Highlight all of ASU's renewable energy research.

ASU, national lab to develop solutions to global challenges

September 29, 2015

Arizona State University and the Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) in Richland, Washington, will enter into an agreement to solidify the burgeoning collaboration between the two institutions on research projects related to energy security, climate science and sustainability, and other aspects of global security.  

The signing of the official memorandum of understanding took place at Sept. 29 in the Fulton Center on ASU's Tempe campus. Group photo after collaboration agreement Sethuraman “Panch” Panchanathan (left), senior vice president of research, entrepreneurship and economic development at ASU's Office of Knowledge Enterprise Development, and Doug Ray, director of strategic partnerships at the Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, sign an agreement to collaborate on research projects related to energy security, climate science and sustainability, and other aspects of global security, Sept. 29 in Tempe. Photo by: Charlie Leight/ASU Now Download Full Image

ASU and PNNL have collaborated successfully in the past on projects including power-grid resilience, climate change and environmental sustainability. The agreement paves the way for both ASU and PNNL to leverage their capabilities to achieve mutual objectives, which include attracting new funding in global security and complex systems science and developing immersive learning opportunities for students.

“ASU has already proven to be a great partner as both PNNL and the university strive to further solutions to global security and sustainability through better understanding of complex adaptive systems,” said Doug Ray, director of strategic partnerships at PNNL. “We are impressed with ASU’s commitment to innovation and are looking forward to creating opportunities to engage collaboratively on important research projects.”

Not only will the agreement foster innovative research between PNNL and ASU, but it will also open a pipeline for eventual joint appointments and extend national laboratory resources to students.

“PNNL and ASU share common goals for advancing research in key areas that will have an impact on our local and global communities,” said Sethuraman “Panch” Panchanathan, senior vice president of research, entrepreneurship and economic development at ASU's Office of Knowledge Enterprise Development. “We are delighted to build upon our existing collaborations that will further our efforts to create sustainable solutions to energy security, climate change, resiliency and more.”

Group photo after collaboration agreement

(From left) Betsy Cantwell, deputy vice president of the Office of Knowledge Enterprise Development at ASU; Nadya Bliss, director of the Global Security Initiative at ASU; Sethuraman Panchanathan, senior vice president of research, entrepreneurship and economic development at the Office of Knowledge Enterprise Development; Doug Ray, director of strategic partnerships at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory; Jamie Winterton, director of the strategy global security initiative at ASU; and Jill Brandenberger, manager of sustainability and national security at PNNL, on Sept. 29 in Tempe. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

Nadya Bliss, director of ASU’s Global Security Initiative, agrees that the mutual interests of each organization will greatly benefit the collaborative research efforts of the newly signed agreement.  

"Given our existing ongoing efforts both in global security and sustainability as well as complimentary strength and expertise to address national and global wicked problems, it made sense to expand and formalize the collaboration between our two organizations,” Bliss said. “On a personal note, I have had the pleasure of working closely with PNNL’s Joint Global Change Research Institute (JGCRI) and have been thoroughly impressed by both the ongoing research at JGCRI and effectiveness of our two organizations working together.”

In announcing the agreement, both Ray and Panchanathan said PNNL and ASU are committed to discovery and innovation to address the complex problems facing the world today.

ASU researchers commit to a brighter energy future in Ethiopia

September 17, 2015

AORA Solar, a leading developer of solar-biogas hybrid power technology has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Arizona State University LightWorks, Addis Ababa Science and Technology University (AASTU) and Adama Science and Technology University (ASTU).

The goal is to promote academic cooperation for the development and advancement of renewable energy technologies to support the implementation of Ethiopia’s Climate Resilient Green Economy Strategy. This strategy aims to transform Ethiopia into a carbon-neutral middle-income country by 2025. AORA Solar Tulip technology set up in Kibbutz Samar The energy of the sun is reflected onto a small portion of the AORA Solar Tulip from mirrors set up in AORA Solar Tulip technology set up in Kibbutz Samar, the southern desert of Israel. Photo courtesy of AORA Solar Download Full Image

The Memorandum of Understanding seeks to expand the three academic institutions’ common interest in promoting mutual cooperation in the area of education and research. Activities will take place under the guidance of the Ethiopian Ministry of Water, Irrigation and Energy and the Ethiopian Ministry of Science and Technology.

"When it comes to developing renewable energy technology for Africa, collaboration is the key to innovation,” said Zev Rosenzweig, CEO of AORA Solar. "We are pleased to work with these three leading institutions to support the training and scientific development of new renewable initiatives. With the support of the local academic infrastructure, AORA’s technical know-how has the potential to improve the economy and the sustainable livelihoods of Ethiopians.”

