Duke Energy Renewables Innovation Fund


Rob Caldwell

DER CEO Rob Caldwell announcing the 2017 DER Innovation Fund winner. 

The 2014 Power Purchase Agreement between George Washington University (GW) and Duke Energy Renewables, Inc. (DER) was a pioneering agreement, demonstrating an important way in which universities and private corporations can constructively partner to advance sustainability. The innovative arrangement provides GW with one half of its electricity consumption from solar power.

To build on this positive experience, GW and DER are now leveraging the world-class expertise of GW faculty with the innovative spirit and business acumen of DER to advance research in sustainability. To this end, GW and DER have entered into a Memorandum of Understanding establishing the Duke Energy Renewables Innovation Fund. 

On April 18, 2017 Duke Energy Renewable’s (DER) CEO Rob Caldwell announced that professors Stuart Licht and Peter LaPuma had won the 2017 DER Innovations Fund award of $85,000. Combined with the three Innovation Fund awards totaling $140,000 from 2016, the Fund has now contributed $225,000 to GW research efforts.


Announcing the 3rd Round of Competition  

We are happy to announce the third round of competition for the Duke Energy Renewables Innovation Fund. Proposals are now being accepted for research related to energy - either directly or indirectly through issues such as water, climate, food, cities, or policies. The maximum award amount is $85,000 and the deadline is January 19, 2018.

Please click here for details on how to apply. 

2017 Winner

C2CNT United States. Team Leader: Stuart Licht


Greenhouse Gas and Climate Change Mitigation by Transforming Carbon Dioxide into Carbon Nanotubes.

Chemist Stuart Licht and the Department of Environmental & Occupational Health’s Peter LaPuma are developing a pathway to mitigate the ongoing, growing consequences of climate change by directly converting the greenhouse gas CO2 into valuable carbon nanofibers (CNFs, including carbon nanotubes CNTs). The process works at high yield, low energy, and with inexpensive materials. A conventional combined cycle power plant produces $906 of electricity per ton of gas fuel, but releases 2.7 tons of CO2 and no CNT. However, with a coupled CO2-to-CNT electrolyzer the same plant is projected to emit no CO2 from the same ton of fuel and produce $835 of electricity and $225,000 of CNT product. Carbon nanotubes could replace steel and other metals in a variety of applications. The project will also produce a lifecycle assessment and provide material for a sophomore seminar. This team has already gained considerable prominence since it has a shot at winning the $20 million Carbon XPrize; it is currently competing as one of 27 semifinalists.

2016 Project Results


Duke Energy Solar Farm Visit


Living Laboratory to Study Solar Farms

This project intertwined research and education by delivering a case study of Duke Energy Renewable solar farms' technical, financial, and environmental facets and integrating real-world energy applications into graduate and undergraduate courses. The Living Lab started with a 3-day site visit by three faculty and eight students to the DER Pasquotank solar farm in Elizabeth City, NC, and the DER headquarters and remote monitoring center in Charlotte, NC. After the site visit, the team created case studies examining the financial and environmental implications of the project. The two final reports are entitled “Technoeconomic Analysis of a Utility-Scale Solar Farm in Coastal North Carolina” and "Capital Partners Solar Project: Environmental Assessment.”


Denver, CO Housing and Urban Development solar


Handbook for Developing Community Solar Projects for Low Income Residents

The handbook is intended to help municipalities conceptualize and initiate community solar projects, with special attention to driving down the costs, for example, by using brownfield sites, leveraging grants and innovative financing, and equitably applying the benefits to aid those in need. Faculty from GW’s Law, Business, Public Policy and Professional Studies programs worked together with a multi-disciplinary team of students to prepare this guide. ​


Microgrid Momentum: Building efficient, resilient power


Microgrid Financing: Challenges and Solutions

This project examined the financial, technical and legal barriers to using microgrids as a mechanism for integrating renewable energy into the electric grid while also improving the overall grid’s resilience to a wide variety of attacks. Based on data from numerous sources, the team built a model that will make it possible to optimize the use of technology and resources in a microgrid. The final report, which was presented at a March 7 forum of policymakers and other stakeholders, included a working version of the model, which demonstrates the trade-offs between the various costs and benefits of the microgrid, and a report outlining best practices to stimulate microgrid adoption.


Upcoming Competitions

The Sustainability Collaborative will announce the next round of the DER Innovations Fund during the Fall of 2017. The announcement from the Fall of 2016 is available here.