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Iowa State drives green technologies with First ISU Wind Energy Symposium
Ames, Iowa—Iowa State University launched what it hopes will be a long-term initiative in alternative energy technologies by hosting the First ISU Wind Energy Symposium in Howe Hall of the College of Engineering on December 9, 2008.
The morning session was chaired by symposium organizer Dr. Balaji Narasimhan, associate dean of the Iowa State University College of Engineering. After introductory remarks by Iowa State President Gregory Geoffroy, attendees listened to presentations by representatives from the State of Iowa’s Office of Energy Independence and Department of Economic Development, the U.S. Department of Energy, the American Wind Energy Association, Sandia National Laboratory, and industrial representatives from Siemens Wind Power and MidAmerican Energy.
“Wind energy has been made a very high priority by Governor Culver and the Department of Economic Development, and they’ve done a masterful job of attracting wind energy companies into Iowa,” Geoffroy noted. “So all of these things have come together; it’s all happening here in Iowa.”
Chaired by Ron Cox of ISU’s Center for Industrial Research and Service, the symposium’s afternoon session featured panel presentations featuring university research faculty, industrial representatives, and government officials. The sessions covered wind turbine systems, manufacturing and deployment, and infrastructure and delivery of wind-produced energy. The symposium concluded with a summary of the next steps that ISU should take to ensure its role as a major actor nationally in wind energy.
“Wind energy has certainly been on our radar for quite a long time, and we’ve had a good history of faculty working in this area,” said Narasimhan. “The wind tunnel in Howe Hall is a pretty unique facility. We have faculty doing research in climate modeling, faculty in the business school working on supply chain—this represented a wonderful opportunity to really bring all of these people together, because they’re all working on the same problem.”
According to the Global Wind Energy Council, the use of wind technologies to produce electricity has grown more than fivefold since the beginning of this decade, with annual worldwide production approaching 100 gigawatts of power by 2008. The United States leads the world in total power generated from wind, and Iowa is currently the third-largest producer of wind energy in the United States, behind Texas and California.
Because of their large size, wind turbines, towers, and blades must be manufactured close to their point of use, so Iowa is particularly well suited to take advantage of the anticipated boom in wind turbine construction in the years to come. The role of Iowa’s research universities will therefore be critical in developing and sustaining the state’s role as a national leader in wind technologies.
The industry is likewise anticipating a major boost in investment in the research, development, and deployment of wind power with the incoming Obama administration, which has prioritized infrastructure projects centering on green technologies as part of its energy, economic revitalization, and public works programs.
The annual symposium, Narasimhan observed, will be an ongoing effort to build and sustain strong profiles for both the university and the state as the nation and world address a host of interrelated environmental, economic, and energy challenges.
“With renewed interest in this area with a new administration coming in, and talk of a green economy,” Narasimhan added, “this was very timely for us to do.”