Collaboration will include joint activities for research park development, in addition to the development and strengthening of renewable energy curricula for solar electric, solar thermal, photovoltaics, wind and sustainable fuel technologies. The cooperation also aims to lay the groundwork for the installation of AORA’s solar-biogas hybrid power technology at both Ethiopian institutions.

“Our ongoing engagement with AORA Solar illustrates our commitment to conducting use-inspired research, engaging globally, valuing entrepreneurship and providing students with the necessary skills and knowledge to affect a transition to a sustainable world," said Gary Dirks director of LightWorks and director of the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability at ASU. “This collaboration has great potential to enhance the lives of Ethiopians and to expand the horizons and expertise of ASU, AASTU, and ASTU students and faculty.”

AORA’s solar-hybrid technology is uniquely suited for off-grid locations in Africa, a region blessed with great solar resources. Running on solar power during the day and biogas or biofuel at night, the AORA Tulip provides grid stable, clean and green power 24 hours a day in all weather. Requiring minimal investment and land, each Tulip provides 100 kW of electricity and an additional 170 kW of usable thermal power for a variety of applications, such as heating and absorption chiller cooling for domestic, entrepreneurial or industrial use.

“ASTU is dedicated to merging academia with real-world applications, and our new Research Park is serving as a catalyst for both regional and national economic growth,” said professor Jang Gyu Lee, president of Adama Science and Technology University. “We look forward to joining forces with AORA, ASU and AASTU to promote renewable energy collaboration for Africa that can lead to job creation and local energy independence in Ethiopia.”

"As a leading technology institute in Ethiopia, AASTU is focused on advancing innovative research and technology transfer to foster social and economic development of the country," said Nurelegne Tefera, president of Addis Ababa Science and Technology University. “ We are pleased to join this important initiative and play a central role in advancing renewable technologies."

ASU In the News

ASU partners to advance energy research in Pakistan

Last week Arizona State University announced that it is helping to launch the U.S.-Pakistan Centers for Advanced Studies, a $127 million investment from the United States building partnerships in higher education and research.

12 News reported on the initiative, which is a set of partnerships between world-class U.S. and Pakistani universities that will harness applied research to find innovative and practical solutions for Pakistan's energy, water, agriculture and food security challenges. Download Full Image

ASU will partner with both the National University of Sciences and Technology and the University of Engineering and Technology, Peshawar, to create two centers for energy research. The five-year project will aim to boost energy production where as much as 80 percent of the population does not have a steady supply of electricity.

"This strategic alliance with two of Pakistan's leading universities is aligned with ASU's mission of helping solve global challenges, in this case promoting economic opportunities in Pakistan through education, training and research in energy," said Sethuraman Panchanathan, senior vice president for Knowledge Enterprise Development at ASU.

"This is the largest USAID project to date awarded to Arizona State University, and we are pleased to partner with these two universities to demonstrate a new model that focuses on using an innovative approach for societal advancement."

Article Source: Channel 12 News
Emma Greguska

Reporter, ASU Now

(480) 965-9657

ASU, Argonne partner on climate, population growth and renewable energy

May 28, 2015

Arizona State University has signed an agreement with the Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory that will facilitate a broad portfolio of research shared between the two institutions.

The nation's first national laboratory, Argonne seeks solutions to pressing national problems in science and technology by conducting leading-edge research in virtually every scientific discipline. ASU and Argonne sign MOU Download Full Image

The five-year memorandum of understanding will establish a structure for ASU and Argonne to pursue novel research in areas including decision-making based on climate variability and uncertainty; the impacts of global population dynamics and urbanization; the challenges of renewable energy practices; and creating innovative solutions to problems in energy, education and sustainability.

ASU and Argonne have collaborated on scientific efforts ranging from investigating the structure of spider silk to developing an artificial leaf that uses solar energy to convert water into hydrogen. ASU currently leads a $20 million, five-year project known as the Foresight Initiative in collaboration with Argonne’s Global Security Sciences Division and other partners. The project brings together knowledge and capabilities from a variety of organizations to develop an integrated computational platform that will enable decision makers to explore how climate change and future resource contention could contribute to political unrest and instability, as well as gain insights into sustainability and resilience strategies for mitigating the effects.

During the ongoing work, it became apparent that the two institutions shared a common belief in the power of interdisciplinary, cooperative research to tackle the really large problems facing the country.

