Engineers Week 2021 Team Feature: Emmy Riley

Engineers Week is a time to celebrate the work of our talented engineers and to inspire the next generation of innovators. This week we are featuring a few of our Cyclone Energy Group team members. In keeping with this year’s theme, “Imagining Tomorrow”, we asked them to share their thoughts on how they are imagining the future.

Meet Emmy Riley. Emmy joined the Cyclone team in 2015. As a Senior Energy Engineer, she provides analytical and consulting services for clients in the development of high performance buildings. Emmy works primarily with existing buildings, leading retro-commissioning projects and energy audits, as well as performing technical analyses for energyPLAN clients. A native of Pittsfield, Illinois, Emmy graduated from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign with a Bachelor of Science in General Engineering. She also earned a Master of Energy Engineering from the University of Illinois Chicago. When she’s not working, you’ll find her hiking, running, practicing yoga, taking care of her many plants and watching F1 and Bravo’s Real Housewives.

      • Why did you want to be an engineer? Truthfully, I wanted to study engineering in college for the most teenager reason possible: all my high school friends were doing it. It wasn’t really until the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010—almost a year after I’d graduated from undergrad and was working in management consulting—that I felt like, “oh shoot, you have the power to use what you know to try to make the planet better.” So then I quit that job and started working in energy engineering and did a Masters in the same subject a couple years later.
      • What is your coolest project experience One of the most materially exciting projects for me was when I got to do a bunch of energy assessments for the buildings at the Amtrak Chicago Yard down by Roosevelt and Canal. It was like seeing a top-secret train world—the train car wash building was a highlight for me. Who knew? But more realistically, my most memorable project experience was on one of the first retro-commissioning projects I did. It was at a public high school in a small town about an hour south of Chicago, and I caught a little BAS programming mistake that the building’s controls contractor had caused. Correcting the issue only saved them about $10,000 a year, but their building engineer was stretched so thin in his responsibilities, and funds were tight at the school, so it felt really nice to be able to do something that could help them out a little bit.
      • How are you imagining tomorrow? Is it too much of a Daria mood to admit that, at the moment (at least in the energy world), I don’t feel terribly optimistic? My positive take is that I truly believe that all the technology we would need already exists to stop emitting carbon to generate electricity and heat. It isn’t a technology problem at this point. I guess in my dream scenario of imagining tomorrow, climate change is universally and politically accepted as something we’re experiencing right now. And then we financially invest—big time—in addressing its causes and impacts, with special focus on how it disproportionately affects our most vulnerable people and communities.

Happy Engineers Week from Cyclone Energy Group!