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 Tuesday, March 27, 2007 IssueFaculty/Staff E-Newsletter


"Carpe Vim" revisited—seized opportunities in renewable and sustainable energy
Susan Avery, interim dean of the Graduate School and vice chancellor for research

The world uses about 13 TW (terawatts) of power, about one-half of the projected needs in 2050. About 80 percent of this energy is produced from combustion of fossil fuels, which releases the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Whether you believe some of our fossil fuel reserves should be saved for future generations, or you believe energy imports are a problem for the United States in terms of national security, or your religious beliefs suggest that humans need to do more in the way of caring for creation, the mandate is the same: The challenge for science and society in the 21st century is figuring out how to produce and utilize enormous amounts of carbon free energy.

Since I wrote the original “Carpe Vim” column on the Energy Initiative a year ago, the university has mobilized and has developed new partnerships. Our student involvement in environmental sustainability and in the solar decathlon, strong faculty interest in energy and environmental problems, and a research culture that embraces interdisciplinary work have all helped the Energy Initiative. 

A partial list of accomplishments during the past year includes:

  • A highly successful CU-NREL symposium that was held in October 2006, followed up by a $700K seed grant competition. Fifty-eight proposals were received in science and technical areas, as well as in socio-economic development, policy, climate-change, and impacts. The proposals are currently under review.
  • The state of Colorado will provide matching funds for large federal/private center-like projects.
  • The Colorado Renewable Energy Collaboratory agreement was signed February 21st. The Collaboratory’s mission is to “…seamlessly combine the strengths of Colorado’s leading research universities and the U.S. National Renewable Energy Laboratory to have a global impact as the world leader in a renewable energy research and technology deployment into the market.”
  • The Collaboratory has begun three major projects:
    • A DOE proposal for $22M to establish a Center for Revolutionary Solar Photochemistry to develop third generation solar photon conversion
    • The Colorado Center for Biofuels and Biorefining (C2B2) was launched this month with sponsors Chevron, Conoco, Shell, and Dow
    • A Colorado Solar Technology Commercialization Test Center is being developed in conjunction with Xcel Energy
  • TEAM (Transforming Energy and Markets) is the new business outreach arm for the CU-Boulder Energy Initiative. Initial sponsors include SUN and SAIC (Science Applications International Corporation).
  • The Energy and Environmental Security Initiative (EESI) has built the first comprehensive database of every international energy agreement in the world, containing 1,800 international treaties dealing with energy, an analysis of the commitments made in these agreements, and how those commitments are being implemented.  

The Boulder campus is becoming a living laboratory for carbon-neutral energy reform. By joining the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment, we are required to develop short and long-term strategies for emission reductions. Chancellor Peterson has established a Committee on Energy, Environment, and Sustainability that will advise the university on environmental issues and develop a new sustainability partnership with the city of Boulder. 

There is more development to be done: additional CU-Boulder and Collaboratory projects, a campus-wide curricula and distance learning programs, student research and application opportunities, and additional outreach and engagement. 

The gains we have made are due to the passion of many faculty, administrators and students—too numerous to name. However I must acknowledge Carl Koval, the faculty director for this initiative, who has truly done an outstanding job.

Please visit the Energy Initiative website to see all of our activities and become engaged.

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"Carpe Vim" revisited—seized opportunities in renewable and sustainable energy

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