Winners of NW Energy XP Prize Announced

Winning student teams will collaborate with regional utilities to explore the use of drones for transmission system inspections and ways to improve renewable energy in homes and businesses

Oregon BEST has announced recipients of the 2015-2016 NW Energy Experience Prize, an annual competition sponsored by the Bonneville Power Administration and Portland General Electric that awards $250,000 to top engineering students to collaboratively innovate solutions to real-world challenges facing regional power utilities.

NW Energy XP LogoThe nine winning students from Portland State University, Oregon State University, Oregon Tech and Washington State University-Vancouver will work in three cross-university teams with electric utility companies to develop solutions that improve power system reliability, efficiency and safety.

Topics for this year's competition focus on the use of drones to improve the safety and efficacy of transmission system inspections, and on developing methods to target specific kinds of energy-efficient technology applications at homes and businesses to help reduce peak electricity use at particular locations and times. Two of the three-student teams will work on the use of drones and one team will focus on energy efficiency.

"We have been impressed by the level of collaboration we've seen between the universities and the utility partners," said Johanna Brickman, Oregon BEST's director of collaborative innovation. "This experience is a fantastic opportunity for students to get a taste of the real challenges facing the industry, and play a role in finding solutions." Oregon BEST facilitates the academic prize program as part of its mission to help academia and industry work together to advance clean technologies.

Now in its third year, the NW Energy Experience Prize awards approximately $25,000 to each student to help defray the cost of tuition and fees while working with their team on topics of importance to regional electric power utilities and ratepayers.

“Engaging students on potential solutions to industry problems also serves as a great way to attract top young talent in a variety of disciplines to careers at Bonneville and in the electric power industry,” said Terry Oliver, BPA’s chief technology innovation officer.

The winning students work together with cross-university representation and industry support for a year, which helps build a close-knit community of engineers within the northwest region that benefits the students and their universities, as well as utilities.

"PGE is proud to be a sponsor of this program that engages Oregon’s homegrown talent to apply innovative solutions to real-world scenarios," said Jim Piro, president and CEO of Portland General Electric. “By investing in this program, we are helping to develop Oregonians into a competitive economic workforce. That’s good for our students, our businesses and our communities.”

This year’s recipients are:

  • Francesca Wignes of Washington State University-Vancouver
  • Ian Lofquist of Washington State University-Vancouver
  • Ozgenur Kavas of Washington State University-Vancouver
  • Deric Ntirandekura of Oregon State University
  • Andrew Smith of Oregon State University
  • Momtaj Khanam of Portland State University
  • Si Lu of Portland State University
  • Nick Carew of Oregon Tech
  • Dylan Seay of Oregon Tec

Media Contact: Gregg Kleiner, 541-740-9654
Sources: Johanna Brickman, Oregon BEST, 503-313-4507; Joel Scruggs, Bonneville Power Administration, 503-230-5511; Melanie Moir, Portland General Electric, 503-464-8790

About Oregon BEST
Oregon BEST funds and assists cleantech startups, bringing together Oregon’s significant R&D strengths to support entrepreneurs in the creation of new products and services. As the nexus for clean technology innovation, Oregon BEST builds capability, convenes collaborations and accelerates solutions to environmental challenges that deliver prosperity in all corners of Oregon. More than 250 Oregon BEST Member Faculty and a network of nine Oregon BEST Labs at four partner universities (Oregon State University, Oregon Tech, Portland State University, and University of Oregon) offer research expertise and lab equipment to industry. Oregon BEST competitively awards Early-Stage Investments to collaborations between startup companies and Oregon BEST Member Faculty at partner universities.

About BPA
The Bonneville Power Administration, headquartered in Portland, Ore., is a nonprofit federal power marketer that sells wholesale electricity from 31 federal dams and one nuclear plant to 142 Northwest electric utilities, serving millions of consumers and businesses in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, western Montana and parts of California, Nevada, Utah and Wyoming. BPA delivers power via more than 15,000 circuit miles of lines and 259 substations to 490 transmission customers. In all, BPA markets about a third of the electricity consumed in the Northwest and operates three-quarters of the region’s high-voltage transmission grid. BPA also funds one of the largest fish and wildlife programs in the world, and, with its partners, pursues cost-effective energy savings and operational solutions that help maintain affordable, reliable and carbon-free electric power for the Northwest.

About Portland General Electric Company
Portland General Electric, headquartered in Portland, Ore., is a fully integrated electric utility that serves approximately 852,000 residential, commercial and industrial customers in Oregon. In 2014, PGE celebrated 125 years of powering Oregon. Visit our website at