Making a Clean, New Start in an Important Career

Renewable energy and clean technology are becoming industry watchwords, and since 2014, mid-career professionals from numerous fields have had a rare opportunity to break into the burgeoning sector thanks to the Diploma in Clean Energy, a Clean Start program that is a collaboration between the Urban Future Lab at NYU Tandon (a hub for smart cities, clean energy, and smart grid technology) and the NYU School of Professional Studies’ Center for Global Affairs.

Among the most exciting portions of the intensive, semester-long program is an eight-week capstone project that allows students to work alongside cleantech startups and organizations to support their business functions, getting hands-on experience and making practical, real-world contributions.

On June 27, the newest cohort celebrated their completion of the program by presenting their final projects, which touched upon such important topics as energy benchmarking, cleantech business models, the circular economy, and energy storage. Read on to learn more about them.

  • Many U.S. cities are now making building owners submit their energy usage data in a process called benchmarking, in order to track the effectiveness of municipal carbon reduction strategies. Bright Power helps its clients comply with benchmarking requirements and find solutions to wasted energy spending. For their capstone project, students David Justiniano, Peter Cramer, and John Shin conducted extensive stakeholder interviews, policy research, and data analysis to find opportunities for Bright Power to expand their market to new locations throughout the country.

  • The Circular Economy calls for using resources for as long as possible, extracting the maximum value from them, and then recovering and regenerating any products and materials possible – markedly different from the “take, make, and dispose” ethos of traditional linear economies. Danish Cleantech Hub is dedicated to bringing Denmark’s highly regarded clean technology solutions to other markets, and students Mahvish Gilani, Rose Lenoff, and Omar Vilchez-Cruz were asked by the group to investigate whether Advance Nonwoven, a firm that creates highly recyclable and reusable materials, would be a success in the U.S. The trio discovered that there was a distressing lack of awareness on the part of U.S. stakeholders and hit upon the idea of holding an ambitious circular economy event that would allow companies and organizations to connect, share information and ideas, and educate the general public. (They even came up with the hashtag #DiscoverCE.)

  • Highview Power, a leader in Liquid Air Energy Storage (LAES), wanted to understand the barriers to and drivers of energy storage adoption – a must considering the complex landscape facing their sector. They enlisted students Wilson Collins, Anthony Ng, and Jason Hummel to interview key stakeholders, conduct market research, and make recommendations for how they could more clearly communicate the benefits of LAES.

  • Student Sachin Sawhney opted for a more individual capstone project, using the time to explore the viability of his own startup idea: New Energy Connect. He envisions aggregating existing cleantech services and products into a “one-stop shop” that will allow co-op and condo associations to more easily find, install, and maintain sustainable features like solar panels and EV charging stations. “In my experience, there’s always at least one person on every board interested in issues of sustainability and willing to consider it as a factor when making decisions.” he explained. “Besides that, they have fiduciary responsibility to their building’s residents, and they can appreciate the idea of someone who will stay and manage a project, not simply install it and disappear.”