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The University of Kentucky (UK) has debuted its newest energy research building devoted to renewable energy and energy storage. The $20.8 million laboratory, funded primarily by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), will enable UK to expand research devoted to the state’s growing renewable energy industries, including biomass and biofuels, electrochemical power sources, and distributed solar energy technologies. The 43,000-square-foot building is part of the UK Center for Applied Energy Research.


Kentucky governor Steve Beshear says, “It makes good sense for all buildings not just those devoted to energy research to be as energy-efficient as possible. Smart energy usage in buildings saves money and resources. Most importantly, the people inside this building are performing critical work in advanced energy research. Their efforts will undoubtedly impact Kentucky’s future in energy innovation.”

The building is targeted to be LEED gold certified with energy usage 54 percent less than similar facilities. The University reports that the savings are accomplished by energy-saving features throughout the building, “including an exterior and roof with twice the amount of insulation normally used. Windows contain a nanogel material that diffuses sunlight and provides the same insulation as brick walls. Among other features are geothermal heating and cooling, occupancy sensors that turn off lights automatically when a space isn’t being used, and a ventilation system that recaptures energy.”

The facility was funded by $11.8 million in federal funds, with matching resources of $3.5 million provided by the Commonwealth of Kentucky and $1.9 million from UK. An additional award of $3.5 million was provided by the Department of Energy Development and Independence to achieve LEED certification and insure that the laboratory is a model for energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies.

This funding also enabled UK to develop a dry room designed for battery manufacturing and testing, an open-access biofuels research lab, and state-of-the-art solar research facilities. The entire second floor is devoted to research performed by UK Department of Chemistry Professor John Anthony’s group, whose work includes organic thin-film transistors (for flexible flat-panel displays), organic solar cells (for low-cost electricity generation) and organic light-emitting diodes (for high-efficiency lighting).

Energy Secretary Steven Chu adds: “Partnering with states and local communities to advance America’s clean energy economy is a critical part of delivering on President Obama’s all-of-the-above energy strategy. The Energy Department’s investments in the Center for Applied Energy Research are helping the University of Kentucky to pursue important innovations across a range of renewable energy and clean energy technologies, while at the same time saving the university money on their utility bills.”

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