Kansas researchers get grant for energy work

LAWRENCE — Kansas researchers have received a $20 million grant from the National Science Foundation for work on renewable energy and climate-change issues.

The University of Kansas and Wichita State University, which are involved in the research, announced the funding Tuesday. Kansas State University and Haskell Indian Nations University, in Lawrence, also are involved.

The grant, spread out over five years, will go to a statewide program that links researchers from different universities.

The University of Kansas, Kansas State University and the Kansas Technology Enterprise Corp., a state agency that nurtures high-tech businesses, will provide an additional $4 million.

"We're hoping to have Kansas make an impact on the renewable energy and climate change issues and to become recognized as a leader in this area," said Kristin Bowman-James, a University of Kansas chemistry professor who also is the program's project director.

Some of the research will examine modeling to predict the effects of climate change and using nanotechnology to harness solar energy.

Other research will examine how farmers decide which crops to grow and explore climate and energy issues on American Indian lands.

WSU to get $880,000

Wichita State University will receive about $880,000 to fund its portion of the research.

The projects at WSU revolve around exploring new sources of energy and investigating sustainability, according to David McDonald, associate provost for research at WSU.

More than 60 university scientists and five private companies are expected to participate in the research. Bowman-Jones said researchers in social and physical sciences will be involved.

"The project is particularly impressive since it includes so many disciplines across institutional lines," University of Kansas chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little said in a statement.

The universities announced the grant even as more than 700 people gathered in Topeka for a renewable energy conference sponsored by state utility regulators and economic development officials.

Wind energy

Advocates said Kansas is on the right track to realize its full potential for wind energy.

Wind farms in Kansas now have the capacity to generate more than 1,000 megawatts of electricity, and the state has announced several major transmission line projects. Also, a German company, Siemens Energy Inc., recently broke ground for a wind turbine production plant in Hutchinson.

"We've had a lot of success," Gov. Mark Parkinson said in opening the conference.

But he added: "We've just scratched the surface."