Developing energy projects for global tropics

By Melissae Fellet

Thursday, March 12, 2020

Labs’ 10-year agreement extends work with University of Puerto Rico, Mayagüez

Efrain O’Neill and Tito Bonano
ENERGY ALLIANCE — Efrain O’Neill, left, an electrical engineering professor at the University of Puerto Rico, Mayagüez, who is spending a year working at Sandia, talks energy research with senior manager Tito Bonano. (Photo by Randy Montoya)

A new 10-year agreement between Sandia and the University of Puerto Rico, Mayagüez, has the potential to bring more reliable electricity to remote communities and the latest in electrical grid technology to rural areas in the world’s tropics.

Sandia senior manager Tito Bonano, who was born and grew up in Puerto Rico, said the agreement will continue a decades-long relationship with the university he attended. 

“Collaborative projects undertaken as part of this agreement will leverage the university’s academic and research expertise in addressing problems relevant to energy resiliency, critical infrastructure and energy-efficient process development aiming to treat, clean and reuse water and soils, along with Sandia’s expertise in materials science, grid modernization and resilience, multiple energy sources and systems engineering,” he said.

Tito helped forge the partnership with UPRM and is a member of the engineering school’s industrial advisory board.

The Cooperative Research and Development Agreement, presented at a Feb. 25 ceremony in Puerto Rico, will enable the two institutions to continue their partnership to develop safe, secure energy and environment projects for resiliency and reliability.

signing ceremony
SIGNING CEREMONY — From left, Sandians Janette Meacham and Abraham Ellis; University of Puerto Rico, Mayagüez, Chancellor Agustín Rullán Toro; and Sandians Carol Adkins and Tito Bonano met to sign a 10-year Cooperative Research and Development Agreement between Sandia and UPRM at a Feb. 25 ceremony in Puerto Rico. (Photo courtesy of University of Puerto Rico, Mayagüez)

“We are honored to consolidate our efforts with Sandia National Labs through this collaborative alliance that represents the first CRADA-type agreement signed at a Puerto Rican university. It is a validation of the capacity and talent of our professors and students to find solutions on such an important issue in our country, such as renewable energy,” UPRM Chancellor Agustín Rullán Toro said.

Specific areas of interest for this collaboration include re-electrification of remote communities and development of next-generation microgrids for rural communities, industrial parks and critical loads. The work also will advance computer simulations of energy technologies on grid-scale before integrating them into a physical system. 

An additional research focus will examine the life cycle of energy components and systems from production to use and final disposition. The goals are to develop innovative materials, fabrication methods and recycling strategies to reduce the total waste from energy systems and increase their long-term sustainability.

This agreement continues a decades-long series of relationships between Sandia and the university. Efrain O’Neill, an electrical engineering professor at UPRM, is the latest researcher from the university to spend a year at Sandia working with colleagues.

The university also is a strong source for well-educated students and Hispanic engineers, Tito said. A summer internship program, started in 2017 to bring students and professors to Sandia from primarily Hispanic-serving institutions, including UPRM, was recently extended through next summer.