Frostburg State University Awarded Inaugural Resilient Maryland Pilot Grant

Jul 30, 2020 3:30 PM

Clean Energy Innovator Len Jornlin Named Entrepreneur-in-Residence

Frostburg State University has been awarded an inaugural Resilient Maryland pilot grant of $100,000 from the Maryland Energy Administration (MEA) to plan a campus-scale microgrid that will bolster campus energy resilience, further sustainability goals and provide students with real-world applied learning opportunities. A microgrid is a local energy grid that can disconnect from the traditional grid and operate autonomously.

FSU is partnering with Optimize Renewables, an energy-systems planning, design, development and finance firm, to be able to leverage the project to help displaced Allegany County workers and others in the region transition to the clean energy industry. The University has named Optimize president Len Jornlin an Entrepreneur-in-Residence.

“This model project is an example of the innovation that Frostburg State’s new Advanced Technology Center can deliver,” said FSU President Ronald H. Nowaczyk. “Not only will it enhance the University’s energy systems sustainably and deliver a level of resiliency that will be beneficial to the entire region, but it will do so in a way that also allows for hands-on academic participation and positive economic impact.”

The Resilient Maryland grant program was developed to drive economic growth through innovative clean energy technology that will enable essential organizations such as FSU to resist power disruptions and outages. A total of 14 grant applications were awarded $1.05 million dollars in funding in this highly competitive pilot program. Award winners include projects from across Maryland and address essential infrastructure needs that will bring a lasting benefit to the state.

“Maryland’s clean energy future needs to move forward and Resilient Maryland encourages this progress by providing vital funding to kick-start customized projects,” said Gov. Larry Hogan. “Our push for clean energy ensures a more environmentally sustainable, more resilient and more prosperous Maryland.”

Energy resiliency has taken center stage in the face of increasing global threats to grid integrity and severe storms that can cause extended power outages. The high demand for this pilot underscores the importance of state investment in innovation and why programs like Resilient Maryland can help kick-start job growth.

In a related move, Frostburg State announced that renewable-energy pioneer Jornlin has been named Clean Energy Entrepreneur-in-Residence at the University.

“Len is leading an ambitious landmark program from right here on the FSU campus,” said Al Delia, FSU’s vice president for Regional Development and Engagement. “The Resilient Maryland project is just one example. With his global background in renewable energy, and his local connectivity in Western Maryland and the region, he is well-positioned to represent the University as a beacon of energy innovation throughout the region and beyond.”

It begins with the Appalachian Workforce Training and Renewable Energy Project Collaborative. This public-private partnership, which will be headquartered in the Center for Applied Research and Innovation (CARI), is a unique consortium of universities, nonprofits and Maryland business and training experts who are coming together in support of Gov. Hogan’s goal for an aggressive workforce training and job creation initiative in Western Maryland.

“The goal of this program is not only to provide workforce training in the clean energy industries in Allegany, Garrett and Washington counties,” Jornlin noted, “but to also orchestrate actual renewable energy and resiliency projects with local municipalities, as well as in the regional private sector where training program beneficiaries will ultimately be employed.”

It is this linking of workforce development training to actual real-world, real-time projects that makes this workforce development effort notable to ensure access to applied education opportunities and maximize the ultimate job placement of trainees. Projects – including microgrids – will be designed to optimize a mix of technologies providing resiliency, cost savings and/or simplified energy management for regionally beneficial applications, including solar, combined heat and power, energy storage, wind, biogas, geothermal, free-flow hydropower and energy management software.

“Historically, Maryland has imported most of our energy from out of state coal-fired power plants,” explained MEA Director Mary Beth Tung.”The Resilient Maryland pilot offers a unique opportunity for innovation right here in Maryland across a variety of clean energy alternatives, reducing both financial risk and total project costs.”

“We see this program as a model for Western Maryland and the Appalachian region, and Len as the epitome of what an Entrepreneur-in-Residence should be and bring to a university,” Delia said.

Jornlin’s lifelong passion and career focus has been on solving meaningful societal problems profitably, sustainably and at-scale. He and the teams that he has led have developed and financed more than 2.5 GW of clean energy technology projects worldwide.

The last three of his companies have been Maryland-based and two have been headquartered in Western Maryland. Together, these companies have created more than 600 jobs in Maryland.


About Optimize Renewables LLC: Optimize Renewables is dedicated to delivering a new balance of power for organizations across North America, especially in underserved markets. A better balance, built on the optimal integration of proven, clean, distributed-generation technologies and energy-management solutions, with financing. A balance that works with the existing utility infrastructure to deliver efficiency, savings, sustainability and resiliency. A balance that puts customers in control of their energy future while enhancing and stacking investor returns.


Situated in the mountains of Allegany County, Frostburg State University is one of the 12 institutions of the University System of Maryland. FSU is a comprehensive, residential regional university and serves as an educational and cultural center for Western Maryland. For more information, visit the Frostburg State web site or the FSU page. Follow FSU on Twitter @frostburgstate.