DOE’s Office of Science and ORNL team up for a conversation on “science and the community”

By Cynthia Merse, Senior Writer, Piper Communications

On October 20, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science and Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) hosted a virtual conversation about the role of the lab as an economic driver in the Knoxville-Oak Ridge community. The event’s featured speakers were Dr. Chris Fall, Director of the Office of Science, and Dr. Thomas Zacharia, Director of ORNL. Several prominent local leaders were also in attendance to ask questions and contribute to the discussion.

For this conversation, Dr. Fall wanted to learn what it means to have a national lab in the Knoxville-Oak Ridge community, what it means to be a good neighbor and a good employer, and how ORNL can play a role in driving economic development in East Tennessee.

The first topic of discussion was workforce development, specifically how to attract and retain scientific and technical talent. Dr. Fall and University of Tennessee (UT) President Randy Boyd noted the advantages of living in East Tennessee, such as low taxes and a great quality of life. Efforts around creating an entrepreneurial ecosystem were also discussed, including the connectivity that exists among resources like ORNL, UT, and the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA).

“We have a spirit of cooperation that will allow us to take that connectivity to a new level in our efforts to create and invest in businesses,” said Boyd.

The conversation then shifted to public-private partnerships. Boyd spoke about the RevV! program, which gives Tennessee manufacturers access to ORNL’s researchers and facilities to solve manufacturing challenges. Dr. Fall mentioned the new INFUSE program, which will enable companies to work with ORNL to develop cost-effective, innovative fusion energy technologies.

Dr. Zacharia noted several significant partnerships ORNL has with the private sector including Volkswagen and Microsoft. He recognized the need to capitalize on these partnerships to encourage “leading-edge technology companies to come and invest in the cutting-edge technology being developed here.”

The next major topic was the role of higher education in supporting and furthering ORNL’s mission. At the center of discussion was the recently established Oak Ridge Institute at the University of Tennessee and its potential as a force multiplier for UT and ORNL. As a talent pipeline, Dr. Zacharia said the Institute “has the potential to be a difference maker. It’s my hope that the Institute’s students will choose to stay in East Tennessee and create the next $3 billion industry.”

As the conversation drew to a close, attention turned to raising Oak Ridge’s profile as a destination to live and work. Dr. Zacharia noted that UT, ORNL, and TVA launched a survey to learn about East Tennessee’s entrepreneurial climate and identify several steps that can be taken to attract more entrepreneurs to the area.

“We’re not starting from scratch here,” Dr. Fall said. “We have all the raw materials: a diverse research university, a diverse research laboratory. What’s the one thing that’s going to drive folks to come here? Once we figure that out, we need to go all in at the state level, regional level, and university level and talk about Oak Ridge as that place to be.”

Wacker joins other companies to launch Ultra Low-Carbon Solar Alliance

Wacker, a valued TAEBC member, recently joined forces with five leading renewable energy companies to launch the Ultra Low-Carbon Solar Alliance. The Alliance intends to expand market awareness and deployment of ultra low-carbon solar technology to accelerate reductions in solar supply chain greenhouse gas emissions.

Solar photovoltaics (PV) is one of the fastest growing energy sources in the world, with solar generating capacity growing nearly 2500% globally since 2000. Much of this growth is due to solar energy’s environmental benefits as compared to fossil fuel energy sources.

Ultra low-carbon solar technology can reduce the carbon footprint of a solar project by up to 50%. This reduction is achieved through the use of materials with lower embodied carbon in PV panel production. Through the Ultra Low-Carbon Solar Alliance, Wacker and other members will work to educate the marketplace and policymakers about the benefits and availability of ultra low-carbon solar. They will also engage with key stakeholders to develop and deploy a reliable methodology that will enable companies to specify ultra-low carbon PV panels in projects.

Wacker’s participation in the Ultra Low-Carbon Alliance affirms the company’s commitment to further advanced energy investment in Tennessee and beyond. This commitment was the focus of a May 2019 guest column authored by Mary Beth Hudson, Vice President of Wacker Polysilicon NCA and TAEBC Board Member, where she highlighted the recent expansion of Wacker’s Charleston, Tennessee polysilicon production plant.

TAEBC and Seven States co-hosting Advanced Energy 101 series for LPCs

TVA responded to stakeholder input and market demand for more advanced energy options when it announced the Flexibility Proposal earlier this year. The Flexibility Proposal gives local power companies the opportunity to self-generate or procure distributed generation. Technologies and solutions seem limitless and ever changing as utilities try to navigate how to become energy companies of the future. So how do local power companies start exploring options that are best for them, their customers, and their specific demands?

The Tennessee Advanced Energy Business Council and Seven States are co-hosting an “Advanced Energy 101” webinar series for local power companies to learn more about distributed generation options, advanced energy and finance models.

