The Virginia Tech Research Center — Arlington will host an energy roundtable sponsored by the Capital IIT on Feb. 22. 

The roundtable is part of the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Alumni Association’s WHEELS (Water, Health, Energy, Education, Lifestyles, and Security) Thought Leadership Program which encourages entrepreneurship through creative ideas to solve common problems. According to Gulab Bhavnani, program director of the WHEELS Foundation, the program provides a platform to facilitate networking and advocacy that will spawn scalable, sustainable, and profitable projects in both the United States and India.

About 50 entrepreneurs, academics, and business leaders are expected to attend the event in Arlington.

Satish Kulkarni, the director of energy initiatives in Virginia Tech’s Office of the Vice President for Research and a research professor of engineering science and mechanics at the Virginia Tech Research Center — Arlington, has worked closely with Bhavnani on organizing the energy roundtable.

Kulkarni is a member of Capital IIT, having earned his master’s degree in civil engineering/structural mechanics at the institute in Kanpur.

The roundtable will address the world’s changing energy mix. For example, shale gas is replacing coal resulting in a decrease in coal consumption in the United States while demand in India – and even in Europe -- is continuing to rise. Simultaneously, there is a concerted effort worldwide towards clean and renewable energy sources such as nuclear, solar, wind, and biomass and the development of energy efficient technologies in transportation, stationary, and manufacturing applications. 

Some specific concerns are: greenhouse gas emissions and climate change requiring continued emphasis on clean energy and energy efficiency, the recent blackout in India, and the aging electrical infrastructure in the United States.

“Energy is one of the greatest challenges facing our world today. Exploring ways that we can benefit millions of people is key to our mission of social responsibility or ‘giving back,’” said Bhavnani. A number of practical and successful programs, like donating solar lamps and solar cookers to villages in India with no electricity, have resulted from past WHEELS initiatives, he said.  

Pramod Khargonekar, deputy director for the Advanced Research Projects Agency - Energy, U.S. Department of Energy, and Srinivas Mirmira, program manager for the U.S. - India Partnership to Advance Clean Energy, U.S. Department of Energy, will be keynote speakers for the event. 

(Kulkarni noted that in addition to the Virginia Tech-India initiative,Virginia Tech is actively involved in the U.S. - India Partnership to Advance Clean Energy. Janaki Alavalapati, professor and head of the Department of  Forest Resources and Environmental Conservation, is part of a team with the University of Florida that is investigating second generation biofuels. Virginia Tech has also partnered with the Indian Institute of Technology in Kanpur on a project entitled "International Program for Sustainable Infrastructure Development" as part of the Obama-Singh Initiative; Ralph Hall, assistant professor in the Department of Urban Affairs and Planning is serving as principal investigator for this project.)

Roundtable participants from Virginia Tech are Michael Karmis, the Stonie Barker Professor and director of the Virginia Center for Coal and Energy Research, and Saifur Rahman, the Joseph R. Loring Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering and director of the Virginia Tech Advanced Research Institute in Arlington. Karmis will discuss issues associated with coal use: clean coal, carbon capture and storage, and health and safety. Rahman will address electrical transmission and distribution and smart and micro grids. 

Daman Walia, chief executive officer of ArcTech, and Anjan Bose, Regents Professor of Electric Power Engineering at Washington State University and senior advisor to the U.S. Department of Energy, will join discussions with Karmis and Rahman, respectively.   

Senior Climate Change Program Manager Griffin Thomas, from the U.S. Department of State, will make a presentation about climate change effects and opportunities.

Since its founding in 1999, the Capital IIT Alumni Association has brought together alumni from all seven campuses throughout India; the campuses recently expanded to 15.  

“As an alumnus of both the institute in Kanpur and Virginia Tech, and in my current role as director of energy initiatives at Virginia Tech, I feel I am in a unique position,” said Kulkarni, who earned his Ph.D. in engineering mechanics at Virginia Tech. “Collaborating on an event like this is a way to both further the university’s efforts to find energy solutions and to foster partnerships and joint programs with India.”

Request more details on the energy roundtable.