Walking the talk as a clean energy powerhouse

When it comes to clean energy, UBC walks the talk.

Home to a living lab that fuels campus heat and electricity requirements from biomass, a state-of-the-art research centre, and partnerships with prestigious international institutions and corporations, UBC is leading the charge to develop and utilize cleaner energy sources at home and around the world.

Sixty faculty and more than 200 graduate students work in the Clean Energy Research Centre (CERC), a hub for advancements in greener, cleaner energy.

“There is little doubt that energy is one of the most important challenges facing humanity in the 21st century,” says Walter Mérida, the centre’s director “Here at UBC we are leading the way to find viable solutions to sustainable energy. Our scientists and engineers are doing pioneering, world-class work on sustainable power innovations in the areas of sustainable transportation, low-carbon fuels, renewable energy, conservation and energy conversion and storage.”

The centre’s work has also attracted funding from leading international academic and industrial energy experts to support both pure and applied research.

A $5-million partnership with the Fraunhofer Society, Europe's largest applied-research institution, is currently focused on five areas of clean energy research, from wind energy to zero-emission vehicles.

The centre has also initiated collaborations with Tech Mahindra in India in smart grid technologies, the three South African centres of competence regarding hydrogen and fuel cells, the International Centre for Theoretical Physics in Italy in climate change modeling, and the Korean Gas Corporation in natural gas processing and liquefaction—an important advancement for British Columbia’s emerging LNG sector.

 

Closer to home, the centre has been running a Masters of Clean Energy Engineering program since 2009 (the first of its kind in North America). It is also is working with provincial stakeholders to develop a sustainable transportation system. In 2012 UBC's partnership with local company Nexterra Systems Corporation and GE Energy resulted in the launch of its on-site Bioenergy Research and Demonstration Facility. This small-scale power production plant supplies heat and power to the 50,000 students, staff and faculty at UBC’s Vancouver campus using biomass—mainly waste lumber production products such as tree trimmings and wood chips.

Another project utilizing the campus as a living lab features a new smart-grid storage system that efficiently stores energy from renewable sources. It was created in collaboration with Alpha Technologies and Corvus Energy.

Such innovation isn’t new: Westport Innovations, one of the university’s most successful spin-off companies, has commercialized technology discovered at UBC almost 30 years ago to allow diesel truck engines to run on clean-burning natural gas. That single innovation has ultimately led to Westport slashing the emissions of vehicle fleets through collaborations with partners around the world, and becoming a global leader in alternative fuel, low-emissions technologies that allow engines to operate on cleaner-burning fuels.

 

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