The Initiative for Renewable Energy and the Environment grant program at the University of Minnesota, which funds renewable energy research and development, will expire at the end of the year. Over the past decade, the grant program has given funds to more than 200 renewable energy projects at the university.
The Minnesota state Legislature passed a bill last year that allows the natural gas and electric company Xcel to keep ratepayer funds instead of having to transfer them to the IREE grant program, however, a portion of Xcel’s funding will still go to developing renewable electric technologies at colleges and universities.
“We’re disappointed that the Legislature decided that the funds should be managed in a different way,” Lewis Gilbert, associate director of the Minnesota University’s Institute on the Environment, told Minnesota Daily. “It certainly is a blow to our ability to support energy innovation.”
The IREE program essentially takes the financial load off the individual colleges that conduct renewable energy projects by supporting state-funded research projects at the university. The grant program has been a help to colleges and departments that support the institutional cost, especially since there has been low public support to the University.
One of the projects that will be funded before the IREE grants officially expire includes research on how to incorporate wind and solar energy into the Minnesota power grids. Peter Seiler assistant aerospace professor involved in the project says that “this is just a good opportunity to work across boundaries.”
Though IREE will no longer receive funds from Xcel, Seiler is hopeful the smaller portion of funding Xcel will allocate to electrical research will still take the renewable energy initiatives far.