April 21, 2009
IAWIND receives $3 million, three-year Iowa Power Fund Grant
The Iowa Alliance for Wind Innovation and Novel Development (IAWIND), a collaborative project led by the University of Iowa College of Engineering, has received a $3 million, three-year grant from the Iowa Power Fund, a part of the Iowa Office of Energy Independence.
According to UI College of Engineering Dean P. Barry Butler, the grant means that the collaborative project, begun in 2008, will be able to continue helping the state to attract wind energy companies and related industries in an effort to enhance Iowa's already high position as a U.S. leader in wind-generated energy. Last year, Iowa captured the No. 2 national position in wind energy generation capacity.
"The Iowa Power Fund grant is a critical infusion into the state's initiative for further developing wind energy and keeping our industry edge," Butler said. "IAWIND is a unique tool available for those companies interested in investing in or expanding to Iowa. It is a strategic, 'virtual' partnership designed to help firms that are core to wind energy production and transmission, as well as those that are part of a sophisticated supply chain in manufacturing."
The 18-member Iowa Power Fund Board sets the strategic direction for Iowa's clean energy future by identifying goals to achieve desired results. The board voted unanimously to provide the grant.
According to Butler, no other state has assembled an alliance that includes industry, state and federal agencies, private colleges, universities and community colleges in a synchronized manner. "Iowa already leads with research university strength, an enviable community college system, one of the strongest collections of independent colleges in the nation, a pro-active economic development environment, and an enviably solid industry base in the state," he said.
The $3 million grant was approved for IAWIND (http://www.iawind.org) by the Iowa Power Fund to implement research, education and evaluation of testing needs expressed by numerous wind energy companies. Some elements of the grant have an industry match, while all of the elements will serve to further stimulate wind industry development in Iowa.
Butler explained that research will center on partnerships with industry. Some potential examples include studies in supply chain management, meteorology and icing, grid management and power optimization.
For education, he stressed the opportunity for using the funding for close coordination among community colleges and universities in the state through course development, teaching laboratories with both curriculum and equipment, continuing education for the industry, and valuable internships at wind energy-related firms.
As an example, last year the UI College of Engineering and Iowa Lakes Community College in Estherville signed an agreement that will allow some Iowa Lakes students to transfer to either the UI Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering or the UI Department of Mechanical Engineering, beginning with the fall semester 2009, Butler said. The transfer program is designed for students enrolled in the Iowa Lakes Wind Energy and Turbine Technology Associate in Applied Science program.
For testing, the grant will enable the IAWIND alliance to explore such critical manufacturing areas as gearbox certification, testing new designs and failure assessment of current designs. "The Iowa Power Fund grant initially enables us to conduct a needs assessment for proper testing," Butler added.
Wind energy is a critical component of national and state energy independence.
"The national goal of 20 percent wind energy by 2030 will require significant growth in the industry and overcoming technical challenges," Butler said. "The nation's wind industry will cluster in regions with a supply of well-educated talent, demonstrated partnerships between academia and industry, and a welcoming business climate. That perfectly fits the state of Iowa."
Butler added that the Midwest -- with Iowa centrally located -- has a unique opportunity to further secure its national prominence in wind energy to become the "Silicon Valley of Wind."
Global wind energy capacity surged by 28.8 percent in 2008 as the United States became the world's leading market, according to an industry survey. The United States and China showed the strongest growth in wind energy as the global electric-generating capacity rose to 120.8 gigawatts at the end of 2008. Wind power accounted for about 42 percent of the new power capacity last year in the United States.
STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500