Students Work with Leading Energy Company to Help Clients with Sustainability Efforts


Picture (L to R): Sachin Gaekwad, Abhimanyu Chitlange, Hemant Disale, Swapnil Latad, Mark Johnson (Schneider Electric), Vignesh Ramasamy, Mark Werwath (MEM Director), Jeff Henderson (NU’s ISEN)

Schneider Electric develops connected technologies and solutions to manage energy and process in ways that are safe, reliable, efficient and sustainable. The Group invests in R&D in order to sustain innovation and differentiation, with a strong commitment to sustainable development.

The company started over 180 years ago with its roots in the iron and steel industry, heavy machinery, and ship building. Today, Schneider Electric is recognized as a leader in energy management and automation. In fact, last month the company was awarded 10th place in Newsweek’s Global Green Ranking 2016.

Currently, a team of five students is working with Schneider Electric’s engineering team to evaluate several financial models for the solar, storage and EV charging micro-grid projects. The team is lead by Mark Werwath, MEM Director & Mark Johnson, Founder of Help Answers Foundation and Smart Cities Chief of Schneider Electric.

Modelling tools the team will explore include Hybrid Optimization of Multiple Energy Resources (HOMER), Distributed Energy Resources – Customer Adaption Mode (DER-CAM) and Energy Storage Valuation Tool (ESVT). The team will compare micro-grid model outputs such as net present cost (NPC), first-cost, operations & maintenance (O&M), internal rate of return (IRR) and net present value (NPV). Clients include representatives from Northwestern’s facilities, Argonne National Laboratory and Metropolitan Water Reclamation District.

We had an opportunity to catch up with the students to ask them some questions about their project. Keep reading to learn about this impactful project!

MEM: What is a Micro-grid?

TEAM: A micro-grid is a discrete energy system consisting of distributed energy sources (e.g. renewable, conventional, storage) and loads capable of operating in parallel with, or independently from, the main grid. The primary purpose is to ensure reliable, affordable energy security for commercial, industrial and federal government consumers. Benefits that extend to utilities and the community at large include lower greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and lower stress on the transmission and distribution system.

MEM: Why is your team evaluating financial models of a micro-grid?

TEAM: Installing a micro-grid is a capital intensive project and as such, necessitates a thorough financial vetting of the costs involved, payback period and savings. This project focuses on financial vetting of micro-grid installations by using HOMER, ESVT and DER-CAM model for various customers.

MEM: What benefits will your clients receive from this project? 

TEAM: Quantitative benefits include energy savings (peak shaving, demand charges) resiliency, arbitrage opportunities, frequency regulations and tax benefits, ROI and payback period. Qualitative benefits include reduce CO2 emissions by harnessing renewable energy sources and ‘green initiative/ sustainability’ tag for the customer.

MEM: How was the team created?

TEAM: Professor Mark Werwath informed us of this project. The project required financial analysis of the investments for the micro-grids. This project represents a good opportunity for us to put in practice the MEM curriculum. Also, a few of the team members were interested in the energy sector. Thus, the team was formed.

MEM will continue to follow this project over the summer so stay tuned for our next interview with team where they discuss their progress.

Team Bio:


Project Leaders:

Mark Johnson: Founder of Help Answers Foundation and Smart Cities Chief of Schneider Electric headquartered in North Andover, MA with a MBA from Loyola Chicago, BA from University of Notre Dame and ‘graduate’ of U.S. Department of Energy in Washington, DC; IBM Utilities; Navigant Consulting and several energy startups.

Mark Werwath: Clinical Associate Professor and Director of the MEM Program,  Associate Director for the Farley Center for Entrepreneurship, PhD on Organizational Development from Benedictine University, MEM from Northwestern University and BA from University of Illinois at Chicago.

Jeff Henderson: Associate Director at Institute for Sustainability and Energy at Northwestern (ISEN), BA from Northwestern University.

Participating MEM Students:

Abhimanyu Chitlange: Master’s candidate in Engineering Management at Northwestern University with prior professional work experience of 3yrs. Sound financial and economic knowledge with experience in capital budgeting analysis and project valuations. Researched on concentrating solar power (CSP) technology as part of my undergrad student thesis and published a research paper on the same in the World Journal of Science & Technology (WJST). Currently part of a team mentored by industry experts in renewable energy and sustainability from Schneider, ViZn to provide financial modeling and analysis support for the new Microgrid projects.

Hemant Disale: Masters of Engineering Management student at Northwestern University. Prior to this, I was working with ZF Friedrichshafen AG, a German based automotive supplier company for 4 years. Currently consulting for Schneider Electric as a financial analyst assessing feasibility of micro grid installation at various locations.

Sachin Gaekwad: A mechanical engineer with three years’ experience in locomotive harness design interested in creating values at the intersection of technology and business. Currently consulting for Schneider Electric as a financial analyst assessing feasibility of micro-grid installations at various locations.

Swapnil Latad: Master of Engineering Management professional with expertise in analytics and financial analysis, previous work experience of 6+ years helped building entrepreneurial spirit, problem solving ability and strategic management skills. Currently consulting with Schneider Electric for financial feasibility analysis of Microgrids.

Vignesh Ramasamy: Current Engineering Management graduate student at Northwestern University. Passionate tech buff with 4+ years of solid experience in entrepreneurship, analytics, consulting, business development, and marketing. Currently working with a team of leading Microgrid developers under the supervision of industry experts in renewable energy and sustainability from Schneider, ViZn, & Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory to provide financial modeling and analysis support for the new Microgrid projects. Carrying out technical investigations related to distributed energy resources (DER) applications and local optimization of energy systems, including Microgrid, distributed energy resources (PV, storage, etc.) and multi-energy solutions.



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