LightWorks: A Year in Review

As we prepare to bid farewell to 2014, we would like to take a moment to reflect upon some highlights and accomplishments made during this year.

With a proven performance of swiftly and strategically partnering with a diverse set of institutions, LightWorks continued to unite resources and researchers across Arizona State University to confront global energy challenges. Confronting these challenges leads to a vision that ASU will continue to inspire and develop ways to revolutionize the global use of energy and the large scale conversion of sunlight, carbon dioxide and water into useful products.


AORA Solar NA has agreed to install the first ever Solar Tulip, a hybrid concentrated solar system, in the United States which will be located at ASU. The Solar Tulip produces power 24/7, moving seamlessly from solar to natural gas or biogas. AORA Solar NA signed a contract with ASU to provide research options aimed to increase efficiency, improve reliability, utilize the exhaust heat and decrease the cost of this Israeli-developed technology. University faculty, research staff and students are already working with AORA to enhance the system.



The U.S. Navy through the Office of Naval Research Global and LightWorks are looking forward to furthering collaboration specifically in accelerating research and technology to market. Future forums centering on U.S. energy security, U.S. Navy participation in the DOE Algae Testbed Public Private Partnership (ATP3), and projects aimed to progress ASU’s Zero Waste goal are a few among many efforts predicted to come out of the partnership. In May 2014, Dennis McGinn [], U.S. Navy Assistant Secretary for Energy, Installations and Environment, visited the Arizona Center for Algae Technology and Innovation (AzCATI) at ASU Polytechnic campus and discussed the potential of algae-based biofuels and products.
Elisabeth Graffy, Arizona State University professor and ASU LightWorks faculty in energy policy co-wrote an article about the impact of solar installations to energy markets and electric utilities. The article, “Does Disruptive Competition Mean a Death Spiral for Electric Utilities,” was an effort of Graffy and Steven Kihm, director of market research and policy for the Energy Center of Wisconsin. In a sector that is central to social, economic, security, and environmental necessities, Graffy and Kihm note that utilities must change in order to confront competition.


LightWorks signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the U.S. Virgin Islands to establish a long-term partnership. The collaboration is intended to further development of renewable energy and energy efficiency projects and education on the island territory. In June 2014, the U.S. Virgin Islands Governor John P. de Jong, Jr. along with representatives from the U.S. Virgin Islands government, utilities, and industry met with ASU Provost Robert Page at ASU Tempe campus to formalize the partnership.


LightWorks furthered plans to optimize the area of anaerobic conversion of organic wastes to energy through collaboration with Proteus and Midwestern Bioag (MBA). Plans include working with ASU’s Biodesign Institute to focus on microbiology of anaerobic digesters to maximize nutrient value, establishing online training and certification platforms, as well as consulting experts from ASU’s Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability to conduct life-cycle and economic assessments of the products from anaerobic digestion processes.

Tom Vilsack, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), visited ASU on September 4, 2014 to deliver a presentation on the relationship between agriculture and the renewable energy industry. Secretary Vilsack noted the importance of research and innovation in ensuring farmers meet the needs for food, feed, fiber, and biomass in a sustainable way. The presentation highlighted the USDA’s support for AzCATI and ATP3’s research and development of algae products that fulfill demand in near term pharmaceutical and nutraceutical markets. Opportunity for USDA support in the areas of energy efficient production technologies, CO2 and carbon reuse policies, and fostering business innovation to accelerate algae research outcomes was also a main topic of discussion.


ASU researchers were awarded a grant from the Department of Energy to further develop an efficient and cost-effective carbon capture technology aiming to reduce carbon emissions. The project will be led by Dan Buttry, professor and chair of ASU’s Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the grant is part of a special Department of Energy program designed to pursue high-risk, high –reward advances in alternative energy research.


U.S. Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz visited ASU to meet with STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) students, and explore Department of Energy research projects at the university. During a tour of research projects at ASU, Moniz was able to explore groundbreaking endeavors, such as the Center for Negative Carbon Emissions, which advances carbon management technologies that can capture carbon dioxide directly from ambient air. Photovoltaic installations and research information was also presented during the secretary’s tour.

Looking forward to 2015, LightWorks will continue its mission to pull light-inspired research at ASU under one strategic framework with greater integration of arts, humanities, and social sciences. We aim to continuously support creation of new industries not just to power the world, but to empower it; not just to create wealth for a few, but to enrich people’s lives everywhere; not just to light an energy revolution, but to enlighten communities across the globe; not just to achieve energy security but to secure energy justice. LightWorks’ strategic goals reflect our mission and vision to make the spaces outlined above world class in their respective areas of focus and to make positive contributions to the global energy transition in a multitude of ways.

Written by Gabrielle Olson, ASU LightWorks.