As the state’s land-grant research university, it is mission imperative that Washington State University align its resources – research, education, and engagement – with the most pressing challenges of our state, nation, and world. I can think of few issues as pressing as finding new, renewable energy alternatives. In the past month, the faculty, staff, and students in our Voiland College of Engineering and Architecture have had some tremendous successes in the clean technology arena.
April started with WSU’s inaugural energy summit, which focused on storage technologies, one of the most challenging obstacles to incorporating renewable energy into the electric power grid. Hosted by WSU’s Energy Systems Innovation Center, the summit featured remarks from an all-star list of clean energy thought-leaders, including Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell, U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, and Pat Hoffman, assistant secretary for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Electricity Delivery and Reliability. It was a huge success; Sen. Cantwell told the group to be sure to invite members of the delegation to next year’s summit to continue the conversation.
Addressing the critical national need for a reliable and secure electric power grid, WSU researchers are building the most comprehensive “smart city” laboratory in the United States to test smart grid technologies. Scientists have received a $500,000 grant from the M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust to build a city of the future in our engineering buildings, complete with simulated windmills, solar panels, fuel cells, power substations and smart meters. It will provide an excellent test bed to make sure their research can be scaled up and applied in the world outside the lab.
Another key area of clean technology research is improving our use of present-day energy resources. To that end, WSU scientists led by Regents Professor Brian Lamb were instrumental in a recent methane study that provides the most comprehensive direct measurements yet of emissions from our nation’s natural gas distribution system. Together with a series of partner studies, it is helping to determine the natural gas industry’s contribution to U.S. greenhouse gas emissions and global warming.
Regents Professor Anjan Bose, a member of the National Academy of Engineering, and Professor Chen-Ching Liu continue to lead new discoveries and research solutions to better performance and security of the energy grid. There is little doubt that WSU is making significant contributions to energy efficiency and access with environmentally safe protocols. We are not doing it alone. Our partnerships with electric energy industry leaders, such as Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Avista and Schweitzer Engineering Labs, are ample evidence of the power of collaborative efforts between the private and public sectors.
Any one of these accomplishments is noteworthy. Together, they speak to Washington State University’s national leadership in addressing the most complex energy issues we face.