Renewable Energy Center coordinates programs

6/2/2009 - By: Mike Wolterbeek

The University of Nevada, Reno has formalized their renewable energy research efforts in a new collaborative, the Renewable Energy Center, that will focus efforts and coordinate programs for competitive research with plans to increase Nevada’s national stature in the renewable energy field.

“The University is a leader in renewable energy research education in Nevada, and through this collaborative we can work to make Nevada a powerhouse in renewable energy in the entire country,” Professor Mano Misra, the director of the new Center, said.

“We have research on hydrogen fuels, bio-diesel, wind power, plants to biofuel, geothermal, and the many subcategories and components of these types of renewable power, and our work is not just be for the sake of research,” Misra said. “We will continue to work to bring together education and industry to develop these systems here in Nevada, boosting the economy with jobs as well as sales of products and services.”

The University has conducted renewable energy research for more than 10 years, including geothermal, biomass, hydrogen energy and solar. The University has pioneered new curriculum with its Renewable Energy Minor that began in 2007. The collaboration primarily focuses on the work of four colleges within the university: Agriculture, Biotechnology and Natural Resources; Business; Engineering; and Science.

The activities of the collaborative will be overlooked by a council of the deans of the four colleges: Greg Mosier, Business; Maragakis; Ron Pardini, interim dean, CABNR; and Jeff Thompson, Science.

Coordinators for the five working groups in the collaborative are: Kwang Kim, hydrogen energy and storage; John Cushman, biomass; Lisa Shevenell, geothermal; Ravi Subramanian, solar energy; Mehdi Etezadi, power grid; and Ted Batchman, curriculum.

Coordinating business, public policy, outreach and education for the collaborative is Ron Tibben-Lembke, a professor of supply chain management in the College of Business who has a master’s and doctorate degrees in Industrial Engineering and Management Science.

“We will be working together in a much more coordinated manner,” said Misra, “opening better lines of communication and cooperation. This gives us even more efficiency and effectiveness to go after grants and ensure we have complementary projects working together.”

He said the new Renewable Energy Center will encourage the independent voice of the researcher, department or college as well as help them if a broader approach is needed.

“It will help us become less competitive among ourselves and more competitive in the world with renewable energy,” he said.

The Business College is a part of the collaborative to help build efforts to bring the research to the community through the building of new industry and workforce.

“Ultimately, we can become more community-driven and can use our science to help our community,” Provost Marc Johnson said. “We want to make the University easier to work with for industry and the business community. We want to train students for the increasingly technological workforce and build our capacity for research at the same time.”

While the majority of research activities are housed at the main campus, the Redfield Campus off the Mt. Rose Highway in south Reno provides unique opportunities to be a test-bed area for big-scale renewable energy research, and may accommodate research projects which are typically housed at the main campus.

“This new collaborative is more a ‘center’ of people, than a place,” Manos Maragakis, Dean of Engineering said. “This brings together a coordination with equal participation. It helps us to let each other know of opportunities for the University, if we should go as a group after grants or funding, or as an individual proposal. With the collaborative we can build on our past successes in this arena.”

“We can make an important contribution to the economy of the state,” Maragakis said. The collaborative will work with DRI and UNLV to make Nevada a leader in the renewable energy industry.

Misra said an early task for the renewable energy collaborative is building a one-stop renewable energy web presence so grant-giving agencies, students, faculty and the public can find information fast. A national-scale renewable energy conference is being organized for the fall.

The Renewable Energy Center is a collaborative that fits well with Provost Johnson’s vision for entrepreneurial, community-driven research at the University of Nevada, Reno.

“The complementary expertise among these four colleges is an ideal example for how we can coordinate research efforts, and not just for renewable energy,” Johnson said.

He presented a strategic plan for research and graduate education at the University in April at the Center for Advanced Studies spring meeting. One aspect of the plan is to tie the extensive University research in all disciplines to the community, business and industry.

The University has had several successes in providing research and development of new products and technologies to industry through patent agreements and other avenues that have had economic benefit to Nevada.


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