2019 Annual Report

Letter from the Director

WEI Building Robin Davies

The Wisconsin Energy Institute was born out of a collaborative vision to create a center to advance energy research and education, to help move society beyond fossil fuel dependence toward a clean energy future. As we enter a new decade, we are seeing the fruits of that vision.

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World-Class Energy Research

Relieving two headaches with one process

With a new method to synthesize a popular pain-relieving medication from plants rather than fossil fuels, researchers at the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center have found a way to relieve two headaches at once.

John Ralph and Steve Karlen

New electric grid monitoring tool aims to keep power flowing

Bernard Lesieutre and his colleagues are studying patterns of activity across the electric grid to monitor grid stability and recognize risky conditions before problems strike.

Bernard Lesieutre

Engineered microbe may be key to producing plastic from plants

With a few genetic tweaks, a soil bacterium with an appetite for hydrocarbons shows promise as a biological factory for converting tough plant fibers into a replacement for petroleum-based plastics.

University of Wisconsin–Madison postdoctoral researcher Alex Linz examines a plate streaked with N. aromaticivorans (in yellow), a soil bacterium that could turn a renewable source — lignin from plant cells — into a replacement for petroleum-based plastics.

The inner workings of microbial metabolism

Daniel Amador-Noguez is learning how living organisms transform nutrients into energy and an array of useful chemicals.

Daniel Amador-Noguez, assistant professor of bacteriology in UW–Madison's College of Agricultural & Life Sciences. Photo by Michael P. King

Bio-based chemicals could help reduce fossil fuel use

Christos Maravelias and his collaborators have developed a method to identify plant-based compounds that hold promise as potential replacements for petrochemicals.

Christos Maravelias at his desk

Industry-ready process makes plastics chemical from plant sugars

A team from the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center have developed an efficient and economically feasible process to produce a versatile plant-derived chemical considered crucial for building a renewable economy.

Vials of HMF

Far-reaching Education & Outreach

Grandparents University: Energy education that spans generations

This year, two groups of UW–Madison alums and their grandchildren became energy experts at the Wisconsin Energy Institute during Grandparents University.

Madeline O'Callaghan and Susanna Mooney

WEI's faces of the energy future 2019

We asked six impressive students at UW–Madison how they became interested in pursuing a career in an energy field and how their research and education at UW–Madison may impact their future.

Three of the six impressive students we interviewed

Undergraduates participate in bioenergy research at GLBRC

This year, the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center hosted 11 undergraduate students in bioenergy labs during the summer Research Experience for Undergraduates program.

Eleven REU students from Michigan State University and the University of Wisconsin–Madison toured MSU's Kellogg Biological Station.

KidWind Challenge gets students, parents, and teachers excited about wind energy

Elementary and middle school students from around the state gathered at WEI for the 2019 KidWind Challenge to construct their own model wind turbines and compete to produce the most energy.

Students participating in the 2019 KidWind Challenge

Allison Bender inspires energy learning beyond campus

Researchers at WEI are developing the knowledge and technology to transition society to clean energy systems and solutions. It’s Allison Bender’s job to make sure that knowledge doesn’t stay behind campus doors. 

Allison Bender

Cultivating resilience in plants and in science

Anne-Sophie Bohrer, a WEI partner and postdoctoral research associate at Michigan State University in plant biology, spoke with us about biofuels, genetics, and the intersection of scientific discovery and outreach.

Anne-Sophie Bohrer

Industrial Engagement

Bigger electricity menu means smaller grids

When Hurricane Sandy knocked out the power in parts of New York City in 2012, one building provided electricity, heat, and water to 1,500 people thanks to microgrid technology developed in part at UW–Madison. 

An illustration of microgrids integrated into a bigger electric grid

Elektrifi increases electricity reliability in the developing world

Elektrifi, a UW–Madison spinoff and student-led startup, is working to increase the reliability of microgrid service in India and around the world.

Microgrid technology (left) that Elektrifi is implementing in India

WEI scientists apply biofuels knowledge to the dairy industry

With funding from the National Dairy Council, WEI researchers are applying knowledge from the biofuels industry to the dairy sector, turning underutilized material into profitable goods.

Cows housed at UW–Madison. Photo by Jeff Miller/UW-Madison

Rob Anex joins federal biomass advisory committee

Rob Anex is lending his techno-economic analysis expertise to the U.S. Departments of Energy and Agriculture as a member of the Biomass Research and Development Technical Advisory Committee.

Rob Anex. Photo by Michael P. King

More Info

2019 WEI featured awards

Many WEI investigators, experts, and affiliates received honors and awards in 2019 for their work.

Just some of the award winners from 2019

Thank you!

We wouldn't miss the chance to express our gratitude to the hundreds of passionate members of the WEI community who passed through our doors to attend an event, tour, talk, or meeting in the past year.

A panel discussion during the October 2019 Forward in Energy Forum