Penn State awarded $5.5 million in U.S. Department of Energy grants

University Park, Pa. -- Penn State will receive two Department of Energy (DOE) grants that place the University at the center of the nation's effort to become energy independent and develop clean energy sources, according to an announcement made today (Oct. 16) by U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter. The first grant provides $2 million to establish the Mid Atlantic Clean Energy Applications Center to promote adoption of clean energy technology by industry and government in the six Mid Atlantic states. The second grant provides $3.5 million to establish the Mid Atlantic Solar Resource and Training Center, aimed at developing the solar energy industry in the Mid Atlantic region through technical assistance and workforce development.

Both of these new centers will be located at the Philadelphia Navy Yard where Penn State is working with the Philadelphia Industrial Development Corporation (PIDC) and other partners to help develop a Clean Energy Campus as one element of the continued redevelopment of The Navy Yard as a dynamic, mixed-use business campus.

"Today's funding announcement is great news for the University and for Pennsylvania. These grants demonstrate how the educational and research strength of one of our state's great universities can help to solve our nation's energy problem. Additionally, through the connection to The Navy Yard, these grants show how Penn State can help to promote local economic revitalization throughout Pennsylvania," Specter said.

"We are delighted to have Penn State as a major partner in the City's effort to establish The Navy Yard as a national and international headquarters for clean energy research, education and technology development and commercialization, and we are thrilled that Penn State has received these two Department of Energy awards to launch their important efforts in Philadelphia," said Philadelphia Mayor Michael A. Nutter.

James Freihaut, associate professor of architectural engineering at Penn State, will lead the Mid Atlantic Clean Energy Applications Center. The center will promote the adoption of clean energy technology through education and technical assistance, with an emphasis on net zero energy building technologies, combined heat and power (CHP), district energy management and smart grid technology. "Buildings consume more than 40 percent of energy used in the United States yet there has been very little improvement in building energy efficiency over the past 30-40 years, especially compared to the improvements made in other industries such as transportation," Freihaut said. "We believe that we can save an enormous amount of energy in the years ahead and help the environment by promoting greater energy efficiency and clean energy use in buildings through this center."

David Riley, director of the Center for Sustainability and associate professor of architectural engineering, will lead Penn State's Solar Resource and Training Center. Riley helped assemble a team of partners that will contribute to the center, which has as a goal to increase the capacity of community colleges, universities and training centers to prepare new and returning students for jobs in the solar industry. "One of the reasons solar energy is expensive is the lack of an experienced workforce to market, design and construct solar energy systems," said Riley. "Penn State's entries in the 2007 and 2009 Solar Decathlon competitions were important efforts to grow Penn State's capacity in solar energy research and education," Riley said. "This new center leverages this capacity to help lower the cost of solar by developing a skilled solar workforce throughout the Mid Atlantic region." Solar energy adoption is a key focus of the Penn State Center for Sustainability, explained Riley.

Both of these new Penn State centers are components of national center networks sponsored by the DOE. The national network of Clean Energy Application Centers was established through the DOE Industrial Technologies Program in 2009 to replace the existing national network of Combined Heat and Power Regional Application Centers, and to expand activities beyond CHP to include district energy systems, waste heat recovery, and other clean energy technologies. The national network of solar education and training centers has been newly established in 2009 through the DOE Solar Energy Technologies Program, and is supported by American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funds.

The two centers are major initiatives that fit within the Department of Architectural Engineering's strategic focus on High Performance Green Buildings. The department also will be home to a new Center of Excellence for High Performance Building Systems, which is supported by the Ben Franklin Technology Partners and will be co-directed by Freihaut and Chimay Anumba, head of the Department of Architectural Engineering.

Last Updated November 02, 2009