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Nevada institutions awarded $5.7 million for renewable energy research

U.S. Department of Energy helps state tap natural energy resources

Las Vegas, Nevada // December 1, 2009 -- The Nevada System of Higher Education has received $5.7 million-over the past two fiscal years-from the U.S. Department of Energy for renewable energy, including the latest installment, $3.2 million to be used for a renewable energy consortium - an association between the three NSHE research institutions and participating community colleges.

This support is the result of funding secured by U.S. Senator Harry Reid through Federal Energy and Water Development appropriations bills.

The Nevada Renewable Energy Consortium, including research institutions DRI, UNLV, and University of Nevada, Reno, along with participating NSHE's community colleges, will play a critical role in making Nevada the leader in the utilization of renewable energy sources to promote a cleaner environment and more secure nation.

"With Nevada's rich abundance of natural resources, renewable energy research is an area when NSHE is poised to help get Nevada's economy back on track," said Dan Klaich, NSHE chancellor. "Senator Reid is committed to promoting renewable energy projects and we are grateful for his efforts here in his home state."

The goal of NREC is to establish and enhance collaborative research in the areas of biofuels, solar, and geothermal energy. In addition, the consortium will support the expansion of workforce training programs in renewable energy technologies in participating community colleges.

"This consortium is a collaborative effort among the institutions and with business and industry stakeholders," said Stephen Wells, DRI president. "We will engage in coordinated and complementary activities related to renewable energy research, development, demonstration, deployment, commercialization, education and training.

The Consortium will provide a mechanism to integrate and leverage expertise across the institutions as well as a means to coordinate the activities of the renewable energy centers (REC) being developed at each member institution. For example, DRI, UNLV and the University of Nevada, Reno each have active research and development programs in biofuels. These include pre-treatment of lignocellulosic biomass, thermal treatment of biomass, algal-based fuels, and chemically promoted mechanical dewatering of wastewater sludge.

DRI and University of Nevada, Reno are working on methods for identifying hidden geothermal reserves. The goal is to improve the efficiency of locating, and ultimately harvesting geothermal reservoirs.

"Initiatives such as this are exactly how higher education bolsters the State's economy," said Milt Glick, president of the University of Nevada, Reno. "Our Renewable Energy Center, with its wide spectrum of research, educational programs and emphasis on business development, enables us to bring a strong portfolio of expertise to the consortium. We are pleased to have this funding from the DOE and to move forward with this important collaboration between the NSHE institutions."

University of Nevada, Reno and UNLV have active solar energy research and development efforts underway focused on improving the efficiency and cost of solar energy production, as well as the use of solar energy in hybrid energy systems. "UNLV is delighted to be partnering with DRI and UNR to develop a green economy for Nevada," said Neal Smatresk, UNLV president.

"UNLV's solar research tower will provide fundamental research tools that can be used to accelerate our progress in discovering new and more effective solar energy production technologies. In addition, this project and others will further our efforts to transform Las Vegas into a worldwide solar energy research capital," Smatresk added.

By building on the ongoing successful partnerships between union apprentice programs and Nevada community colleges and by following the example of the current joint effort between DRI and Truckee Meadows Community College, NREC will support the workforce development and technical training in addition to the research.

About NSHE
The Nevada System of Higher Education, comprised of two doctoral-granting universities, a state college, four comprehensive community colleges and one environmental research institute, serves the educational and job training needs of the nation's fastest growing state. The NSHE provides educational opportunities to more than 110,000 students and is governed by the Nevada Board of Regents.