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Stanford Launches $100M Initiative to Tackle Energy Issues

Stanford is establishing a $100 million research institute to focus on energy issues. The $100 million in new funds will enable the hiring of additional faculty and support new graduate students, in addition to the more than $30 million in yearly funding now spent on energy research.

The scope of the new Precourt Institute for Energy will range from the micro (such as materials scientists improving photovoltaic materials) to the macro—the national effort to develop sustainable energy and the global search for ways to reduce atmospheric levels of carbon.

Founding donors Jay Precourt ($50 million) and the husband-and-wife team of Thomas Steyer and Kat Taylor ($40 million) are the primary funders. Precourt is an oil and gas executive; Steyer is a Stanford trustee and managing partner of Farallon Capital Management, and Taylor is active in a variety of public benefit and philanthropic ventures. They are all Stanford alumni.

Other donors include Douglas Kimmelman, senior partner, Energy Capital Partners; Michael Ruffatto, president, North American Power Group, Ltd.; and the Schmidt Family Foundation.

"The biggest renewable resource is the sun," said Lynn Orr, who has been named overall director of the new institute, which will function as an independent laboratory reporting to the dean of research. "But we need to lower the cost of converting sunlight into electricity and supplying it through a much improved electric grid. The new center will allow us to expand significantly our effort to develop new nanostructured materials for solar energy and energy storage and to work on the host of social, market and policy issues involved in the needed transition to energy systems with significant fractions of renewables."

Lynn Orr, a Stanford professor in energy resources engineering, is the overall director of the new institute. He has been the director of Stanford’s Global Climate and Energy Project (GCEP), where researchers are involved in more than 40 research projects to find ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions associated with energy. GCEP’s research portfolio includes the science of materials used to convert solar energy to electricity, biomass energy conversions, advanced batteries, fuel cells, advanced combustion, and carbon capture and storage.

GCEP, launched in 2002, will become a part of the new institute, as will the 2-year-old Precourt Institute for Energy Efficiency (renamed the Precourt Center for Energy Efficiency), an organization dedicated to finding ways to wring more energy savings out of buildings, cars, the electricity grid and basic human behavior.

On the main campus, the multidisciplinary effort will involve faculty from Engineering, Earth Sciences, and Humanities and Sciences, along with the Program on Energy and Sustainable Development in the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies.

Researchers from the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory will join in, as well, through the Stanford Institute for Materials and Energy Science, a collaboration between Stanford and the US Department of Energy.

The institute also will work with departments and teaching programs to coordinate an improved undergraduate and graduate energy curriculum across the university.

Seven or eight new faculty positions will be created, as well as fellowships.



One can only hope that the Precourt Institute will be isolated from the Hoover Institute. otherwise, they're solution to energy issues will be to invade another middle east country.

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