TAEBC spotlights a range of energy-related opportunities at its annual forum

The latest edition of the Tennessee Advanced Energy Business Council’s (TAEBC) annual “Opportunities in Energy” forum covered a range of topics over the course of about three and one-half hours.

Held last Thursday afternoon in Knoxville, the Verizon-sponsored event featured presentations on “5G and the Future of Energy,” “Supercomputing Partnerships,” an update on developments at the University of Tennessee (UT) Research Park at Cherokee Farm, and panels on mobility and the Energy Mentor Network coordinated by TAEBC.

Majid Khan, Verizon’s New Jersey-based Managing Director of Strategy and Business Development, set the stage for the day with a discussion about the rapidly evolving 5G technology and its continued deployment.

“5G is new; we’re still learning,” Khan told attendees. “All use cases have not been defined.”

That said, he identified six key sectors where 5G technology can have a major impact. They are smart cities and smart homes, transportation, healthcare, media and entertainment, manufacturing, and financial services.

“Our goal (at Verizon) is to serve every type of customer that exists in the marketplace,” Khan said.

He quoted Ernest Moniz, former Secretary of Energy, who said three key players must come together for 5G to be successful. The three are utilities, telecommunications providers, and government.

Following his presentation, there was a panel discussion featuring Khan; Greg Thompson, Senior Manager for Smart Grid Services Digital Engagements at Schneider Electric; and Gary Brinkworth, TVA’s Director of Enterprise Research and Technology Innovation.

“TVA is really interested in areas like sensors and analytics,” Brinkworth said. “We recognize a communications platform is critical to that, and we think 5G is important.”

Verizon had announced that Memphis was one of 30 cities where it would rollout 5G, and Khan said 20 of those are up and running. Memphis should be coming on line in 2020.

During a discussion on “The Future of Mobility,” Ryan Stanton, Senior Consultant for Strategic Energy Initiatives for the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, noted that the Volunteer State is the third largest producer of battery-powered electric vehicles. “We have a path to number two when Volkswagen starts producing in 2022,” he said.

Tom Rogers, the recently appointed President and Chief Executive Officer of the UT Research Park, provided an update on some revised plans for the R&D-focused park. He said that the ideal projects check several boxes including “strategic high-growth opportunities for UT, priorities of our partners, opportunities for students, and (those that) leverage ORNL (Oak Ridge National Laboratory).”

High-potential target areas for research collaborations that would attract corporations to the Park are advanced materials and manufacturing; business analytics, artificial intelligence and cybersecurity; and secure, carbon-free energy storage.

Other presenters included David Turek, Vice President of High Performance and Cognitive Computing at IBM, who spoke about the UT-IBM supercomputing partnership; Leon Tolbert, Min H. Kao Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at UT Knoxville who discussed the university’s Center for Ultra-Wide Area Resilient Electric Energy Transmission Networks, better known as CURENT; and Todd Toops, Distinguished R&D Scientist at ORNL, who discussed a novel catalyst for low temperature emissions control.

The annual forum concluded with a panel discussion featuring three participants in the Energy Mentor Network. They were John Bruck, Entrepreneur-in-Residence at UT Knoxville’s Anderson Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation; Gary Rawlings, Technology Consultant for ORNL’s “Innovation Crossroads” program; and Ira Weiss, Principal in Weiss Associates.

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