The National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded a $20 million, five-year grant to build Iowa's research capacity in renewable energy and energy efficiency. In addition, the Iowa Power Fund, a state program supporting energy innovation and independence, has granted the project $2 million to pay for research equipment, Iowa State University announced.
The core of the research project will be conducted at Iowa's three public universities – Iowa State University, the University of Iowa, and the University of Northern Iowa. The program also includes partnerships with the state's community colleges, private colleges, school districts, government agencies and industries.
The research program's vision is to establish Iowa as a leader in the worldwide transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources.
The wind energy portion of the program will use 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 turbine blades and improving the designs of turbine drivetrains.
The energy policy portion of the program will explore ways for engineers and economists to collaborate and advise lawmakers on renewable energy and energy efficiency issues. The platform will establish an energy, economics and engineering program to train engineering and economics faculty to work together on energy issues.
The program also features platforms on biomass and energy utilization.
Furthermore, the project will create a statewide Future Leaders in Advancing Renewable Energy Institute designed to develop the careers of junior faculty in renewable energy fields and broaden the participation of women, under-represented minorities and first-generation college students in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math.
The grant also provides funding to hire five new faculty members to improve energy research at Regent universities, improve Iowa's information technologies for energy studies, engage Iowans in energy issues and transfer campus energy inventions to private companies.