Energy and the Environment: Design and Innovation (2016-2017)

This Bass Connections project brought students and faculty to identify, design and prototype new energy technologies, systems and approach. Small groups of team members worked together to address the trade-offs among technological design choices, environmental impacts, economic viability and other issues related to use. The goal was to produce a useful prototype and evaluate its environmental benefits and viability.

One group investigated the potential of incorporating green building concepts into college dormitories by examining the current state of energy consumption. Gilbert-Addoms, a dorm on Duke’s East Campus, was large enough and used a sufficient amount of energy to be a good candidate for optimization. Based on the amount of solar radiation reaching this area and the noticeable cracks in the dorm’s envelope, team members focused on the fenestration design and the implementation of photovoltaics. Implementing weather insulating films and solar panels would decrease the energy use intensity (EUI) of the building from 81 kBtu/sf to 79 kBtu/sf, for an estimated annual energy reduction of 159,330 kBtu. This would result in a total energy savings per year of $3,479.

Another group explored alternative use cases for flywheel energy storage. Utilities struggle to balance generation supply and consumer demand in electricity markets. Current market structures are highly inefficient, with costly power plants supplying power over overly congested transmission lines. Adding renewable energy sources to the grid increases the complexity of the problem, because they create energy intermittently. Recently, chemical batteries have been hailed as a potential solution, because they can lower peak consumption as energy demand spikes—a process known as peak shaving. However, a more environmentally friendly option for peak shaving is a flywheel: a mechanical battery that stores kinetic energy that can be released as electricity. Flywheels are typically used for frequency regulation; however, the team explored a use case for peak shifting and demand shaving in a commercial setting on the New York City electrical grid and engineered a proof-of-concept prototype. Team members used data analysis and real time electricity pricing to show that a 100 kW system of flywheels installed in the basement of a commercial building can induce monthly cost savings of up to $500.


A third group modeled renewable microgrids in South Africa. Microgrids can bring power to communities in need at a smaller scale, giving them the benefits of electricity access without the costs of connecting to the larger grid. Powering the microgrid with energy sources already found in these communities, including wind, solar and biogas from cattle waste, makes this system self – sustaining with a low environmental impact. This project evaluated the potential for improving electricity access in the KwaZulu-Natal and Eastern Cape regions through the implementation of a microgrid. The team concluded that rural microgrids using combinations of wind, solar PV, and biogas combustion for this region of South Africa are technologically feasible, but will require subsidization from government or NGO sources to be economically viable. However, all three models produce high quantities of excess electricity given their dependence on variable wind and solar coupled with storage. If communities were able to take advantage of unpredictable excess electricity through flexible manufacturing operations that generated income, the systems may become economically viable without subsidization.


Fall 2016 – Spring 2017

Team Outcomes

Proposed Retrofit of Duke University Dormitory (Nadim Atalla, Emilia Chojkiewicz, Chris Jernigan, Nicolas Kardous, Brigitte von Oppenfeld, Cassie Yuan)

Flywheel Energy Storage (FES): Exploring Alternative Use Cases (Jessica Matthys, Randy Frank, Caroline Ayanian, Daniel Herron, Cameron Simpson, Dante Cordaro, Jack Carey, Nate Sizemore)

Modeling Renewable Microgrids in South Africa (Kerim Algul, Nitish Garg, Ryan Hussey, Cassidee Kido, Ashley Meuser, Savini Prematilleke, Tyler Wakefield)


Cassidee Kido

Nathaniel Sizemore

This Team in the News

Duke Electric Vehicle Takes First Place at Shell Eco-Marathon Americas 2017

See related teams, Energy and the Environment (2017-2018) and Energy and the Environment (2015-2016).


Faculty/Staff Team Members

Emily Klein, Nicholas School - Earth & Ocean Sciences*
Josiah Knight, Pratt School - Mechanical Engineering & Material Sciences*

Graduate Team Members

Rui Shan, Nicholas School, Master of Environment Management

Undergraduate Team Members

Caroline Ayanian, Mechanical Engineering
Suman Bajgain, Electrical & Computer Engineering
Emilia Chojkiewicz
Alan Davis, Economics (AB)
Randolph Frank, Mechanical Engineering
Daniel Herron
Ryan Hussey, Environmental Sciences (BS)
Christopher Jernigan, Chemistry (AB)
Nicolas Kardous
Cassidee Kido, Electrical & Computer Engineering
Sam Korol
Jessica Matthys, Mechanical Engineering
Ashley Meuser, Electrical & Computer Engineering, Computer Science (AB2)
Savini Prematilleke
Cameron Simpson
Nathaniel Sizemore, Public Policy Studies (AB)
Brigitte von Oppenfeld
Jiayi (Cassie) Yuan, Environmental Sciences (BS)

* denotes team leader


Completed, Archived