Energy ‘collaboratory’ expands research focus


To reflect its broader focus, the Colorado Renewable Energy Collaboratory, a research consortium including the University of Colorado Boulder, the Colorado School of Mines, Colorado State University and the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory has adopted a new name: the Colorado Energy Research Collaboratory.

Since its launch in 2007, the collaboratory has focused its research efforts in biofuels and biorefining, photovoltaic energy generation, and wind power. The collaboratory institutions are now adding carbon management and energy-systems integration to their shared research portfolio.

“We’ve been very successful in our biofuels, solar and wind programs over the past five years, both in advancing these technologies and helping to attract companies in these fields to Colorado,” explained Dana Christensen, NREL deputy lab director and collaboratory board member. “But our vision has always been broader than helping these renewable energy technologies to mature. We want Colorado to continue to lead in creating a reliable, cost-effective, clean and safe energy system for the U.S. and for the world.”

The collaboratory’s broadened focus aims to help industry find new ways to produce fuels and electricity in systems that facilitate the integration of carbon management and energy systems. Newly available reserves of natural gas can fuel new electric power plants that are cheaper to build and cheaper to operate than older coal plants. Additionally, modern gas-fired plants can also be powered up and down in response to the need for electricity.

“The fact that our Colorado collaboratory is taking on carbon-management systems and energy-systems integration in addition to its focus on renewable energy technology is a good sign for the citizens of Colorado and the nation,” said CU-Boulder Vice Chancellor for Research Stein Sture. “The University of Colorado Boulder and our partners in this venture continue to move forward in honing new cutting-edge energy technologies, which is a huge benefit to our students who are training with some of the world’s experts to help solve pressing 21st century energy challenges.”

The collaboratory will also work to expand understanding and management of the impacts of increasing use of natural gas and electricity in vehicles. Researchers will develop systems to help manage the integration of coal and gas-generated electricity with wind, sun and geothermal-generated electricity.

“Colorado State University is extremely proud of the unique scientific collaboration occurring in energy among the three major research universities and federal laboratories in Colorado,” said Bill Farland, vice president for research at CSU. “Our land-grant mission of research, teaching and outreach supports the evolution of this collaboration into emerging areas that are important to the country, and to industry as well as to students preparing to enter the workforce.”

Also, the collaboratory’s new Carbon Management Center will work to reduce the direct and indirect emissions of carbon dioxide and other global warming gases. The center will explore the potential for truly clean coal, whether through carbon capture and sequestration technologies or in situ gasification — where underground coal is converted to gaseous fuel — while carbon and other pollutants remain underground.

“The new Carbon Management Center is focused on some of the most challenging scientific and engineering endeavors the world faces,” said Colorado School of Mines Vice President of Research John Poate. “The collaboratory’s focus on broader energy solutions reflects the comprehensive strengths of Colorado School of Mines and our belief that solving the world’s energy challenges requires the development of innovative ideas and technologies across all disciplines.”

—CU-Boulder Office of News Services

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