Colorado State University to Build Privately Funded Powerhouse Energy Institute Next to Engines Laboratory

Note to Reporters: Photos from Monday night’s groundbreaking event, renderings and logos for the new institute are available with the news release at

Colorado State University has started construction on an $18.5 million, 65,000-square-foot expansion of the Engines and Energy Conversion Laboratory in the historic power plant building in North Old Town.

In the course of the past 20 years, with the support of the College of Engineering, the laboratory has developed solutions to reduce emissions from large industrial engines, supported dozens of companies with new engine technology, made important contributions to basic combustion science, worked to define the architectures for the future electric grid, developed advanced biofuels, and brought clean energy solutions to the developing world. The laboratory has pioneered the use of undergraduate students in research programs, has employed hundreds of students from across the university, and has helped develop a new generation of energy leaders.

“The lab has grown to work broadly in energy – we’ve never shied away from big energy problems,” said Bryan Willson, founder and Co-director of the EECL. “The addition will give us the space we need to expand our team and continue to have truly global impact.”

Rather than simply expanding the EECL, the addition will spark the creation of a new institute called Powerhouse Energy Institute. The EECL and its various programs will now be housed under the institute along with former Gov. Bill Ritter’s Center for the New Energy Economy and the Department of Mechanical Engineering’s Industrial Assessment Center. Several other energy programs inside and outside CSU will likely move into the institute as the addition takes shape over the next 12 months.

“We’re happy to join the institute – we believe that co-locating energy policy staff with energy technologists will spur greater innovation for both groups,” said Ritter, director of the CSU’s Center for the New Energy Economy.

The expansion and institute model will allow for greater collaboration between CSU energy faculty across all eight colleges and ensure broad access to new facilities for faculty and industry partners. The institute will be organized through the Office of the Vice President for Research, ensuring university-wide access to facilities and supporting the interdisciplinary work that will occur through the Institute.

“The expansion and creation of the Institute follows the successful model used at CSU in infectious disease research which combines faculty, a Supercluster, physical lab space and an incubator. Powerhouse will replicate this ecosystem for the energy space at CSU,” said Bill Farland, CSU’s Vice President for Research.

Funded by private donations, including sizeable contributions from Bohemian Foundation and Woodward, Inc., the EECL is able to not only expand its physical location but also its programmatic reach. The donations – $5 million from the Bohemian Foundation and $2.5 million from Woodward, Inc. – reflect the strength of both companies’ longstanding partnership with the EECL and CSU, and interest in fostering innovation in Colorado.

“The Bohemian Foundation is contributing to this expansion in recognition of the extraordinary efforts the EECL has led globally to improve the human condition and their commitment to grow these programs in the future,” said Joe Zimlich, Bohemian Foundation board member and CEO of Bohemian Companies. “We’re proud to help researchers and students at Colorado State University have a positive impact around the world.”

“Woodward supports the EECL because it complements our mission as a clean energy leader,” said Tom Gendron, chairman and chief executive officer of Woodward. Woodward is a Fort Collins-based company focused on accurately and precisely controlling energy by integrating its technology into systems that improve emissions performance, reliability, and fuel efficiency, and helping to ensure a better environment.

“The students we have hired from the EECL are prepared to succeed because of the lab’s culture of innovation, and have experience solving real-world, global engineering challenges,” Gendron said.

As the building takes shape over the next year and a half, the EECL will continue to design the programmatic growth, but will also continue fundraising through 2014. Much of the effort to date has been a private capital campaign that includes additional support from the Downtown Development Authority and the Gates Family Foundation. A public fundraising campaign will now launch to generate the support needed to complete the building.

The expansion will be one of the most sustainable and energy efficient buildings ever built and will serve a role as a laboratory for advanced building technology. The building will use:
• Nighttime cold storage instead of a chiller for cooling;
• Combined heat and power instead of a boiler for heating;
• Advanced LED lighting designed by the EECL;
• Advanced daylighting controls; and
• Wind, solar, biomass (algae will be grown on the roof) and extensive energy storage.

This leading-edge performance will be implemented at a cost of well under $200 per square foot, which represents among the lowest costs ever for what is expected to be a LEED Platinum building.

“The expansion will not only be home to cutting-edge energy research, but the building itself will represent an innovation in sustainable design. The building itself will become a tool for researchers working in building energy design,” said Morgan DeFoort, co-director of the EECL.

The expansion has been carefully coordinated with the City of Fort Collins, which owns the property, but has executed a long-term lease of the site with the Colorado State University Research Foundation, or CSURF. Care has been taken by the design team to ensure the protection of the buffer area separating the building from the Poudre River as well as the need to preserve the historic nature of the site.

“The City is proud to have played an important part in the development of the EECL. Bolstered by the City’s donation of land and the building itself, the EECL has become a globally recognized energy research and educational facility,” said Darin Atteberry, Fort Collins city manager. “This is an excellent example of community partnerships – private industry, nonprofits, government and education working together to support job growth and the regional economy. The City is fully committed to supporting the development of the Powerhouse Energy Institute because of what it brings to our community. We’re also working closely with the lab to ensure the project is sensitive to the natural environment and its surroundings.”

To further the community partnership, the EECL will partner with the Rocky Mountain Innosphere, a non-profit corporation in Fort Collins formed to accelerate the success of high-impact scientific and technology start-up companies and promote the development of a regional entrepreneurial ecosystem in Northern Colorado. RMI will manage incubator space in the addition at the EECL, with special focus on start-ups coming out of laboratories at CSU.

“RMI will complement the EECL and its new Powerhouse Energy Institute by providing entrepreneurs and researchers with an array of targeted resources and services. RMI will develop and provide incubator space management – with the goal of producing successful businesses that leave CSU financially viable and freestanding,” said RMI CEO Mike Freeman.