Vijay Modi is a professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at Columbia University and a member of the Earth Institute faculty. (Ph.D. Cornell 1984, postdoctoral work MIT 1984–1986).
Prof. Modi’s areas of expertise are energy resources/access, energy planning for access and renewable integration, demand estimation, and the role of novel payment systems in breaking barriers to upfront costs. His laboratory, the Quadracci Sustainable Engineering Lab (qSEL), has been responsible for innovations such as a low-cost lead-acid charge/discharge circuit for solar lanterns (2005), fully digital pay-as-you-go (PAYG) minigrids that have been continuously operating as pilots since 2011, battery-less PAYG smallholder irrigation systems (2013-15), and widely used tools such as “Network Planner” for making technology choices under demographic, demand and geographic variations. Finally, a free open-source app called FormHub, used over a million times for assessing field data. Most recently he has worked on larger scale electricity and natural gas networks, their long-term cost/benefits and impact on access to energy, fertilizer, and industrial growth. While his early work was on computational fluid dynamics and micro-electro-mechanical systems, his recent work has been on energy infrastructure design & planning; solar energy; energy efficiency in agriculture, and data analytics spanning from urban settings to remote rural settings. He is currently working closely with city and national agencies/utilities to understand how energy services can be more accessible, more efficient and cleaner. His recent project on minigrids is providing a unique understanding of consumer behavior, demand for energy, and business models for deploying energy solutions and energy efficiency.