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Energy Fellows Drive Sustainability Efforts

April 17, 2012

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Ten interns at NC State have spent the last year working on cutting-edge developments in sustainable energy.

These interns, participants in the Energy Fellows program, have gained considerable first-hand experience leading a host of initiatives at five different organizations: NC State Energy Management, the North Carolina Solar Center, the NC State Sustainability Office, the Future Renewable Electric Energy Delivery and Management (FREEDM) Systems Center and Advanced Energy.

Intern Helen Chappell has been with the program since November 2011. The focus of her work with the N.C. Solar Center’s Clean Transportation Program has been on developing a comprehensive database for tracking alternative fuel use in North Carolina.

The intent for the database is to show legislators how widely North Carolina government agencies, school systems and businesses use alternative fuel sources, Chappell said.

“It has allowed me to get a glimpse of the research and innovation that happens in industry in North Carolina,” Chapell said of working on the database.

Megan Cain, a recent environmental technology and management graduate from NC State, worked with the NC State Sustainability Office on outreach initiatives, such as Campus Sustainability Day.

Her most recent effort involves a video (embedded above this story) that shows how the Solar Center, Advanced Energy, Energy Management, the University Sustainability Office and the FREEDM Systems Center are working jointly to promote a vision of sustainability on campus.

Anna Stokes, an Energy Fellow at the nonprofit energ efficiency firm Advanced Energy, has spent her internship working on an electric transportation team. She works on projects that help communities understand, plan for, and implement electric transportation.

“I thought about going straight to graduate school after I graduated,” she says. “I’m really glad I didn’t. Now I am getting a completely different perspective than what I got in school.”

The Energy Fellows program, which ends this month, has been funded by the N.C. Department of Commerce. In July 2010, the Department of Commerce’s Energy Office allocated nearly $500,000 from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) to support the program.

The Fellows said they have gained industry experience, technical skills and contacts that will serve them in their future careers.

“I am very grateful for the ARRA grant.” Stokes said. “I would have been unemployed after graduation for at least a little while if it hadn’t been for the ARRA.”

The program’s benefits have gone both ways. Anne Tazewell, the N.C. Solar Center’s Clean Transportation Manager, calls her two Energy Fellows tremendous assets to her program. Tracy Dixon, director of sustainability at NC State, said that the program’s efforts to train tomorrow’s energy leaders will pay future dividends for the state of North Carolina.