“ASU is a world-class research institution and their approach to addressing scientific challenges aligns closely with ours, so this agreement makes perfect sense,” said associate laboratory director for Energy and Global Security Mark Peters. “This idea of putting together cross-cutting teams to collaborate on challenging research really resonates at both ASU and Argonne.”

Nadya Bliss, director of the Global Security Initiative, which manages the Foresight Initiative, agreed with that assessment. She said not only will the agreement foster innovative research between Argonne and ASU, but it will also open a pipeline for talent to flow between the two institutions.

“Argonne and ASU share common goals for advancing research in key areas that will have an impact on our local and global communities,” added Sethuraman “Panch” Panchanathan, senior vice president of ASU's Office of Knowledge Enterprise Development. “We are delighted to continue the strong collaboration between our organizations with this new relationship, which will further our efforts to create sustainable solutions to challenges in the areas of climate adaptation, population growth and energy security.”

Director, Knowledge Enterprise Development


ASU In the News

ASU named No. 1 producer of solar power among campuses nationwide

An April 20 article from Energy Digital featured the top 10 campuses in the nation for solar energy production, with Arizona State University coming in at No. 1.

ASU has a comprehensive solar program that extends to all four campus locations and the ASU Research Park. A grand total of 89 solar systems produce 24.1 MW of solar energy, which represents nearly 50 percent of ASU's current daytime peak load. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration this is enough solar to power 3,366 Arizona homes.

There is a variety of additional benefits that come from the solar installations around the university, including shaded parking, building heat-load reduction, extended life of roofs that have shade, living lab for academics and research and sustainability initiatives, as well as avoiding 23,267 metric tons of carbon dioxide output; roughly the same as the annual emissions of 4,804 passenger vehicles, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

“It’s been incremental, but ASU is the nation’s top higher-education institution with solar installed by quite a bit,” the article stated.

Article Source: Energy Digital
Emma Greguska

Reporter, ASU Now

(480) 965-9657

GreenBiz U returns to ASU for 2015 Sustainability Solutions Festival

February 12, 2015

The power of global business leaders discussing the latest trends, challenges and opportunities in sustainable business is returning to Arizona State University for GreenBiz U, a shadow conference of the 2015 GreenBiz Forum taking place in Paradise Valley, Arizona, Feb. 17-19.

A part of the second annual Sustainability Solutions Festival, a program of the ASU Rob and Melani Walton Sustainability Solutions Initiatives, GreenBiz U will bring GreenBiz Forum keynote speakers to the ASU Tempe campus for three days of insights and discussions with sustainability business, education and thought leaders, such as Carter Roberts, president and CEO, World Wildlife Fund; Aaron Hurst, author of “The Purpose Economy”; Jackie Prince Roberts, chief sustainability officer for the Carlyle Group; and Sheila Bonini, CEO of The Sustainability Consortium. GreenBiz Forum Download Full Image

This diverse array of speakers will address topics such as the value of partnerships, portable solar electronics, zero carbon campuses and the State of Green Business report that will be discussed during the GreenBiz Forum opening. All presentations will take place in Wrigley Hall, room 481. All sessions are free and open to ASU students, faculty, staff and community partners.

"This is an extraordinary collaboration with far-ranging impact,” said Joel Makower, chairman and executive editor of GreenBiz Group, Inc. “By leveraging our collective networks and knowledge bases, we are convening an unparalleled group of speakers and attendees that will make this week a truly exceptional opportunity for knowledge sharing and networking among the sustainable business community."

GreenBiz U will mark the first campus presentation by Bonini, who last fall was named CEO of The Sustainability Consortium, a multi-stakeholder nonprofit organization that translates scientific information into business practice.

More than 100 member organizations and companies collaborate with scientists to design and implement credible, transparent and scalable science-based measurement and reporting systems that drive innovation to improve consumer product sustainability. Bonini and Kevin Dooley will discuss the function and future goals for The Sustainability Consortium, which is jointly administered by ASU and the University of Arkansas.

"The Sustainability Consortium is an important part of ASU’s commitment to sustainability, serving as a bridge between academic science and real-world business to drive more sustainable consumer products," said Bonini. "With the global reach of our members, along with our partner institutions at ASU, Arkansas, Wageningen University in The Netherlands and Nanjing University in China, this session is a valuable opportunity for the ASU community to understand the scale, scope and impact of this organization that is based in their 'backyard.'"

