Energy Research

Harnessing Energy in the Biosphere to Build Sustainable Energy Systems

In September 2011, the National Science Foundation (NSF) awarded a $20 million, five-year grant to build Iowa’s research capacity in renewable energy and energy efficiency. The Iowa Power Fund, a state program supporting energy innovation and independence, has also granted the project $2 million to pay for research equipment. Read the original press release.

Iowa is among the nation’s leading states in renewable energy resources. Despite ranking 26th in land area, it is 1st in the nation in ethanol fuel production and 4th in wind power generation. As the nation transitions away from fossil fuels, bioenergy and wind energy are logical resources for Iowa to develop. This transition in energy supply from mining and drilling to harnessing renewable energy flows at or near the Earth’s surface is not without significant challenges.

Iowa NSF EPSCoR researchers recognized that landscape-scale interventions in the biosphere will impact both human societies and natural ecosystems in ways that will be difficult to predict without collaborations among engineers, life scientists, economists, and sociologists to study all elements of the energy value-chain, from natural resource to human consumer. To address these challenges, the Iowa NSF EPSCoR research program was composed of four distinct platforms: Bioenergy, Wind Energy, Energy Utilization/Energy Efficiency, and Energy Policy. As a result of this investment, Iowa is poised to move forward and advance its research and technology agenda and to help lead in overcoming one of the great challenges of the 21st century: energy.

[DIAGRAM]EPSCoR pyramidBioenergy

Investigates both the challenges of producing large quantities of biomass in a sustainable manner and the unanswered questions of how to transport, store and utilize biomass within the current electric power plant infrastructure built in the last century to exploit fossil energy resources.

Wind Energy

Uses advanced engineering principles in fluid dynamics, machine design, and control theory to improve the reliability of wind turbines, which are subject to highly variable and sometimes destructive operating environments.

Energy Utilization

Recognizes the important role that social sciences will play in improving energy efficiency sufficiently for diffuse renewable energy resources to replace our profligate expenditure of fossil fuels.

Energy Policy

Explores how economists and engineers can collaborate on energy policy and advise policy makers on RE/EE issues.

Iowa NSF EPSCoR Overview

Iowa NSF EPSCoR Overview (PDF)

Iowa NSF EPSCoR Overview (PowerPoint)