When the Advanced Energy Research and Technology Center (AERTC), a New York State-designated Center of Excellence, was founded several years ago at Stony Brook University, its goal was to foster collaboration between the brightest minds in academia and industry leaders in energy.
Its interdisciplinary research program and state-of-the-art laboratories have since kept the University at the leading edge of discovery, resulting in new technologies that impact residential and commercial energy use worldwide.
Stony Brook recently took another step in its commitment to a future that protects the environment with efficient, sustainable energy management. The University announced on Friday, Feb. 16, the formation of a new Institute of Gas Innovation and Technology (I-GIT), a consortium of industry and academic leaders focused on the development of new energy technologies designed to promote sustainability and save the environment.
University President Samuel L. Stanley Jr. joined State University of New York Chancellor Kristina M. Johnson, other University leaders, and representatives from National Grid New York for a ribbon-cutting ceremony Feb.16 at the Institute’s new offices, at AERTC in Stony Brook’s Research and Development Park. The ceremony marks Chancellor Johnson’s first visit to Stony Brook following her appointment in September 2017.
“I-GIT embodies three of the four themes I spoke of at my first State of the University System address: innovation, sustainability and partnership,” Chancellor Johnson said. “This institute is a strategic partnership between Stony Brook University and National Grid for research and development of sustainable energy usage innovation, but the Institute doesn’t stop there. All parties are coming to this venture with an open mind to what can be accomplished for the communities we serve, the researchers, faculty and students who will come through these doors, and future partnerships. Congratulations to Stony Brook and the community. We couldn’t be prouder to be a part of this exciting opportunity.”
During the ribbon-cutting ceremony, President Stanley thanked Chancellor Johnson for her continued support.
“Stony Brook’s outstanding faculty is happy to collaborate with partners at SUNY and not only work with the energy center, but work across the campus to bring other disciplines involved to address key issues in gas research,” President Stanley said. “Thank you, Chancellor Johnson, for your leadership. We look forward to working with you and watching the consortium grow.”
The University has partnered with National Grid, one of the largest investor-owned energy companies in the world, to launch I-GIT. National Grid serves communities in Massachusetts, New York, Rhode Island and the United Kingdom, and it boasts robust policies and programs focused on environmental protection. Sustainability plays a key role in the company’s values and decision making.
“As a leading clean energy company, National Grid is proud to be a founding partner of the Institute, which will support clean gas technology development and deployment for homes and businesses through academic-industry collaboration,” said Ken Daly, President of National Grid New York. “The consortium’s innovative approach will help provide our customers and the local communities that we proudly serve with a 21st century clean energy economy.”
National Grid is sponsoring a research project to be developed by the consortium that includes a review of energy usage data. The data will be used to identify new methods to improve gas energy efficiency and safety.
I-GIT is focused on finding clean, affordable energy solutions to meet the nation’s growing energy demands and challenges. It will also serve as an independent source of information and analysis on gas technology and related policies, and support advanced concepts in gas technology development and deployment for homes and businesses.
The Institute is overseen by an advisory board of University researchers and leaders from founding organizations, including National Grid. Devinder Mahajan, a professor of chemical engineering and graduate program director in the Materials Science and Chemical Engineering Department in Stony Brook’s College of Engineering and Applied Sciences, and an expert in natural gas technology, will serve as director of the Institute.
“The establishment of the Institute comes at a crucial time as global gas supplies are now projected to last over 200 years at the present rate of consumption,” Mahajan said. “Natural gas burns cleanly because its principal component, methane, contains 25 percent hydrogen by weight. This large amount of hydrogen contributes greatly to the hydrogen economy. By adding renewable gas or other technologies to the mix, the hydrogen content will further increase, which is central to the Institute’s commitment to promoting ‘decarbonizing’ fuels.”
The formation of I-GIT comes on the heels of SUNY’s participation in the newly formed University Climate Change Coalition (UC3), announced Feb. 6 during a higher education summit on climate change, at which President Stanley was a featured speaker representing the SUNY system. Stony Brook University represents the 64 institutions of SUNY in the UC3, which comprises 13 leading research universities in the U.S., Canada and Mexico.
“[SUNY] has some of the largest energy demands of any system in the country, and so we’re very interested in being a part of this coalition. We believe that research universities are the place that can tackle these kinds of issues,” President Stanley said during remarks at the summit. “We have the diversity and multidisciplinary approaches to help us find those technical solutions. The partners that have been brought together as part of this coalition have both the innovative approaches and the scope and scale needed to really make a difference in our world.”
The goal of the coalition is to aid local communities in the transition to a low-carbon, eco-friendly lifestyle. To achieve this, each participating institution will hold a climate change forum, and the findings from each will be compiled to create a cohesive, international plan of action. The member institutions have already committed to lessening the carbon footprint of their campuses.
These initiatives are a continuation of the sustainability efforts already taking place at Stony Brook.
The University is in the process of improving its energy efficiency performance by 20 percent and reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent. Over the past three years, the University has replaced all of its oil-fired boilers with more efficient gas-fired units not only to improve efficiency but also to reduce hazardous air pollutants. Stony Brook is also working toward sub-metering all of the buildings on campus, allowing for more precise energy use data. Similarly, I-GIT plans to focus on more advanced, safer methods of gas metering.
In addition, Stony Brook is a major sponsor participant in the 10th Advanced Energy Conference being held March 26–28 in Manhattan. This year’s theme, “The Future of Energy is Here,” will celebrate the ways that research and development in renewables, batteries and other technologies have become a vibrant part of our economy.
Stony Brook’s ongoing sustainability research, coupled with the achievements of AERTC, make the University a natural fit for the Institute, President Stanley said.
— By Melissa Arnold