Now in its second year, the Sustainability Solutions Festival’s partnership between ASU, GreenBiz and The Sustainability Consortium has positioned the week’s events as a premiere destination for audiences of all ages to learn about and engage in sustainability solutions. This year’s theme is “(re)imagine what’s to come,” showing how one organization, one community or even one person can make positive change in the world.

“We are extremely proud of our partnership with GreenBiz for the Sustainability Solutions Festival and feel fortunate to be able to bring such esteemed sustainability leaders to the ASU campus to engage our university community,” said Patricia Reiter, executive director of the Walton Initiatives.

For the full GreenBiz U schedule, visit sustainabilitysolutions.asu.edu/greenbiz-university-forum-2015. For more information about the Sustainability Solutions Festival, visit sustainabilityfestival.asu.edu.

Jason Franz

Senior manager, Marketing and Communications, Walton Sustainability Solutions Initiatives


Collaborations with industry aim to boost solar energy technology

January 13, 2015

Two Arizona State University engineers – Mariana Bertoni and Stuart Bowden – will have roles partnering with industry as part of an effort by the U.S. Department of Energy to aid photovoltaic manufacturing and supply-chain companies in advancing their technologies.

Their projects are among research and development endeavors the Department of Energy is supporting through its SunShot Solar Manufacturing 2 program, which is providing more than $24 million to 10 solar energy technology manufacturers based in the United States. Bertoni solar panel Download Full Image

The program supports development of innovative technology for novel manufacturing equipment and processes that will reduce costs and increase efficiency.

Bertoni, an assistant professor, and Bowden, an associate research professor, are faculty members in the School of Electrical, Computer and Energy Engineering, one of ASU’s Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering. They both also are Senior Sustainability Scientists in the Global Institute of Sustainability.

Bertoni will work with SolarWorld Industries America Inc. to develop technology for a novel silicon ingot growth, the process by which the material for solar cells is manufactured. Funding from the Department of Energy will help transition SolarWorld’s proprietary NeoGrowth manufacturing process from pilot stage into early-stage production.

SolarWorld is the largest U.S. solar panel manufacturer and one of the world's largest solar-technology producers, headquartered in Hillsboro, Oregon.

The project will upscale the NeoGrowth production capacity to 300 megawatts of high-quality silicon wafers at a cost that is competitive with wafers on the open market.

Bertoni will identify the most detrimental defects present in the new crystals grown by SolarWorld and analyze the impact of the crystals on the performance of solar cells. The results will help SolarWorld optimize growth conditions to minimize as-grown defects and maximize the power-conversion efficiency of the final solar cells.

“This technology has the potential to revolutionize the wafer manufacturing industry by increasing throughput and quality when compared to current market technologies,” she said.

Bowden will work with Technic Inc. to eliminate the use of silver in the manufacturing of solar energy cells, and replace it with copper, a more abundant and less costly material. The goal is to develop a copper-plating technique that will reduce the cost of making solar cells without a decrease in performance quality.

Technic Inc. has established a global reputation for technical excellence in the electro-deposition of precious metals. It has more than 20 global facilities in 14 countries and is headquartered in Cranston, Rhode Island.

The solar photovoltaic industry presently uses 15 percent of the world’s silver supply. Replacing it with copper will allow the industry to grow by a huge magnitude and work at terawatt levels, Bowden said.

For his project, an ASU research facility will house the first installation of machinery for the new copper-plating process that will enable production of industrial-scale solar cells that do not require silver.

The two projects “demonstrate ASU’s leadership in collaborating with industry partners to bring new technologies out of the lab and into the market,” Bowden said.

A grant of $4 million to SolarWorld Industries America includes $400,000 for Bertoni’s research.

A $900,000 grant to Technic Inc. allocates $400,000 for Bowden’s research.

The projects boost ASU’s growing research activity in photovoltaic technologies for solar energy generation.

The largest part of that research portfolio is the Engineering Research Center for Quantum Energy and Sustainable Solar Technologies – or QESST – supported by the National Science Foundation and the Department of Energy to solve technological and economic challenges to harnessing solar power on larger scales. Read more.

Bertoni and Bowden are part of the QESST research team.

Joe Kullman

Science writer, Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering


ASU, Albania partner to advance nation's sustainability, education quality

November 10, 2014

To assist Albania’s transition toward a sustainable national education strategy, Arizona State University’s Rob and Melani Walton Sustainability Solutions Initiatives were awarded a $100,000 grant from Open Society Foundation for Albania to research energy-efficient building methods that can be implemented in Albania’s public schools.

