Energy Week 2019 Recap
The 13th annual Notre Dame Energy Week was held Sept. 9-16 and offered various activities for students, faculty, staff, and the general public to learn about a wide range of topics in sustainable energy. Coordinated by ND Energy’s Student Energy Board, the event was highlighted by a series of talks from experts in academia, industry, and government.
Luciano Castillo, Kenninger Professor of Renewable Energy and Power Systems in Mechanical Engineering at Purdue University, opened up the week of seminars outlining a bold proposal for an energy, water, industrial, and education park along the U.S.-Mexico border. The concept of this energy corridor was developed by a consortium of 28 researchers, including Notre Dame’s Kenneth Christensen, Viola D. Hank Professor of Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering, and Harindra Joe Fernando, Wayne and Diana Murdy Family Professor of Engineering.
Closer to home, Paul Kempf, assistant vice president for utilities and maintenance, gave his annual update on the University’s energy landscape and its strategies toward decarbonization. Although there has been no “home run,” Kempf pointed to the new hydroelectric plant being constructed in downtown South Bend as one of the many projects Notre Dame has undertaken to reduce its carbon footprint.
Switching gears to nuclear power, Youssef Ballout, director of reactor systems design and analysis at Idaho National Laboratory, discussed the rapidly developing market for small modular reactors. According to Ballout, the design of these reactors addresses many of the challenges associated with increasing the use of nuclear energy. The smaller scale allows for reduced costs, greater economic flexibility, and the factory production of critical safety components.
With Energy Week leading up to Notre Dame’s home football game against the University of New Mexico, the latter portion of the festivities featured a southwestern flavor. Sandra Begay, director of environmental health for the City of Albuquerque and University of New Mexico regent, shared her personal journey into the field of engineering. A member of the Navajo Nation, Begay recounted the challenges she faced in developing a cohort as a Native American woman engineer. She also talked of her award-winning work with tribal renewable energy projects and offered encouragement to students interested in a career in engineering.
The week concluded with a busy Football Friday at the Eck Visitors Center. Football fans and visitors were able to ride the smoothie bike and also learn about Notre Dame’s environmental initiatives from ND for the Environment, a collaboration between ND Energy, the Office of Sustainability, the Minor in Sustainability, and the Alumni Association.
The final presentation of the week brought together two Notre Dame alumni, Mayor of Albuquerque Timothy Keller (‘00) and Khalil Shalabi (’88), executive vice president for strategic initiatives and transformation with the Lower Colorado River Authority. Mayor Keller touted the actions the City of Albuquerque has taken to move toward 100% renewable energy, such as committing to purchase a majority of the city’s power from a new solar facility and electrifying the city’s fleet of buses. Shalabi added his expertise in dealing with the realities of similar initiatives that have been implemented already in Austin, Texas.
In addition to the seminars, ND Energy provided opportunities for students, faculty, and staff to tour Notre Dame’s power plant and other facilities on campus. Groups toured the Materials Characterization Facility and saw its state-of-the-art instrumentation. Graduate student Jeffrey DuBose from the Kamat laboratory gave a brief presentation on solar power before leading tours of the solar panels on the roof of Stinson-Remick Hall.