My room is cluttered with technical manuals, prototypes, and electronic parts, and I’m staring at a computer screen. My cup of coffee sits on a printed circuit board that makes a horrible coaster but is frequently employed as such. 

A news alert for Pecan Street? We won an R&D 100 award?


There’s a reason there was never a TV show about the life of an energy industry research engineer. Lawyers and doctors really are more exciting. But that doesn’t mean we don’t do interesting things, and the R&D 100 award was an excellent recognition that we’re working on some exciting stuff.

Pecan Street has been part of several applications in the past, and I’ve been part of a few more while working for different organizations. But I’ve never been part of a winning team…and given the competition in any given year, I really didn’t know what to expect this time. The awards were once described to me as “The Oscars of science and engineering.”

Led by Johanna Mathieu at the University of Michigan and including UC Berkeley, Los Alamos National Laboratory and Pecan Street, our group worked for almost five years on a program called GRID-BAL. The research involved controlling large aggregations of “slow” moving electrical loads with long time constants. This is critical for getting more renewable energy onto the grid because it means that the load can more easily follow the generation instead of our legacy operation of fossil fuels being dispatched up and down to cover any intermittency in generation. 

In addition to the award in the “Mechanical/Materials” category, we also won special recognition awards for Market Disruptor and Corporate Social Responsibility. 

Are we excited about winning? Absolutely. Are we trying to humble brag? Maybe a little. In reality, this award is a recognition of a fantastic start. We’re excited to continue our research and to dive even deeper into the changing and challenging energy system research that we’ve done for 12 years. 

Thank you to R&D World and judges….you made our day, but we have more work to do in understanding a clean energy future. And maybe, if we play our research cards right, this won’t be our last R&D 100 award.