Ohio State Energy Partners grants fuel sustainability initiatives

Posted: October 6, 2022

Ohio State Energy Partners (OSEP), The Ohio State University’s comprehensive energy management partnership, has announced 2021-22 grants that will support students, faculty and staff in research projects that promote sustainable energy and environmental initiatives.

OSEP contributes $810,000 each year to the university or affiliated philanthropic causes as part of its commitment to academic engagement.

Grants include $50,000 to Jordan Clark, assistant professor in the Department Civil, Environmental and Geodetic Engineering. The grant will fund Clark’s research related to reducing energy used by laboratory exhaust fans around Ohio State’s Columbus campus.

Running exhaust fans is often a necessary part of research, since the fans divert fumes from potentially noxious substances, Clark said.

“This is kind of an energy hog that not too many people think about,” he said. “Especially in the wet labs, you’ll have a bunch of the fume hoods that chemists, chemical engineers work in. They need to be held at a negative pressure to make sure that whatever they’re working on doesn’t escape into the general building. In order to do that, you have to run fans constantly.”

Clark said the OSEP grant will assist him and his team in verifying data they’ve collected on reducing energy usage when running laboratory exhaust fans.

“What that means for a typical situation,” he said, “if you can turn things down by half, which is often the case, if you can get a better prediction of where that plume of air is going to go, you’ll end up using about one-eighth of the energy.”

Another $50,000 OSEP grant has been awarded to Ryan Winston, an assistant professor in the Departments of Food, Agricultural, and Biological Engineering and Civil, Environmental and Geodetic Engineering. The grant will fund Winston’s proposal, “Using Campus as a Living Laboratory: Curbing Sediment in Stormwater to Improve Campus Sustainability.”

Winston said the grant will advance research that he and Landscape Architecture Assistant Professor Halina Steiner have been working on since fall 2018.

“The long and the short of the idea is to essentially develop a new curb and gutter design along the side of standard streets that you would see in any urban area across the country, with the idea here of helping to control pollutants that are transported by stormwater runoff when it rains,” Winston said. “We are rethinking how that piece of infrastructure that’s been around for several centuries, at least, is constructed.”

Winston said the grant will enable his team to further the “Using Campus as a Living Laboratory” concept and develop curbs and gutters around campus to control pollution. Curbs and gutters that the team designed in the Knowlton School’s laboratory in 2019 and 2020 contain indentations that filter out pollutants.  

“These indentations helped to slow the velocity of the stormwater,” Winston said. “The indentations in the curbs and gutters are also meant to collect things like sediment, cigarette butts, things of that nature. And then campus facilities, which comes through and street-sweeps frequently anyway, can hopefully remove all of that material using their street sweepers and essentially keep it out of the Olentangy River.”

Other OSEP grant award winners from the College of Engineering include:

  • Matilde D'Arpino
    Matilde D’Arpino
    $48,162 to Research Assistant Professor Matilde D’Arpino for “Planning Tool for Assessing Ohio State Options for a Sustainable and Responsible Energy Usage.” Over the course of this project, a tool will be developed to systematically perform energy-related trade-off analysis
    considering inputs from energy markets, loads and generators parameters.
  • $45,000 to Professor and Chair Allison MacKay for “Sustainable Cities, Equitable Societies – Case Studies to Develop Student Competencies in Sustainable and Just Infrastructure Design.” She will create a sequence of case study materials and a set of associated instructor training resources to develop civil and environmental engineering students’ competencies in using a lens of sustainability and equity to assess and design municipal infrastructure projects.
  • $40,000 to Diversity Inclusion and Outreach Assistant Director Gisell Jeter-Bennett for “Engineering House Learning Community’s Service-Learning Program with South Side Family Farms.” EHLC students will work to identify engineering solutions and architectural designs that will help develop
    sustainable and cost-effective at-home farming gardens for residents of south side Columbus.
  • $35,000 to Professor Ramteen Sioshansi for “Convergent Graduate Training and EmPOWERment for a Sustainable Energy Future.” The project will forge a new approach to graduate education by training students in transdisciplinary research that is advancing next-generation sustainable energy systems with a focus on innovation enabled by distributed energy technologies and data.
  • Photo of Shawn Midlam-Mohler
    Shawn Midlam-Mohler
    $33,500 to Clinical Professor Shawn Midlam-Mohler for “EcoCar Competition.” 

    Ohio State's successful EcoCAR team, in partnership with Wilberforce University, earned a spot as one of the 15 universities to participate in the EcoCAR EV Challenge, which begins this fall.

  • $13,000 to Assistant Professor of Practice Parker Sutton for “Prairie Baroque," a collection of ecological sculptures that respond to the habitat needs of struggling animal and insect species of Ohio, fabricated entirely out of natural waste products from campus using advanced
    architectural technology.
  • $7,000 to Assistant Professor Michelle Franco for “The Diggers Studio: Cultivating an Ethic of Social and Ecological Sustainability in Landscape Labor.” This applied research project tethers ecological sustainability to social sustainability through direct engagement with landscape laborers in agriculture, ecological restoration and landscape maintenance.
  • $50,000 to landscape architecture alumnus and University Landscape Architect Steve Volkmann for “Graves Hall Green Space.”

In addition, OSEP supported the following projects this year:

  • Ohio State Arts Initiative, $200,000
  • WOSU Sustainability Programming, $25,000
  • EmPOWERment Program Capstone Project, $20,000
  • Hack OHI/O, $15,000

In 2017, the university and OSEP entered into the comprehensive energy management partnership, which launched an unprecedented energy efficiency program and established Ohio State as an international leader in sustainability. OSEP is a joint venture between ENGIE North America and Axium Infrastructure. The university’s Energy Academic Collaboration Council provides support for the grant program.

For more information, click here.

original article by Chris Bournea, Ohio State News