IREE: Renewable Energy Inspiration to Application

Even before IREE had its official name of the
Initiative for Renewable Energy and the Environment, I think we were sort of concerned
about the three C’s – that is to say, coming up with communications, coordinations,
and collaborations in this field of renewable energy and the environment at this large
and comprehensive university. The opportunities are unique here because of our political climate, the geography of Minnesota,
and then the capabilities of this wonderful, large, land grant research university. IREE has provided next generation science to
accompany Minnesota’s next generation policies. Renewable, sustainable energy systems need to be
created. They will certainly be created somewhere in the world. It could be China, could be India, it could
be here in the U.S. or Europe. But it seems to me that if Minnesota is to enjoy
the benefits of innovation and technology development, we need to be out there with a
very aggressive research agenda. The analogy to that would be: the medical device
industry was born here in Minnesota, and as a consequence, every time a medical device,
like a pacemaker, is implanted in a patient anywhere in the world, there’s at least a small
ka-chink in Minnesota’s economy. Another contribution of IREE to the state has been local solutions with global impacts.
And I think we have the capacity and have demonstrated it that solutions that make sense in Minnesota have significant impacts globally, either economically,
environmentally or socially. IREE is looked at as a center of gravity for catalyzing
research in renewable energy. We are going to focus on bioenergy, bio products, solar photovoltaics, etc., but we’re also
going to work hard on what I call the other side of the equation – that is, conservation
and efficient energy utilization, and then really ramping up our efforts in what we call
next generation full-cost accounting. Hopefully we’ll help create
the next generation of feedstock, the next generation of fuels, but more importantly, the next generation of
talented minds who can continue to innovate and bring about
the solutions that the world desperately requires. It’s the students who come here who are educated in the context of this really
rich research environment, and I think that’s going to be the most enduring product from
IREE as we look out to the future.

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