to relieve congestion will have the capability to connect and disconnect selected transmission lines every half hour or hour as needed, rather than once or twice a month, as they do now—or even automate the process.

Nathan Phillips Featured in TV News Magazine, Chronicle

September 18th, 2013 in Uncategorized.


Nathan-Phillips-Headshot--150x150

CISE affiliated faculty Nathan Phillips was featured on a September 11th episode of the local Boston TV News Magazine, Chronicle on Ch. 5 WCVB. Prof. Phillips explains how roof space can be utilized to measure carbon dioxide and to promote sustainability.

Prof. Phillips is the Principal Coordinator for the Pardee Center’s Urban Century Research Initiative.

BU Team Soars at MIT Clean Energy Competition

May 9th, 2013 in Uncategorized.

Wins First Prize in Energy Efficiency Category
by Mark Dwortzen

Aeolus_WEB_READY

Team Aeolus Building Efficiency--Professor Michael Gevelber (ME, MSE, SE), David Cushman (GSM'14), Jonathan Ellermann (GSM'13), Ryan Cruz (ME'13) and Benjamin Smith (GSM'13)--with $20,000 Energy Efficiency Track Prize. (A sixth Aeolus team member, former Professor Donald Wroblewski (ME) was unavailable for the photo.)

A College of Engineering and School of Management team took first prize in the energy efficiency category of the annual MIT Clean Energy Prize on May 6, one of six premiere regional clean energy student business plan competitions in the U.S.

A collaboration between students and faculty from ENG and SMG, the team, Aeolus Building Efficiency, won $20,000 for its business plan and presentation for a full-service company that utilizes software to optimize airflow and reduce energy consumption in large office heating, ventilation and cooling (HVAC) systems. The technology could be a game-changer for today’s commercial buildings, which account for 18 percent of annual greenhouse gas emissions and 36 percent of national electric utility demand.

Consisting of senior Ryan Cruz, Associate Professor Michael Gevelber and former Professor Donald Wroblewski from the Mechanical Engineering Department, and MBA candidates David Cushman, Jonathan Ellermann and Benjamin Smith from SMG, Aeolus outperformed 15 other teams from nine states, including three semifinalists representing Harvard University, MIT and the University of Chicago.

Aeolus drew on ENG members’ expertise in building energy efficiency and HVAC systems optimization, and SMG members’ business development, operations, project management and sustainability experience. The team’s presentation impressed a panel of six judges from academia, government and industry who based their assessments on environmental benefit, creativity, execution and financial strategy, market and customer knowledge, and team strength.

ENGVAC_020_WEB_READY

Working with Paul Gallagher (ME, MS'13) (left) as a research assistant in Associate Professor Michael Gevelber's (ME, MSE, SE) lab, Ryan Cruz (ME'13) (right) runs experiments that measure a room's temperature as a function of incoming airflow speed. Software based on these experiments could lead to a commercially available, automated system to improve HVAC efficiency. (Photo by Cydney Scott)

Benjamin Smith (GSM’13) relished the opportunity to compete against outstanding teams and technologies from some of the nation’s top academic institutions. “Not only were we able to develop a comprehensive and compelling business plan, but the competition gave us an opportunity to substantiate that plan with cleantech industry leaders,” he observed. “It was an amazing experience.”

Taking part in the competition reinforced Ryan Cruz’s (ME’13) aspiration to pursue a career in the energy efficiency field. “I was able to learn more about the business side of engineering and aspects of building energy efficiency that I would not have normally been exposed to in the classroom,” he said.

“It was a great learning experience for all the team members, and we’re proud to get BU’s name recognized at such a highly competitive event,” said Gevelber (ME, MSE, SE). “We also had great mentoring from other BU faculty in both schools, and received support from BU’s Office of Technology Development, Institute for Technology, Entrepreneurship and Commercialization (ITEC) and Sustainable Neighborhood Lab.”

HVAC systems account for a large portion of energy use in mid- to large-sized buildings, and energy use and cost scales strongly with airflow. This is particularly true in older buildings designed when energy was much cheaper and HVAC systems were designed with high air flow rates. Based on concepts developed by Paul Gallagher (ME, MS’13) in his master’s thesis, Aeolus aims to commercialize its software-based service that enables room-by-room measurement and optimization of airflow rates, thereby reducing energy consumption while maintaining thermal comfort and meeting ventilation requirements.

