A $2.6 million solar technology grant was acquired by Rep. Anthony Brindisi for a Binghamton University professor to conduct innovative clean energy research.

The grant is provided by the United States Department of Energy’s (DOE) Solar Energy Technologies Office (SETO). The University’s project was selected by the DOE’s SETO Fiscal Year 2020 funding program. BU’s project met the requirement of improving “the affordability, reliability and value of solar technologies on the U.S. grid and tackle emerging challenges in the solar industry.”

In a BU Council meeting on Nov. 20, BU President Harvey Stenger announced Ziang “John” Zhang, an associate professor in the electrical and computer engineering department in the Watson College of Engineering and Applied Science, as the winner of the $2.6 million grant. The project, titled “Asynchronous Distributed and Adaptive Parameter Tuning (ADAPT) for Hybrid Photovoltaic (PV) Plants,” will research how to integrate solar power plants into the state’s electric grid more efficiently.

In addition to the research Zhang will be conducting as the principal investigator of the project, Stenger said BU is working on utilizing clean energy itself.

“We are finalizing a public power purchase agreement for solar electricity that will meet all of our demands — all of our electrical demands — on this campus from solar energy for the next 20 years,” Stenger said. “[It] will actually save us money.”

Zhang said he and his team will work with Brookhaven National Laboratory located on Long Island, New York. They will utilize the solar facility and examine how the power system works when the majority of energy is coming from renewable sources. Additional research partners include Stony Brook University, National Renewable Energy Laboratory and the New York Power Authority.

According to Brindisi, the federal funding will be used to build a solar plant control framework that will enable multiple solar plants to work together. He explained how this grant will allow BU to continue to conduct important and innovative research.

“Research institutions across our district work tirelessly every day to discover and advance new technologies, create local manufacturing opportunities and strengthen our regional economy,” Brindisi said. “This grant award will help [BU] continue that important work. I will keep fighting for federal investments in the Southern Tier and will work with all levels of government to continue to rebuild our economy.”

In the 2019 Executive Budget, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced the Green New Deal in which New York’s clean energy standard would increase to 70 percent by 2030. The funding will allow Zhang to examine how the power systems work when renewable energy makes up the majority of energy.

Ryan Yarosh, senior director of media and public relations for BU, said the University was grateful for the grant and acknowledged BU’s ability to aid New York’s green mission.

“We are very appreciative of this funding and thrilled that our faculty can contribute to efforts which solidify New York’s undisputed position as a global leader in climate and clean energy,” Yarosh said.

Rebecca Colao, a senior double-majoring in French and art and design, said she hopes to see a positive impact from the project.

“I think that this is a good step for New York to move toward the 70 percent renewable energy goal by 2030,” Colao said. “I think that it is great that [BU] is helping work towards that goal.”

Laura Guerrero, a senior majoring in English, said she was happy to hear about the grant.

“I think this is a great initiative that the University and state are taking,” Guerrero said. “Renewable energy is something the whole world should be working toward. I hope this first step will lead other institutions to work towards improving our environment.”

Brindisi explained how conducting research in renewable energy is necessary in order to combat global warming.

“[BU] is home to world-class educators and researchers,” Brindisi said. “This [DOE] grant will help cement BU as a leader in this field. As your Congressman, I work with all of our universities and businesses to fight for federal dollars. As we try to fight climate change, we need an all-of-the-above clean energy policy that uses solar, hydro, geothermal and wind energy to compete in a global economy.”