Lean, Green, Clean Tech Machine | Tech Parks Arizona
   The University of Arizona

Lean, Green, Clean Tech Machine

Looking to the future, clean technologies are becoming more a necessity than a luxury. With headlines filled with news about climate change, greenhouse gases, carbon emissions and the depleting ozone layer, society demands better technology for a cleaner environment.

Universities and other institutions of higher education have important roles as leaders in sustainability projects because it is critical to the education students receive, as well as to the future of our society. Also, universities have the ability to leverage great research strength in this industry for the future of Earth.

The Arizona Institute for Resilient Environments and Societies (AIRES) was established to connect interdisciplinary groups of faculty, students and projects across The University of Arizona’s campus, from climate science to public policy, water resources and beyond. Led by Sharon Collinge, AIRES encourages solution-focused research in topics such as climate science, adaptation and resilience solutions; national security and the environment; data, informatics and modeling; biodiversity, conservation and ecosystems; and many more.

UArizona is committed to become a more sustainable campus and fiscal 2022 marked the first full year since the start of the large-scale renewable energy agreement between the university and Tucson Electric Power. The agreement provides clean, renewable energy that eliminates all scope 2 emissions – those that result from the generation of electricity, heat or steam purchased from a utility. Approximately 65,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions have been mitigated over the last fiscal year, thanks to the agreement coordinated by the university’s Office of Sustainability. That’s the equivalent of taking nearly 14,000 gas-powered vehicles off the road for one year.

UArizona has a long-standing history of employing renewable energy resources and research that advances solar energy. The university leveraged its assets and optimal sun radiance to develop an innovative renewable energy project at the UA Tech Park known as the Solar Zone, which is one of the nation’s largest multi-technology solar demonstration sites connected to the grid. This living lab occupies 223 acres of land, and hosts eight companies that test 10 technologies with the capacity to generate 25 megawatts of power and 10 megawatts of power storage.

Power generation and distribution are only one component of the Solar Zone. Equally important is research and development. Phase one of the Solar Zone focus is installation of multiple solar technologies so that when the power is generated, these technologies can be tested and evaluated side-by-side under identical operating conditions.

University researchers are testing everything from solar power forecasting to the environmental impact of solar energy installations.

Phase Two focuses on research and the development of energy storage, grid optimization and microgrids, distributed solar systems, and integrated and embedded solar materials. The phase will allow the demonstration of products and their cost-effectiveness in the market.

As a Research 1 institution with $761 million in total research activity, UArizona is a leader in renewable energy and sustainability research that directly translates into leading-edge inventions. The world-class research and innovation spurred by the university have ignited a bustling startup scene. The UArizona’s innovation landscape has rapidly evolved to better engage with entrepreneurs and the community to bridge resources and accelerate the most promising inventions.

UArizona surrounds entrepreneurs with the support they need via the University of Arizona Center for Innovation (UACI), an incubator network that focuses on science and tech-based startups. Here, technology entrepreneurs work side by side in a fast-moving, collaborative and creative environment. They are guided through a continuum of education and activities using a 28-point structured roadmap program with the advantage of hands-on support from people who have a track record of success.

With 77 startups in the UACI program, the 26 focused on cleantech and sustainability are:

• Anar Solar

• Better Solar

• CarbeniumTec (TLA)

• Cibus21

• CleanFi


• Dimensional Energy

• Do Energy

• EarthEn

• Hexafeast

• Leap Photovoltaics

• Leaptran

• Nature’s Cooling Solutions

• Noah LLC

• Portable Solar

• ProfiKomp

• The R&D Lab/Starling Roofing For Solar

• RCAM Technologies

• Red Sea Farms

• Resonant Energy

• Sarinx

• Solar Space

• Sun Moksha

• Sylvan Source

• Tectonicus Constructs – Solar River

• TG Recycling

Startups work on innovations ranging from solar energy software to renewable energy batteries and storage, from industrial fuels made from carbon dioxide to sustainability and safety in insect-based food systems.

UACI is proud to have an incubator outpost at the Biosphere 2 centered around renewable energy and sustainable tech startups. The Biosphere 2 consists of a unique large-scale experimental apparatus housing seven model ecosystems modeled on Earth, the first biosphere. UACI outpost at Biosphere 2 offers interconnected spaces intentionally designed and constructed to accommodate different types of users, as well as brings together resources needed to advance technology.

The center was selected by the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) five years ago as a power connector to foster sustainable innovation around the country.

This is a diverse and powerful network consisting of national laboratories, universities, energy incubators, facilities, industry partners and other organizations essential to the success of new inventions.

UACI is one of 16 power connectors in the U.S. and serves as the nation’s hub for the Southwest region, which includes the states of Arizona, New Mexico, Utah and Nevada.

As a power connector, UACI attracts, engages and supports new talents in the solar field.

It is in its fourth year of providing recruitment and team support in the American-Made Challenges Solar Prize. The competition enables the rapid development of innovative solar solutions by providing resources and support to entrepreneurs as they transform concepts into early-stage prototypes ready for industry testing. This collaboration combines UACI’s unparalleled entrepreneurial support system with the American-Made Network’s highly revered national laboratory research base.

UACI is also supporting the NREL Inclusive Energy Innovation Prize, which seeks to enable and enhance business and technology incubation, acceleration, and other community-based and university-based entrepreneurship and innovation in climate and clean energy technologies.

Together, they support competitors in the Solar Prize and Inclusive Energy Innovation Prize to create a sweeping portfolio of innovations primed for additional investment and commercial scale-up. UACI annually provides applicant support to solar energy and waterpower innovators seeking funding through the Department of Energy’s SBIR/STTR program. Through SBIR/STTR, small businesses can receive up to $200,000 to engage in high-risk, innovative research and development with the potential for commercialization. Successful awardees can then receive up to $1.1 million for prototype development.

UArizona connects academia and industry through innovation. By showcasing advanced technology and research breakthroughs, the innovation culture flourishes.

Through technology commercialization, universities have become an important source of innovations to advance society. UArizona builds on this culture by developing pathways to move those inventions outward into Arizona and beyond, enriching life for all. Southern Arizona is making great strides in developing clean technology and decreasing its impact on the environment.

As partnerships and innovations continue to grow with UArizona research, the university continues to shrink its carbon footprint.

To read the full Winter 2023 edition of TechConnect, click here.

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