Wind Energy Boost for State Universities

Monday, April 9, 2012

Grant to Build Iowa's Research Capacity in Renewable Energy, Energy Efficiency

By Gary Galluzzo
University of Iowa

University of Iowa researchers have been awarded a $1.3 million grant as part of the Iowa Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR).

The UI grant is part of a larger five-year, $20 million Iowa EPSCoR grant awarded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) in 2011 to build Iowa’s research capacity in renewable energy and energy efficiency at Iowa’s three public universities: Iowa State University, the University of Iowa, and the University of Northern Iowa. The Iowa Office of Energy Independence provided an additional $2 million in matching funds, and the three Board of Regents Universities collectively committed another $4 million to the project.

The EPSCoR program is designed to improve states’ research capacity and competitiveness through investments in research infrastructure, faculty development, and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) education throughout the state. P. Barry Butler, UI executive vice president and provost and professor of mechanical and industrial engineering, will lead the state’s efforts in wind energy, one of four Iowa EPSCoR research platforms.

Wind energy research will employ advanced engineering principles -- including fluid dynamics, machine design, and control theory -- to improve the reliability of wind turbines. “Research initiatives include establishing an outdoor laboratory to collect wind speed and turbulence data, studying the reliability of wind turbine blades, and improving the designs of turbine drivetrains,” notes Butler. Other faculty members will support research platforms on bioenergy, energy utilization, and energy policy.

The program includes partnerships with the state’s community colleges, private colleges, school districts, government agencies, and industries. In addition to increasing research capacity, the project supports training programs for the next generation of scientists and educators in Iowa to meet the demands of Iowa’s emerging green economy. Through partnerships with the state’s community colleges, private colleges, and school districts, efforts will be made to increase the number of students who pursue degrees in advanced STEM fields, and provide a technically-skilled, educated workforce that will continue to attract new industries to the state.