Today we’d like to introduce you to Christian Hoepfner.
Christian, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
Fraunhofer CSE was founded in 2008 to accelerate our transition to a sustainable energy future. I joined in 2009, and have since had the privilege to help shaping our direction, during the last 4 years as Executive Director. I heard about the Center first by pure coincidence: The former Managing Director called me about a reference. Once I heard what Fraunhofer CSE was planning to do, I was hooked: Applied energy research to help us build a clean energy future.
Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Nothing is easy. For the first 3 years, we tried a number of things to develop our unique profile in the vast world of energy research. By combining our expertise in many different disciplines, we found that there is a real need to look not just at individual technologies, but to figure out how they can be integrated into bigger systems, and how to make them work with humans as the ultimate users. Once we build our capabilities in this area, we have had great successes and much positive feedback. We were lucky to work with great partners such as the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center (MassCEC) whose mission it is to accelerate the success of clean energy technologies in Massachusetts, and National Grid and Eversource to get to this point.
Alright – so let’s talk business. Tell us about Fraunhofer Center for Sustainable Energy Systems CSE – what should we know?
We are a non-profit, applied research and development laboratory. Our staff’s expertise in solar photovoltaics (PV), smart energy-efficient buildings, and grid technologies provides a platform for deeply integrating distributed energy resources through collaborative R&D with private companies, government entities, and academic institutions.
We perform applied research for our industry, university and government partners. We also supported numerous early-stage CleanTech companies, who have since collectively raised over $136 million in follow-on funding. We help start-ups with great ideas to quickly reach milestones to receive funding.
We are also quite proud of our Plug and Play PV systems development, which reduces the cost of residential solar and makes it easier to install.
Is there a characteristic or quality that you feel is essential to success?
Clean energy such as solar and wind is already today the fastest growing source of energy. This trend will further accelerate. In 20 years, we will hardly remember any more that there was a time before solar and wind. This transition will happen on a massive scale, worldwide. And it will spawn new business models, and yet more new technologies. Figuring out how that will all work smoothly together while maintaining the reliability of the current power grid will require much thinking and experimentation. We will be busy for decades to come.
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High ceiling ©Trent Bell