Energy, creativity and vision were the buzz words on the campus Thursday.
Hundreds of business, education and government leaders gathered to celebrate the new Clean Energy Research Center at the university. It's a collaborative project of the university's School of Engineering and Computer Science and OU INCubator, with the help of local, state and federal funding and support.
The center will serve as a learning lab for the development and testing of clean energy initiatives and help build partnerships with local businesses. The center will explore biomass, solar and wind energy as well as bio-power. It will also explore energy-efficient technologies like green building design and energy storage.
One state leader in the industry called it an innovative model of technology, business development and local community engagement. "It is truly a model that could become a model nationwide," said Amy Butler, director of the Bureau of Energy Systems for the Department of Energy, Labor and Economic Growth.
"It's great excitement for me personally," said Butler, an OU grad. "It is indicative of the quality of education and innovation that's always been the cornerstone of OU."
Guest speakers Thursday included Colleen Peters, representing her husband U.S. Rep. Gary Peters, as well as Rochester Hills Mayor Bryan Barnett, and Gilbert Sperling, senior policy advisor to the assistant secretary of the U.S. Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. U.S. Sen. Carl Levin sent a video message.
The center's OU headquarters is the former Dodge Riding Hall, which was among the premier riding halls in the nation. Its development is in response to a push for clean energy initiatives at the federal, state and local levels.
"In Michigan we spend more than $30 billion in energy and $24 billion of that is spent out of state," said Jim Leidel, the university's energy manager who was instrumental in the center's launch. "If we could save some of that money, it would be a pot of gold for this area."