UAlbany, UConn Researchers Partner on New Climate Center to Support Weather Innovation and Energy Resilience

A field of wind turbines with dark clouds above them.
Renewable energy will be a focus of the new WISER partnership.

ALBANY, N.Y. (Aug. 9, 2023) — A new, state-of-the-art weather and climate facility led by researchers at the University at Albany and University of Connecticut will help safeguard the energy industry.

Backed by a grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF), the Center for Weather Innovation and Smart Energy and Resilience (WISER) is an Industry-University Cooperative Research Center (IUCRC). IUCRCs are designed to help corporate partners and government agencies connect directly and efficiently with university researchers to conduct high-impact research, drive innovative technology development, and develop a high-tech, skilled workforce.

WISER aims to leverage the research and expertise at UAlbany and UConn to create advanced weather- and climate-based solutions for the energy industry, now and in the future.

Chris Thorncroft, director of UAlbany’s Atmospheric Sciences Research Center and Emmanouil “Manos” Anagnostou, director of UConn’s Eversource Energy Center, are leading WISER for their respective universities.

Energy industry executives meet with UAlbany and UConn faculty at the WISER Planning Meeting at ETEC.
UAlbany hosted energy industry executives from more than 20 companies at ETEC last year for a two-day planning meeting that offered an overview of WISER. (Photo by Patrick Dodson)

“The IUCRC program was created by the NSF to generate new and innovative research through engagement between academic researchers, government agencies and industry partners,” said Thorncroft, who also directs UAlbany’s Center of Excellence in Weather and Climate Analytics and the New York State Mesonet. “WISER will fulfill this mission by advancing research and cutting-edge technologies to improve energy industry efficiency and reliability in the face of a rapidly changing climate and global transition to clean energy sources.”

“We envision WISER to become a leading energy industry-academia partnership, advancing research and cutting-edge technologies to continually improve power grid efficiency and reliability in the face of a changing climate and transition to clean energy,” said Anagnostou, a Board of Trustees Distinguished Professor and Eversource Energy Endowed Chair in Environmental Engineering at UConn.

WISER’s research direction will focus on renewable energy (solar, hydro, and wind), power outage management, electrical grid resilience brought on by extreme weather, and ways climate change impacts power producers and power distributors. 

To date, 14 companies including IBM, Eversource, National Grid, and Avangrid have elected to join WISER as industry partners. The WISER research team includes 13 faculty from UAlbany’s Atmospheric Sciences Research Center, Department of Atmospheric and Environmental Sciences and College of Emergency Preparedness, Homeland Security and Cybersecurity and 16 faculty from UConn’s School of Engineering, School of Business, and the College of Agriculture, Health, and Natural Resources.  Anagnostou and Thorncroft welcome additional industries and faculty to join WISER and collaborate on projects and share ideas.  

WISER also will recruit graduate and undergraduate students from underrepresented groups to increase minority participation in science and engineering and especially interdisciplinary collaborations and exposure to industry-academia partnerships.

“Weather is critical to the energy sector, considering extreme weather and the transition to renewable energy,” said Jan Woodcock, UAlbany’s WISER industry liaison and director of operations at its Center of Excellence in Weather and Climate Analytics. “WISER is symbiotic with our Center of Excellence, fostering national collaboration with energy companies.”

The launch of WISER will add to UAlbany and UConn’s growing research relationship at the intersection between weather, climate and the energy industry. New York State Electric & Gas and Rochester Gas & Electric announced plans in 2021 for a new partnership with the two institutions to develop a customizable outage prediction system that can enhance storm preparedness and response efforts for utility companies. 

Another partnership between UAlbany and IBM researchers is examining weather and climate impacts on water, transportation and renewable energy systems in New York.

The new center will be supported by a $750,000 NSF grant for each institution and a five-year, $3.7 million industry partnership membership fee. The NSF also awarded WISER with a $20,000 grant in 2022 that was used to host a WISER planning meeting at UAlbany with energy industry executives.