ORCA Wins Highest Commercial Readiness Award

9 21 Michelle Wilber ORCA Galena

ACEP’s Onsite Realtime Collection and Acquisition platform, or ORCA, was recently selected as the top staff-led innovation with the highest commercial readiness in the 2019-2020 UAF IDEAs award competition.

The Innovative Disclosures and Entrepreneurial Activities awards, hosted by the UAF Office of Intellectual Property and Commercialization, recognize innovative solutions from submitted invention disclosures from UAF and University of Alaska Southeast for the academic year.

The award also acknowledges ORCA’s capacity to make an immediate impact, the potential to scale and the capabilities of the innovative team.

“We are honored to receive this recognition from the university for what was truly a team effort to meet a research need for collection of powerhouse energy load data in remote Alaska communities,” said Erin Whitney, the ACEP Data Collection and Analysis Program manager. “Even more fun is that this effort prominently featured students, who gained valuable real-world experience while contributing meaningfully to the project.”

ACEP will use the data collected with ORCA to help Alaska communities better understand their current energy consumption patterns, as well as options for incorporating local, sustainable and cost-effective sources of energy.

“This is a wonderful recognition for a true team effort!” said ACEP research engineer Michelle Wilber.  “A wide body of researchers at ACEP recognized the need for better energy use data in Alaska communities. Our amazing team worked together to conceptualize and solve the problem of getting powerhouse data from remote communities in a cost-effective and robust manner by inventing, building and testing the ORCA.”

The ORCA team is grateful for support from the U.S. Office of Naval Research that allowed them the time and funding to work on this project. 

“ONR's support is a vital part of building an innovative and resilient energy ecosystem in Alaska,” Whitney added.


Michelle Wilber installs an ORCA in the powerhouse in Galena. Photo by Amanda Byrd.