Chief Scientist and Director
SunShot CSP Program
In 2011, soon after the launch of the SunShot Initiative, Ranga Pitchumani was invited to direct the concentrating solar power (CSP) program for the Initiative toward its ambitious goal of making CSP cost-competitive with other forms of energy by the end of the decade.
"The SunShot Initiative has an aggressive mission, which calls for several technical innovations and ingenious system developments to drive costs down while improving efficiencies. The challenges of the Initiative and the opportunity to shape the future of the national renewable energy landscape attracted me to this position," said Ranga, who also holds an academic appointment as professor of mechanical engineering at Virginia Tech.
In his role at the Department of Energy, Ranga oversees a team of technology managers and technical, financial, and support personnel who actively manage the awards in the CSP program's portfolio. The program funds projects with industry, national laboratories, and universities dedicated to significantly advancing CSP technologies for the near-, mid-, and long-terms. Under his leadership, several new initiatives have been launched that have nearly doubled the number of projects and have engaged a spectrum of participants and disciplinary expertise working in concert toward the program's mission.
"CSP provides the unique ability to capture solar energy and store it as heat, which can, in turn, be used to drive a turbine and produce electricity," Ranga adds. "In fact, CSP with thermal energy storage facilitates greater incorporation of other intermittent renewables such as wind and photovoltaics in the energy generation portfolio for the utilities. Additionally, CSP presents attractive opportunities for synergistic hybridization of solar energy with fossil energy. That's a clear win-win on all fronts enabled by CSP, and it is an exciting time to be advancing this technology."
Ranga brings to the program a breadth of technical expertise in the areas of energy sciences, materials, and manufacturing—all of which are critical to CSP technologies—as well as significant administrative experience from his leadership roles in academia. He has authored over 185 refereed articles and book chapters and has co-edited seven book volumes. He currently serves on the editorial boards of Solar Energy, Frontiers in Heat and Mass Transfer, Journal of Composite Materials, and Journal of Thermoplastic Composite Materials and has been an associate editor for the ASME Journal of Heat Transfer. He has received many awards, including the Young Investigator Award from the Office of Naval Research, is a Fellow of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, and is an elected member of the Connecticut Academy of Science and Engineering.
Ranga earned his Ph.D. and M.S. degrees in mechanical engineering from Carnegie Mellon University and his bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay.