University plays role in developing renewable energy

10/3/2008 - By: Alix Cirac

The University of Nevada, Reno has two energy centers that are making strides in the renewable energy arena. The Great Basin Center for Geothermal Energy and the Renewable Energy Center are implementing research, education and industry outreach to contribute to a growing Nevada industry and needed future workforce.

The Great Basin Center focuses on conventional hydrothermal systems and conducts research, education and outreach activities. It is also helping train the next generation of geothermal geoscientists. In addition, the Center helps with regional studies and models that show geothermal potential, and is an open source for information and data, according to Lisa Shevenell, the Center's director, who is also the chairman of this year's annual Geothermal Resource Council meeting taking place in Reno Oct. 5-8 at the Peppermill Hotel Casino.

"The Center's objectives are to assist industry in making geothermal an economically viable and abundant source of energy because it provides distributed, reliable power systems that enhance national and energy security," Shevenell said.

The Renewable Energy Center is located at the Redfield campus at 18600 Wedge Parkway in south Reno. Director Ted Batchman said this location is ideal for the Center's research in natural energy resources.

"We're sitting on top of geothermal energy here," Batchman said. "We have plenty of solar and good wind energy as well. There aren't many university research labs that have that kind of renewable energy available."

According to Batchman, the Center's focus is on research and education. Still in its early stages, he hopes the Center will be able to conduct research on heat transfer, efficiency of generation and alternative sources of energy for transportation.

"In addition, we hope to explore the use of geothermal energy for the generation of hydrogen, which is a difficult-to-harness source but only produces water as a by-product. This could provide a good 'clean' fuel source," Batchman says.

The Center is also a place for the public to call if they want advice on home energy audits or the installation of solar panels or wind turbines. In addition, the Center has planned a short-course next spring for community members to provide information on solar energy, ethanol fuels, electric energy and other aspects of renewable energy.

The two Centers have collaborated to create an interdisciplinary renewable energy minor at the University. It is team taught by Batchman and political science professor Chris Simon.

"We've had 40 students in each Introduction to Renewable Energy course we've taught," Batchman said. "We're hoping to get a greater number of students educated in renewable energy so they can make good decisions for the future."


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