Governor signing bill to fund Energy Collaboratory

Note to Reporters: The bill signing is May 16 at 3:45 p.m. at the Sustainability, Environmental and Energy Complex’s MacAllister Building on CU-Boulder’s East Campus at the northwest corner of Foothills Parkway and Colorado Avenue. Entry is on Discovery Drive just west of Foothills Parkway.

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper will be on the University of Colorado Boulder campus May 16 to sign into law SB14-001, a $2 million appropriation to help fund the Colorado Energy Research Collaboratory that involves three state institutions, a federal laboratory and several industry partners.

SB14-011 will provide $1 million in fiscal year 2014-2015 and $1 million in fiscal year 2015-2016 in matching funds to the Collaboratory, a clean energy research consortium of CU-Boulder, Colorado State University, Colorado School of Mines and the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). Founded in 2006, the Collaboratory works with industry partners, government agencies and other universities to conduct energy research and to create and speed the commercialization of renewable energy technologies, energy management systems and energy efficiency tools.

The Collaboratory also supports economic growth in Colorado and the nation with renewable energy industries and educates the next generation of energy researchers and technicians, according to Collaboratory Executive Director David Hiller. The Collaboratory has created numerous industrial and academic partnerships and has used roughly $6 million in state funding from previous years to attract more than $50 million in research funding from federal and private sources.

The signing event is not open to the public.

“More than 50 companies have engaged with the Collaboratory in research, from Fortune Global 100 companies to small startups,” said Hiller.

In addition to the four primary Colorado research institutions that form the backbone of the Collaboratory, other state universities as well as government research agencies, such as the National Center for Atmospheric Research and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, are partnering on energy research efforts with the Collaboratory.

The Collaboratory supports four primary research centers: The Colorado Center for Biorefining and Biofuels (C2B2); the Colorado Center for Revolutionary Solar Photoconversion (CRSP); the Center for Research and Education in Wind (CREW); and the Center for Carbon Management (CMC). Researchers and students from all institutions participate in research and education activities directed by each center.

Most of the Collaboratory research is conducted through the four centers, said Hiller. But the Collaboratory also supports research conducted independently by researchers from two or more Collaboratory institutions.

The primary sponsors of SB14-011 were Senate Majority Leader Rollie Heath, D-Boulder, and House Majority Leader Dickey Lee Hullinghorst, D-Boulder.

The Collaboratory provided funding to the National Advanced Biofuels Consortium involving NREL, Mines and industry to develop biofuels technology, including research efforts demonstrating that renewable diesel can be made from cellulose via hydrolysis. The advancements helped to show that sustainable alternative fuels can approach cost parity with fossil fuels, according to Tom Foust, director of the National Bioenergy Center at NREL.

The Collaboratory also helped to fund a project led by CU-Boulder chemical and biochemical engineering Professor Alan Weimer, also C2B2 executive director, using concentrated sunlight to gasify biomass in order to produce syngas, which could be used to produce liquid fuel. In addition, CU-Boulder Associate Professor Rob Knight used a $50,000 seed grant from the Collaboratory to help develop new tools to assess the production of biofuels, research that led to an additional $4 million in federal and private grants to Knight’s group for additional research in the field of health care.

The Collabratory also has funded CSU Associate Professor Amy Prieto of the chemistry department for solar voltaic research. In addition, the group provided funding for CSU Engines and Energy Conversion Laboratory Director Anthony Marchese of the mechanical engineering department to help improve the transport and distribution of biofuels in existing infrastructure like pipelines and storage tanks.

Funding from the Collaboratory also has gone to Mines Associate Professor Matt Posewitz of the chemistry and geochemistry department to advance the selection of algae for the production of biofuels and other products. The Collaboratory also provided funding to Mines Distinguished Professor Marte Gutierrez of the division of engineering and several additional Mines faculty to study the consequences of storing carbon dioxide in deep geological formations.

The Collaboratory’s board of directors includes CU-Boulder Chancellor Philip P. DiStefano, CSU President Anthony A. Frank, Mines President M.W. “Bill” Scoggins and NREL Director Dan Arvizu. Collaboratory executive board members include CU-Boulder Vice Chancellor for Research Stein Sture, CSU Vice President for Research Alan Rudolph, Mines Vice President for Research and Technology Transfer John Poate and NREL Deputy Laboratory Director for Science and Technology Dana Christensen.