ZEE Lab launch: Students at the forefront of the energy transition

Talented graduate students joined leaders from industry, government, and academia for the formal commencement of the Melbourne Energy Institute’s new Zero Emission Energy Laboratory.

Participants at the ZEE Lab launch

The Melbourne Energy Institute (MEI) has launched a new program for research with industry to reduce emissions and support the clean energy transition.

The Zero Emission Energy Laboratory program, or ZEE Lab for short, was launched officially at a gathering of graduate students, and academic and industry leaders at Melbourne Connect on 28 February.

Coordinated by MEI, the ZEE Lab creates an ecosystem for innovation, provides opportunities for students to apply their knowledge, and supports research into world-leading, commercially prospective, clean energy technologies.

Some technologies now under exploration include wind and solar forecasting tools, utility-scale energy storage, software for renewable-rich grids, and technologies for hydrogen and electric powered transportation.

The initiative is supported by $4.7 million in State Government funding via the Victorian Higher Education State Investment Fund, matched by cash and in-kind funding from the University of Melbourne and industry.

Prior to the launch, the program has begun making connections through the ZEE Lab Internship Program, with an initial intake of 17 students undertaking a 12-week paid placement with industry partners.

The ZEE Lab Internship Program places outstanding graduate students from science, engineering, business and other relevant backgrounds with industry.

“These companies range from some of the world’s largest energy and transport companies to start-ups and everything in between,” MEI Director Prof Michael Brear said at the launch.

Sheida Shadpour, a recent master’s graduate from the Department of Mechanical Engineering, took an internship with Ekistica, an engineering firm based in Alice Springs.

Drawing on her own research, Sheida worked with the firm to develop a new methodology to measure and analyse the performance of solar farms on Australia’s National Electricity Market.

“The aim is to give us a better idea of how well Australia’s solar farms are performing, and identify areas for improvement,” she said.

Shawn Ingle, a final-year Mechanical Engineering master’s student, took an internship with Electric Vehicles Pty Ltd.

With his hosts, Shawn analysed the business models of micromobility fleets of light electric vehicles – such as e-bikes and scooters – around the world and applied his findings to identify best-suited locations for hubs in the City of Melbourne and City of Yarra.

“I was excited about the prospect of learning more about micromobility through a project designed to make a positive dent on CO2 emissions while improving how a city’s transport network operates,” he said.

At the launch, Shawn shared a blueprint for the establishment of ‘micromobility hubs’ across Melbourne.

Dr Adrian Panow, MEI’s Director of Major Projects and coordinator of the ZEE Lab program, says the response from industry partners has been very positive, with several offering ongoing employment to interns and multiple industrial research projects being launched.

“Our students will play an important role in the energy transition and ZEE Lab projects are helping them on their journey. For our industry partners, the ZEE Lab is an opportunity to investigate new business opportunities and access new talent,” he said.

The next round of applications for ZEE Lab internships is now open. Organisations interested in hosting an intern are encouraged to contact MEI.

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