Grants, Funding & Awards | News

University of Minnesota Awards $4.1 Million in IREE Grants

The University of Minnesota's Initiative for Renewable Energy and the Environment has awarded $4.1 million to 20 energy projects.

IREE, launched in 2003, "seeks out the most promising new renewable energy ideas and distributes funding from Xcel Energy’s Renewable Development Fund and Conservation Improvement Program to provide them with the resources needed to bring them to life," according to information released by the university.

A national team of judges chooses recipients of the funds, awarded as large grants, early career grants, and seed grants. Scientific and technical merit, the potential for major national and global breakthrough, alignment with Minnesota’s competitive advantages, an interdisciplinary approach, and a clear business plan are all factors in determining the winning projects.

The large grants go to multidisciplinary teams working on projects of up to three years in duration. Early career grants are designed to help faculty launch or accelerate innovative research. Seed grants fund high-risk and high-potential projects that are in the initial stages for one year.

Projects awarded large grants include:

  • Research into materials for $1.00 per watt copper indium gallium selenide-based photovoltaics, led by Stephen Campbell of the College of Science and Engineering received $695,000;
  • A team led by Gary Balas, also of the College of Science and Engineering, received $278,000 for their work on design tools for multivariable control of large wind turbines;
  • Phillipe Bunham from the College of Science and Engineering leads a team that received $695,000 for their research on high energy density, nanostructured supercapacitors for electrical energy storage;
  • Don Wyse from the College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences heads a team looking into developing intermediate wheatgrass for sustainable co-production of fuel and food. They were awarded $695,000; and
  • A group researching distributed ammonia production using wind-generated hydrogen and power, led by Alon McCormick of the College of Science and Engineering received $400,000.

Early career grants went to:

  • A project exploring engineering bacterial bioelectrical catalysts, led by the BioTechnology Institute's Jeffrey Gralnick, won $100,000;
  • A project called "Evaluating Wind Farm Performance Under Realistic thermal and Complex Terrain Conditions: The First Path Towards Optimization" won $150,000 and is led by Michele Guala, from the College of Science and Engineering;
  • Brett Barney, of the College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences, leads a team that won $150,000 for their work on microbial communities for enhanced biofuel feedstock production; and
  • The College of Science and Engineering's Wojciech Lipinski heads a team researching solar thermochemical CO2 capture. They were awarded $149,546.

The seed grant winners included:

  • A team researching the engineering of protein based nano-bioreactors for biofuel production and biocatalysis won $58,000 and is led by Claudia Schmidt-Dannert, of the BioTechnology Institute;
  • Robert Blanchette, from the College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences, is head of a project that won $70,000 for their research into next-generation microbial systems for bioconversion;
  • A project looking into Next-Generation Microbial Systems For Bioconversion won $69,830 and is led by Jane Davidson from the College of Science and Engineering;
  • Lawrence Baker, of the College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences, heads up a team that was awarded $69,365 for their work on understanding drivers of whole-household energy conservation in Minnesota using the twin cities household ecosystem project;
  • $69,978 went to a team exploring biomass torrefaction: understanding greenhouse gas emissions and potential financial opportunities, which is led by Vance Morey, from the College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences;
  • Henry Liu, of the College of Science and Engineering, leads a team that was awarded $70,000 for their work on rethinking how we manage traffic to reduce emissions while maintaining mobility: a new paradigm for traffic management;
  • John Lipscomb, from the College of Biological Sciences, leads a project exploring drop-in jet fuel from renewable resources via enzyme catalyst. They won $70,000;
  • Paul Lefebvre, from the College of Biological Sciences, heads a group looking into the production of lipids for biofuel production and human nutrition from a cold-tolerant yellow-green algae. They also won $70,000; and
  • A team researching new energy technology based on the direct conversion of heat to electricity using multiferroic alloys, led by Richard James of the College of Science and Engineering, was awarded $70,000.

"We received an unprecedented number of extremely high quality proposals from the university community," said IREE Science Director John Sheehan. "These projects represent the best of the best. They run the gamut from near commercial to cutting edge R&D."

More information is available at environment.umn.edu.

About the Author

Joshua Bolkan is the multimedia editor for Campus Technology and THE Journal. He can be reached at jbolkan@1105media.com.

comments powered by Disqus