Students Collaborate with Startups in Clean Start Diploma Program

Clean Start Group

With sustainability on the minds of companies and consumers, it’s no surprise that renewable energy and clean technology are booming industries — especially in urban settings like New York City. Professionals seeking to break into this growing sector have a rare training opportunity in the Clean Start Diploma Program, created by the Urban Future Lab (UFL) at NYU Tandon in collaboration with the NYU School of Professional Studies’ Center for Global Affairs.

Since 2014, the intensive five-month program offered annually in the spring provides students with classroom instruction in conjuction with hands-on learning through an eight-week capstone project where students work together with cleantech startups and organizations to support their business functions. (Partial tuition assistance for the program is generously provided by the New York State Energy and Research Development Authority (NYSERDA), with U.S. veterans eligible for a full-tuition scholarship.)

On June 28, the newest cohort celebrated their graduation from the program by presenting their final capstone projects to a diverse group of guests including industry professionals and executives and their industry hosts. UFL program manager Joe Silver and Sara Jayanthi, the marketing manager for PowerBridgeNY and adjunct faculty member with the program, kicked off the event. Jayanthi shared with attendees the program’s focus on providing professionals with a “fast-track course and transition into the clean energy field.” The graduating cohort spent the eight weeks exploring business strategies for host companies working on community solar (ProjectEconomics), community wind (United Wind), and energy storage (ViZn). 

First to present was the student team paired with ViZn. The students centered on lucrative expansion opportunities into global markets for ViZn’s large-flow battery product that provides large-scale energy storage solutions. After analyzing 10 countries and states, the students pitched two market options for ViZn to consider based upon detailed research and analysis into energy costs and government incentive programs.

Students on the United Wind team discuss the benefits of community wind projects

Students on the United Wind team discuss the benefits of community wind projects

The other two capstone projects revolved around the advancements and obstacles in the cleantech industries of solar and wind power. ProjectEconomics, a software company and platform that enables community distributed generations programs for utilities and developers, is establishing a community solar marketplace in NYC where residential “investors” benefit from shared solar panels. The student team determined that awareness and community involvement are essential to marketing the program, a conclusion that team United Wind also reached. The students working with United Wind, a small-scale wind leasing company that aims to give customers control of their power, explained detailed factors in the pros and cons of community wind power. Besides managing interconnection costs, they noted the importance of community engagement and support towards successfully launching community wind projects. (The industry hosts from ProjectEconomics and United Wind are graduates of the 2014 Clean Start program; United Wind is also a graduate of the ACRE incubator, and ProjectEconomics is currently a tenant at the Urban Future Lab).

After the presentations, NYU Tandon Vice Dean for Research, Innovation and Entrepreneurship Kurt Becker congratulated the students on their achievements and voiced his esteem for the impressive 2017 cohort and the Clean Start program. “The level of synergy between the host companies and the students is one that I’ve never seen before,” Becker expressed.

Visit Clean Start Diploma Program to learn more and apply.

Camila Ryder
Graduate School of Arts and Science
Master of Arts in English Literature, Class of 2018