Invented by Gevelber, Wroblewski and Gallagher and now being patented by BU, the breakthrough technology uses existing, computer-based building automation systems to reduce large building HVAC energy consumption by up to 20 percent without equipment installation, intensive manual labor or long payback periods.

“What’s amazing about our approach is that the system would take the same time to work on a building the size of Sargent College as it would for the Prudential Center,” Gevelber explained.

Formed in 2007 to help develop a new generation of energy entrepreneurs and companies and sponsored by NSTAR and the U.S. Department of Energy, the MIT Clean Energy Prize offers awards in three categories—renewable energy, infrastructure and resources, and energy efficiency. The competition’s $20,000 Energy Efficiency Track Prize is sponsored by the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center, which seeks to accelerate the success of clean energy technologies, companies and projects in the Commonwealth while creating high-quality jobs and long-term economic growth for the people of Massachusetts.

Minor in Sustainable Energy

May 6th, 2013 in Uncategorized.

I am pleased to announce that the Minor in Sustainable Energy is now available to any student enrolled in a four-year undergraduate School or College. The program is the result of a historic collaboration among faculty and administration in CAS, SMG, and ENG.

Program Description and Requirements.

Download the flyer about this minor.  Energy Minor Flyer

Faculty Contacts:
• Cutler Cleveland, College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Earth and Environment
• Uday Pal, College of Engineering, Department of Mechanical Engineering
• Paul McManus, School of Management, Department of Strategy & Innovation

Administrative Support and Student Advising:
• Sayaka Yamaki, Undergraduate Program Coordinator, Department of Earth and Environment

Geoffrey West Discusses Growth of Cities in Pardee Distinguished Lecture

April 9th, 2013 in Uncategorized.

Article from The Frederick S. Pardee Center for the Study of the Longer-Range Future

Geoffrey WestIn delivering the 2013 Frederick S. Pardee Distinguished Lecture on April 4, Prof. Geoffrey West discussed how the rapid pace of urbanization may be creating some extreme challenges, but noted that the same rapid urbanization is also likely to spur the innovative solutions to those issues.

Prof. West, Distinguished Professor and former president of the Santa Fe Institute,  gave the annual Pardee Distinguished Lecture at the Trustee Ballroom. His talk was titled “Growth, Innovation, and the Accelerating Pace of Life from Cells to Cities: Are They Sustainable?” He was invited to deliver this year’s Distinguished Lecture in association with a Pardee Center initiative focusing on The Urban Century.

Prof. West is a theoretical physicist who has spent the past decade looking at whether and how universal scaling laws found in biology can be applied to cities. He and his colleagues have found that cities around the world are comprised of systems that grow, on average, at remarkably similar rates, in the same way that organisms among different species grow in the same general fashion, no matter their ultimate size. This suggests we can project the scale and nature of urban growth rates for the planet.

This work is important because, as he noted, globally people are moving to cities at the rate of 1.5 million people per week, and by mid-century more than 70 percent of the global population will live in urban areas.

The current urban growth rate “is equal to a metro Boston every month in terms of infrastructure needs,” he said, adding that in terms of growth rates, “we live in an exponential world.”

Prof. West noted that cities, like biological organisms, cities can experience stable growth rates, much like an adult member of a species. But in contrast to biology — where organisms eventually die and regenerate – cities do not tend to die off and their regeneration depends on  social networks that foster creativity and innovation, helping to avoid what ordinarily would be an ultimate “collapse” of the systems required for continuous growth.

He cautioned, however, that because of the accelerated pace at which social networks operate, over time there will be shorter and shorter periods of opportunity for creativity and innovation to solve problems and avoid ultimate collapse.

He compared this cycle to being on treadmills that are going faster and faster, and said we will need creative and innovative solutions to develop at a rapid rate to keep up.  And that will necessarily occur in cities.

“We can’t solve these issues without interaction, and interaction happens in cities because that’s where the people are,” he said.

A video of the lecture will be available soon on the multi-media section of this web site.

 

 

http://www.bu.edu/pardee/2013/04/08/geoffrey-west-2/