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ORCAS Energy Conversion and Storage Conference 2014: A CEI Student Perspective

, ORCAS Energy Conversion and Storage Conference 2014: A CEI Student Perspective

by Sarah Vorpahl, Graduate Student in the David Ginger Lab


The author on San Juan Island reflecting on a clean energy future.

The author at the edge of San Juan Island reflecting on a clean energy future. (Photo: Charles Barrows)

I had the great fortune of attending Orcas 2014: International Conference on Energy Conversion and Storage at the University of Washington facilities on Friday Harbor. This picturesque setting was the perfect background for an incredibly insightful three days of talks and posters on cutting edge research in the field of renewable energy.

As a student whose research focuses on solar cell technology, it was invaluable to place my work in the bigger context of energy storage and smart grid technology.  Wonderful opening talks by David Cahen (Weizmann Institute of Science), Daniel Kirschen (University of Washington) and Ping Liu (DOE) set up the major issues and broad context of renewable energy research.  Professor Cahen gave an overview of the major advancements in solar cell technology, especially the impact of highly efficient hybrid perovskites in the last several years.  Professor Kirschen gave a complimentary talk on the idea of the Smart Grid and the fate of all the renewable energy we produce from these cutting edge devices.  Finally, Dr. Ping Liu explored work in storage devices, why they degrade and how to make them cheaper and last longer.  These big picture talks set the tone for what turned out to be a very informative and exciting conference.

In addition to hearing talks by experts from around the world, ORCAS was also a wonderful opportunity to share and exchange ideas with students that work in related fields but with whom I rarely get to interact with on a daily basis. Even though my research involves several of the labs in the Clean Energy Institute, there is still a lot of amazing research at UW that I did not know about!  The evening poster sessions were casual but highly informative and a great networking experience.  Additionally, the free time during the afternoons and late evenings allowed conversations to continue over foosball, walks on the beach and even rowing in the harbor.  The retreat atmosphere facilitated mingling between students and professors from UW and institutions from around the globe.  During my poster presentation, I was able to troubleshoot some areas of my research and discuss current open ended questions in solar cells one on one with experts in this field.  Being able to attend this conference (for free!) is one the many benefits I have experienced as a student in the Clean Energy Institute and I very much look forward to attending the next ORCAS event in two years!

(Video by CEI staff Shaun Taylor)

(Photo gallery by CEI student Durmus U. Karatay)