In a collaborative partnership, Montclair State University and PSEG are helping move New Jersey toward its ambitious energy goals, accelerating education and solutions for clean energy and a greener, sustainable world.
With support for sustainability initiatives from the PSEG Foundation to the University dating back to 2009, the most recent $425,000 grant addresses 2050 climate and energy initiatives through the PSEG Institute for Sustainability Studies (PSEG ISS) and the Clean Energy and Sustainability Analytics Center (CESAC) at Montclair State University. The work focuses on increasing sustainability in communities across the state – and enabling undergraduate and graduate students to expand and apply their STEM skills as they prepare for science-related careers.
“PSEG and the PSEG Foundation are proud of our longstanding partnership with Montclair State University,” said PSEG Chief Operating Officer Ralph LaRossa, who also serves on the University’s board of trustees. “Our association with Montclair State University is an exceptional example of a public-private partnership that works to benefit New Jersey and the communities we both serve.”
“Montclair State University’s partnership with PSEG is the perfect example of how we can work together to serve the public and solve the most vexing problems we face in society. Students are able to gain invaluable hands-on learning experiences and play an important role crafting sustainability solutions for the future; we are thrilled to empower them to be the difference makers in the world,” said Montclair State University President Jonathan Koppell.
“The PSEG Foundation values our partnership with Montclair State University and we’re incredibly proud of the collective impact that PSEG Institute for Sustainability Studies, the Clean Energy and Sustainability Analytics Center and the Green Teams program have on the diverse communities we serve,” PSEG Foundation President Calvin Ledford said. “Through the collaboration of multi-sector partnerships, we aim to support complex local problem-solving that addresses climate change and positions young people to be innovative in their research to help improve lives.”
STEM Internships Solve Sustainability Challenges
PSEG Foundation support fuels the PSEG Institute for Sustainability Studies and makes possible the PSEG ISS Green Teams internship program based at Montclair State, which has been a platform for launching students into internships, green jobs and graduate and professional study since 2016. The program matches teams of students from multiple institutions and various disciplines with host corporations, organizations and municipalities to tackle the sustainability issues confronting our planet.
“The level of sophistication of Green Teams projects continues to increase as does the urgency to develop the kinds of solutions they are creating to address climate change and other sustainability needs,” said PSEG ISS Director Amy Tuininga. “The Green Teams program helps students develop skills that make them highly desirable job candidates, and their work as diverse, transdisciplinary teams provides actionable recommendations for organizations to improve sustainability. We believe for equity that we need to offer paid internships, and we are very grateful for the funding that makes this competitive internship opportunity possible.”
For the 10-week summer session that concluded in August, 60 undergraduate students from diverse backgrounds and 33 colleges and universities served 12 hosting organizations to address sustainability challenges related to energy efficiency, food security, life cycle assessment, environmental justice, climate risk assessment, clean and renewable energies,stormwater management and more.
The six students on the PSEG Green Team worked on three deliverables: formulating waste reduction strategies for PSE&G; exploring environmental justice by performing a climate vulnerability assessment for New Jersey’s overburdened communities; and examining criteria of the European Union Taxonomy.
Matthew Murray, a junior at Montclair State studying Psychology and Justice Studies, appreciated the range of backgrounds on the team and the opportunity to delve into the professional world. “This experience pushed me to think differently. … It showed me how to work in a business and become comfortable with the language and day-to-day of corporate life. It was an amazing learning curve, and I am grateful for the insight I gained and the opportunity to apply my passion for sustainability.”
For Jennifer Poroye, an Environmental Geoscience major from SUNY New Paltz, serving on the Newark Community Food System Green Team enabled her to realize the scope of environmental science career options. “I want to work in a community-oriented role that is sustainability related, and through this internship I learned aspects of environmental justice and agriculture. Now I can see myself working along these lines.”
The Newark Community Food System Green Team assessed food security in Newark communities and developed tool kits distributed to 25 community gardens to help them quantify and value their food production with the goal of improving the local food system to provide affordable and healthy food.
Other projects delivering solutions for the sponsoring organizations included: The City of Newark Green Team to track the city’s progress on its sustainability action plan goals; NJ Transit Green Team to explore life cycle information on electric vehicle bus batteries; The Trust for Public Land Green Team to study stormwater management of parks and playgrounds in Newark and the region; as well as a Green Team working with Montclair State University Professor Glen O’Neil on cutting-edge technology for producing hydrogen to store energy using 3D printers.
Public Research Center Supports Sustainable Energy Economy
Since the launch of the Clean Energy and Sustainability Analytics Center as a public research and assistance center in 2018 with initial funding from the PSEG Foundation, the Center has researched and provided support for clean energy policies, technology and practices through research and education programs. It works closely with partners in government, including the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities, New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, and the New Jersey Economic Development Authority, as well as industry, academia, national labs and the nonprofit community. It also contributes toward clean energy analysis, providing long-term environmental and economic solutions for New Jersey and beyond, in order to build a sustainable energy economy.
“CESAC is contributing to the collective effort to build a sustainable energy economy in New Jersey. Our partnerships and projects demonstrate the value of collaboration between the academic community and private industry in identifying environmental and economic solutions related to clean energy,” said Pankaj Lal, PhD, founding director of the Clean Energy and Sustainability Analytics Center and professor in the Department of Earth and Environmental Studies at Montclair State University.
Pralhad Burli, PhD, who earned his doctorate in Environmental Management from Montclair State in 2018 and worked at CESAC in its formative years, is now an economist at Idaho National Laboratory, specializing in applying economic analysis to decision-making in bioenergy and integrated energy systems. He is one of the more than 24 graduate and undergraduate students trained at CESAC in the last three years.
“Interacting with government agencies to understand the research questions they wanted to answer and presenting research to stakeholders were valuable experiences for me at CESAC … researchers gain important life skills to take with them in their careers,” said Burli.
Intrigued by the workings of wind turbines as a child, Nawal Shoaib, a graduate student researcher at CESAC, is now exploring the life cycle analysis of offshore wind farms and the value of offshore wind farms as tourist attractions, as she pursues a master’s degree in Earth and Environmental Science at Montclair State.
“You learn about teamwork at CESAC … there’s a circle of mentorship where I receive support from advisors and colleagues, and I share support with undergraduate students,” said Shoaib.
“My experiences with PSEG ISS and CESAC helped prepare me for my current job because I learned how to grasp different aspects across many fields and apply them,” said Mary Kenny, project engineer at EnergyCAP, LLC, completing a master’s degree in Sustainability Science. Kenny’s research focuses on providing suitability analysis for potential community solar site locations in New Jersey and life cycle analysis of onshore wind energy production. “Learning with people from all different backgrounds, majors and interests gives you the opportunity to grow and think differently.”
“Learning about sustainability made me more passionate to act more responsibly … by becoming more environmentally aware, we can reduce waste and improve the way we are living.”