The first webinar in our series is “Combined Heat and Power.” It will take place Wednesday, October 21 from 2:00 to 3:30 p.m. EDT. Register here. Panelists include:

  • Isaac Panzarella, Director of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Southeast Combined Heat and Power Technical Assistance Partnership (CHP TAP), located at North Carolina State University
  • Emily Robertson, Business Development Team Manager, 2G Energy
  • Ben Edgar, CEO, White Harvest Energy

The second webinar in our series is “Energy Storage and Demand Response.” It will take place Wednesday, October 28 from 2:00 to 3:30 p.m. EDT. Register here. Panelists include:

  • Bradley Greene, Energy Storage Manager, Signal Energy
  • Clint Wilson, VP, Engineering & Energy Innovations, Seven States
  • Simon Sandler, Project Engineer, North Carolina Clean Energy Technology Center at North Carolina State University

The third webinar in our series is “Traditional and Innovative Financing Models for Distributed Generation.” It will take place Wednesday, November 4 from 2:00 to 3:30 p.m. EDT. Register here. Panelists include:

  • Steve Seifried, Tennessee Account Executive, Ameresco
  • Christian Dick, Sr. Project Developer, Large Scale Distributed Energy Resources, Ameresco
  • Virginia A. Williams, Senior Vice President, Project Finance, Silicon Ranch Corporation

Webinars will be presented via Zoom in an interactive format and include ample time for audience Q&A.

Visit the TAEBC calendar to learn more about upcoming Advanced Energy 101 for LPCs events.

Innovation Crossroads Showcase webinar emphasizes value of East Tennessee entrepreneurship

This year’s Innovation Crossroads Showcase emphasized the value of statewide partnerships and entrepreneurship in the East Tennessee region. Presented by the Tennessee Advanced Energy Business Council and LaunchTN, the virtual event took place during Innov865 Week 2020.  

Kicking off the event, TAEBC Executive Director Cortney Piper spoke about TAEBC’s partnership with LaunchTN and creation of the Energy Mentor Network. The Energy Mentor Network program’s goal is to foster the growth of Tennessee advanced energy technologies and startups by connecting entrepreneurs with mentors and industry specific expertise. Piper highlighted the accomplishments of program graduates, including Solar Site Design, SkyNano Technologies, Stone Mountain Technologies, and Active Energy Systems.  

Afterward, Piper moderated a fireside chat with Van Tucker, LaunchTN’s Interim Chief Executive Officer, where they discussed Tucker’s background, LaunchTN’s work in the state, and the entrepreneurial ecosystem of East Tennessee.  

“I’m really proud of the work that is being done in East Tennessee,” Tucker remarked. 

Speaking about what gives her hope for the future, Tucker said that while there are plenty of challenges and problems that have arisen due to COVID-19, she believes “this is the moment for innovators and entrepreneurs” to rise up.

“Entrepreneurs are, I believe, the best chance we have of rapid economic recovery in our nation at the moment,” she said. “And they need to be given the resources they need to grow and thrive and help contribute to that economic recovery.”

Later, Dan Miller, Director, Innovation Crossroads, spoke about the Innovation Crossroads program and upcoming Cohort Five application deadline. Based at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, the Innovation Crossroads program leverages ORNL’s scientific resources and capabilities and connects the nation’s top innovators with experts, mentors, and networks in technology-related fields to take world-changing ideas from research and development to the marketplace. 

Miller then introduced Innovation Crossroads Cohort Four startups for their pitches. Attendees heard pitches from Actinic, AquaQuant Laboratories, Becq, PixelEXX Systems, and Quantum Lock Technologies.

Mitchell Ishmael, Cohort One alumni and co-founder of Active Energy Systems, moderated a panel discussion with Cohort Two alumni as they provided updates on their businesses and reflected on their time in the Innovation Crossroad and Energy Mentor Network programs. Panelists included Don DeRosa of Eonix, Shane McMahon of Lux Semiconductors, Justin Nussbaum of Ascend Manufacturing, and Megan O’Connor of Nth Cycle.

“The Knoxville area in general is extremely supportive,” Nussbaum said. “Everyone that I have worked with around here is always willing to help and provide feedback. It’s just been a great area to build a company in because of that assistance.” 

To learn more about the Energy Mentor Network or become a mentor, click here. To learn more about Innovation Crossroads or apply for Cohort Five before the October 31 deadline, follow this link.

Register for the Innovation Crossroads Showcase during Innov865 Week 2020!

Join us for the Innovation Crossroads Showcase during Innov865 Week 2020! The virtual event will take place Wednesday, September 30 from 11:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. ET. Register today to attend!

Innovation Crossroads, located at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), is the Southeast’s only entrepreneurial research and development program based at a U.S. Department of Energy national laboratory. The program, supported by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Manufacturing Office and Tennessee Valley Authority, leverages ORNL’s unique scientific resources and capabilities and connects the nation’s top innovators with experts, mentors, and networks in technology-related fields to take world-changing ideas from research and development to the marketplace.

Presented by the TAEBC and LaunchTN, the Innovation Crossroads Showcase will feature a fireside chat with Cortney Piper, TAEBC Executive Director, and Van Tucker, LaunchTN interim CEO. Later, Cohort Four startups will pitch their companies!

The event will also showcase a panel discussion with Mitchell Ishmael of Cohort One and Cohort Two alumni as they give us updates on their businesses and what their experience was like in Innovation Crossroads and the Energy Mentor Network. The event will highlight resources available for energy startups, including the TAEBC’s Energy Mentor Network. To learn more about the program or become a mentor, click here

During LaunchTN’s recent 36|86 Entrepreneurship Festival, Cohort Two alumna Megan O’Connor of Nth Cycle moderated a panel session with seven members of Cohort Three to discuss what advice they would give to burgeoning entrepreneurs and how the Tennessee ecosystem has helped their companies over the past year.

“This area has so much to offer. It’s so accessible,” explained Trevor McQueen of Neptune Fluid Flow Systems. “It has helped every facet of our business grow. We couldn’t be happier.” 

Register for the Innovation Crossroads Showcase today!