The grant was made possible thanks to a co-funding arrangement between Open Society Foundation for Albania and Good Ventures Foundation in California. Krrabe middle schoolers Download Full Image

This study, conducted by the Walton Initiatives’ Global Sustainability Solutions Services in partnership with the East-West Management Institute will become the cornerstone of the Ministry of Education’s initiative to establish an Education Excellence Fund, a program to introduce and fund innovation in the Albanian educational system, transitioning the nation’s schools into centers for community development and innovation.

“Students not only learn better in energy-efficient school environments, they learn from them,” says Arbjan Mazniku, Albania’s deputy minister of education. “We want our energy-efficient schools to be an ideal place for students to learn and achieve, as well as an ideal resource for developing the social and economic vitality of our communities.”

The Walton Initiatives team will harness ASU’s extensive resources, including experts in green building and international development, to complete a cost-benefit analysis of energy-efficient schools in Albania.

“This project with the Albanian government demonstrates our commitment to meeting global sustainability challenges by leveraging the university’s intellectual assets to develop and deliver applied, tailor-made solutions,” says Fron Nahzi, global business development director for the Walton Initiatives.

The study will be shared with international donor organizations, private investors and the Albanian government to make a case for how and where to most effectively invest in retrofitting current schools in Albania as part of the nation’s efforts to improve energy efficiency, boost its economy and create a sustainable future.

“This research will help establish the financial model for how Albania can begin updating its schools,” says Andi Dobrushi of the Open Society Foundation for Albania. “We are pleased to provide this funding to Arizona State University’s Walton Initiatives because the development of Albania’s schools and education system is a vital component to the nation’s democratization.”

Improving energy efficiency is the next step for Albania to match the growing trend among countries worldwide, especially member countries of the European Union, to reduce their use of resources of all kinds and create innovative pathways to a sustainable, prosperous future.

Jason Franz

Senior manager, Marketing and Communications, Walton Sustainability Solutions Initiatives


Building the framework for the future of biofuels

September 29, 2014

Biofuels – fuels made from plants – are seen by many as one of the better options for brightening the national energy outlook.

They offer a promising renewable resource as a replacement for nonrenewable fossil fuels, and a way to reduce the amount of greenhouse gas emissions being pumped into the atmosphere as a result of our use of conventional petroleum-derived fuels. Amy Landis biofuels research Download Full Image

They could help the United States take major steps to reduce the country’s dependence on oil from other parts of the world.

For more than five years, Amy Landis has led research that is revealing the potential rewards of developing large-scale biofuels production, as well as the potential drawbacks we would face in the effort.

“We are documenting that there would be environmental benefits, but also trade-offs in growing biofuels that would have to be dealt with,” said Landis, an associate professor in the School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment, one of the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering at Arizona State University (ASU).

Two National Science Foundation (NSF) grants combined to provide about $650,000 for projects directed by Landis, enabling her to paint a clearer picture of the impacts of developing a major biofuels industry. Both grants were through the NSF’s Chemical, Bioengineering, Environmental and Transport Systems Division.

One project looked at the feasibility of growing bioenergy crops on marginal lands where soil nutrients first have to be restored to enable agricultural use. A second project involved forecasting the environmental impacts of next-generation biofuels.

According to Landis, lands damaged by industrial waste or other pollutants could be restored sufficiently to support agriculture for growing bioenergy crops.

Landis’ team was able to use other forms of nonhazardous industrial waste materials to neutralize the acidity of soil at polluted sites – particularly abandoned mining lands. The method restored fertility to a level that allowed many of the plants, from which biofuels are derived, to grow.

As a result, biofuels agriculture could become a significant contributor to soil remediation, land reclamation and natural storm water management that fertile, absorbent ground can provide.

A complex system

A downside is that many biofuel crops, like food crops, require fertilizers that cause water degradation, and the water carrying the fertilizers can be transported by runoff into other areas where they can do environmental harm.

To fully understand the ramifications of a big commitment to cultivation of biofuel sources, Landis said she took a holistic approach that examines the entire life cycle of bio-based products.

She looked beyond the benefits of greenhouse gas reductions and energy savings to the challenges of weighing long-term benefits and potential problems.

Landis has been able to quantify some potential future nationwide impacts of growing the various kinds of bioenergy plants – corn grain, soybeans, switchgrasses, canola and algae, for example – to extensively assess economic, social and environmental effects.

That included evaluating the feasibility of bioenergy crops to meet the Energy Independence and Security Act Renewable Fuel Standards, which sets challenging goals for fuel production quantity.

