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ND Energy to host 14th annual Energy Week virtually

| Monday, August 24, 2020

Amidst all the challenges that 2020 has brought, Anne Pillai, Education and Outreach Associate Program Director for ND Energy, said she hopes this year’s Energy Week can be a beacon of hope and a call to action for the future of the environment.

“I think 2020 is a critical year,” Pillai said. “With the economic collapse due to COVID, there’s a chance that environmental initiatives will get swept under the rug due to lack of funding. And it is more important than ever — if we’re going to slow down climate change, we have to take very bold actions right now.” 

Energy Week kicked off Sunday evening with a showing of the documentary-style film “2040.” The movie takes an imaginative look into what the future could look like if society implemented all of the current research on how to combat climate change. 

“We need the will to get these things done, and we really want this energy week to be optimistic and forward-looking because we feel that everybody’s really already feeling down about COVID and racial justice and climate change,” Pillai said. “So we wanted something that would really give people hope and trying to fire people up to get out and do something.”

Senior Kelly Moran, a member of the Student Energy Board, said the week will be filled with presentations from various professors and researchers in the energy community. 

Although Energy Week will be virtual this year because of COVID-19, Moran believes Zoom will offer a unique way to form connections.

“So I think that will present a really awesome opportunity to learn more about the event and meet the actual people running it, things like that, or even just have more of a personal interaction,” Moran said.

The full schedule of presentations and instructions on how to register can be found on the ND Energy website.

Monday’s presentation, “ND Energy Bouts,” is an interactive activity where professors present arguments for why participants should invest their hypothetical money into the type of energy they research. At the end of the event, the professor who raises the most money wins the contest. Pillai said the event is meant to educate the audience about renewable energy sources.

On Tuesday, Paul Kempf, Notre Dame’s Assistant Vice President of Utilities and Maintenance, will be leading a presentation titled “Notre Dame’s Energy Future.” 

“Notre Dame has some very exciting projects going on this year with the hydro plant down the river, and we’re going to help build a new solar panel field that we’re going to be helping,” Pillai said.

On Wednesday, Patrick Regan, former Notre Dame professor and CEO of Crossroads Solar, will be leading the presentation “It can’t be done … or can it?” 

“The theme of this talk is kind of about getting stuff done that seems impossible. He used to be a professor of political science, and was really interested in the aspect of social businesses,” Moran said about Regan. “He also teaches in the prisons within South Bend and St. Joseph County, and he wanted to leave an impact in that area so he’s planning to hire.”

Over the summer, Moran said she and three other Notre Dame undergraduate students helped Regan get the solar panel factory operational. Pillai said Regan ordered the equipment from China. But when the pandemic hit, the company wouldn’t send the equipment without the engineers, who weren’t able to get into the country.

“So, Pat tells them, ‘No I’ve got engineers here that will help me, I really need these.’ So they ship it over, and he gets it,” Pillai said. “There’s a course here on campus through the College of Engineering that uses students to do good work in the community. So he was working with them all year, but this summer he had four specific students who helped take everything from crate to factory floor and get it set up.”

Thursday evening’s presentation “The Gift of Solar in Puerto Rico” will be moderated by junior Álvaro Carrillo Marcano, the president of the Puerto Rican Student Association. The presentation will explore Casa Pueblo, a Puerto Rican organization, which is a project that is working to bring solar energy to its community.

“We’ve stayed in pretty close ties I guess with this community organization called Casa Pueblo, where they basically are trying to run their whole community on solar power,” Moran said. “They really saved the day when Hurricane Maria hit and they were helping run people’s refrigerators who had medical needs and run dialysis machines and things like that.”

Pillai said she hopes Energy Week will provide students the opportunity to explore different aspects of energy and discover what niche they feel they can make an impact in.

“I strongly believe that the Notre Dame students should be at the forefront of this,” Pillai said. “We choose strong leaders, we choose students who come from very special backgrounds that are gifted in many ways, incredible talents, and if any group of people can make a difference, as they move on from here it has to be our Notre Dame students.”

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About Maggie Klaers

Originally from Minneapolis, Klaers is a first-year biology and visual communications design major living in Flaherty Hall. She currently serves as Graphics Editor.

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