Tuesday July 22, 2008

Quest for Cheaper, Cleaner Energy

Mickey McCabe wants Ohioans to know that the 15-member University Clean Energy Alliance of Ohio is a group of many talented people looking for cheaper and cleaner alternatives to fossil fuels.

The U.S. Dept. of Energy is looking for Energy Frontier Research Center sites, and the state of Ohio wants one in the Buckeye State. And, state officials are calling on Ohio's top research minds to make sure any proposal from an Ohio entity is just right.

"A center in Ohio would highlight the state's importance in solving the nation's energy issues," said Mickey McCabe, board chairman of the 15-member University Clean Energy Alliance of Ohio (UCEAO) and University of Dayton vice president for research.

The U.S. Department of Energy hopes the proposed centers speed up scientific research breakthroughs to create abundant, cleaner and cheaper energy sources. The federal award could be up to $25 million. The state of Ohio is willing to kick in 15 percent.  

McCabe wants to go a further than lowering energy bills. He wants to turn that research and expertise into jobs for Ohio. That could come in the form of solar, wind or hydroelectric energy generation plants or distribution centers.

Besides researching and developing alternative energy sources and turning those into jobs, the University Clean Energy Alliance of Ohio also wants to:

  • Increase energy education and research funding in Ohio.
  • Provide unbiased advice and information on energy policy issues to state and federal decision makers. "Today, lobbyists in Columbus are trying to influence energy decisions, and often the data used is biased," McCabe said.
  • Create events that shine the spotlight on Ohio and U.S. energy issues.

"I want Ohioans to know there are many talented people looking for cheaper and cleaner alternatives to fossil fuels," McCabe said about the all-volunteer group. "They are part of this group because they believe in the cause. Education and research are fine, but that's not the end. The end is creating something that brings value to Ohio's economy."

McCabe said this "relatively young" group already has caught the eye of the Ohio Department of Development and Mark Shanahan, Gov. Ted Strickland's energy adviser. The Ohio Department of Development solicited the alliance's help with selecting Energy Frontier Research Center proposals in the state worthy of support to submit to the U.S. Dept. of Energy. The application process closes on Oct. 1.

The group came together in April 2007. It developed bylaws and named McCabe its chair by the end of 2007. The alliance now is looking for a full-time director who will be based at the University of Toledo.

Besides UD and the University of Toledo, the alliance includes Bowling Green State University, The Ohio State University, Cleveland State University, Ohio University, Kent State University, Shawnee State University, Central State University, the University of Cincinnati, Youngstown State University, Wright State University, Case Western Reserve University, the University of Akron and Miami University.

The University of Dayton performs about $18 million of energy-related research within the School of Engineering, the College of Arts and Sciences and the University of Dayton Research Institute.

The UD Research Institute and the Air Force Research Laboratory recently announced they will construct and operate the nation's first federal research facility designed to create jet fuel from coal and biomass.

One of three Ohio Research Scholars slated for UD will help the University of Cincinnati and The Ohio State University focus on aircraft propulsion systems, emissions, aerodynamics and heat transfer; and coal-to-fuel conversion and other alternative fuels research. About $27.3 million is recommended for this partnership. The award is contingent upon State Controlling Board approval.

These recent partnerships are important as the University of Dayton and Wright State University, in collaboration with the Air Force Institute of Technology, plan to propose to the Ohio Board of Regents master of science degrees in renewable and clean energy later this summer. Proponents believe these will be the nation's first such degrees.

"When I look at the next 50 years, I think you can subordinate the world's biggest issues to energy," McCabe said. "As a Marianist university, we've always had a passion to contribute to positive outcomes to people around us. We need to make sure to educate current and future students about the technology of energy, and the social impacts of energy."

For more information, contact Shawn Robinson, associate director of news and communications, at 937-229-3391 or srobinson@udayton.edu.