The project involved consideration of the various agricultural and environmental management strategies that would be critical to preventing or mitigating undesirable consequences that could result from growing bioenergy crops to manufacturing biofuels.

The work was also intended to provide a framework for a life-cycle assessment method that can be applied to future evaluations of biofuels cultivation and production, and for gauging the sustainability of various fuel development strategies throughout the United States.

“Our work shows there is no silver-bullet biofuel that provides a perfect sustainability solution,” Landis explained. “Developing domestic sustainable fuels is a complex problem and we must consider the wide range of environmental impacts, economic ramifications and social factors.

“In particular for biofuels that rely heavily on fertilizer, our work shows that we should pay particular attention to protecting water quality,” she said. “However, it’s not all doom and gloom. Our NSF-funded research also developed some creative solutions to utilize abandoned lands and waste materials to produce biofuels.”

Broader impacts

The NSF support enabled Landis to use her research findings for education outreach. Much of the information is being incorporated into undergraduate and graduate courses. In addition, in the past several years the grants have supported research activities of four undergraduate students and five graduate students, while also allowing another seven graduate students to engage in work related to the research projects.

Outreach efforts have also included demonstrations to K-12 students and their families. For example, Landis and her lab team have brought plants out of the greenhouse to show how biofuels are made from plants.

This and similar learning activities at ASU’s annual Engineering Open House, DiscoverE Day, Night of the Open Door events andEngineering Adventure programs are reaching more than 14,000 younger students each year.

In addition, Landis volunteers at an annual Geared for Girls summer camp, where she talks about what her research is showing about the life cycles of energy and products.

Landis has been able to bring a multifaceted perspective to her biofuels research, drawing on the broad range of expertise reflected in her diverse academic and research roles at ASU.

Those roles include that of research director for the Center for Earth Systems Engineering and Management; senior sustainability scientist with the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability; a Fellow of Sustainable Development and Ethics with the Lincoln Center for Applied Ethics; and her appointment as a Tooker Professor of STEM Education in the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering.

This article originally appeared on the National Science Foundation website, where there are features on related NSF-supported research projects.

See the post of this article on the NSF website.

Joe Kullman

Science writer, Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering


Secretary of Agriculture delivers talk on 'homegrown energy' and the need for innovation

September 4, 2014

Developing a deeper understanding of agriculture's role in the future of energy, innovation and economic growth, particularly in rural areas, will be key to addressing global sustainability challenges, said U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack during his talk Sept. 4 at Arizona State University.

Vilsack spoke on “Homegrown Energy: Unlimited Opportunity for Innovation” as part of the Sustainability Series at ASU's Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability. The lecture series, which explores a range of environmental, social and economic issues, gave Secretary Vilsack the opportunity to discuss with students and faculty the U.S. farming shift to renewable energy. U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack Download Full Image

While each year fewer Americans – less than one percent – claim farming as an occupation, the number of ranchers and farmers transitioning to renewable energy sources is on the rise, according to the 2012 Census of Agriculture, which saw that number double from 2007. Solar panels accounted for nearly two-thirds of farms' energy-producing systems.

“The U.S. Department of Agriculture is partnering with the U.S. Departments of Defense and Energy to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels and diversify our portfolio of biofuels and other renewable energy sources,” Vilsack said. “We are also engaging with universities like ASU to explore innovative solutions for challenges related to energy, food and sustainability.”

Prior to his talk, Vilsack met with faculty and leaders from the ASU Wrigley Institute to discuss ongoing ASU sustainability research in the areas of algae fuels and cyanobacteria, food-based and cellulose-based energy sources, sustainable phosphorus and carbon sequestration. ASU's Gary Dirks, director of the institute; Rob Melnick, executive director and chief operating officer of the institute; and Christopher Boone, dean of the School of Sustainability, offered an overview of research projects.

After praising ASU's pioneering efforts to advance sustainability research, education and everyday practice in seeking real-world solutions to today's most pressing problems, Vilsack shared some of the challenges his own department is facing on the path toward a sustainable future.

"Nearly 40 percent of food in the United States goes to the landfill, which means that we are not just wasting food, but also water, energy and resources that were used to grow that food," he said. "We are examining the food system to make it more efficient.

“We’d like to move toward a circular economy, one that is entrepreneurial and innovative, is restorative in nature, and eliminates waste by design. Such an economy will create better paying jobs and help rebuild the middle class.

“We hope to create a brave new world through all of our initiatives," he said.

Media projects manager, Office of Knowledge Enterprise Development