Technologies that could make the electrical grid smarter and more efficient.
New types of industrial-scale batteries that could work with wind turbines or hydropower to store energy when it's not needed, and release it when it is.
These innovations, and others, are among the new ideas being developed at the
The institute was created with
Its aim is to tie together work already under way by UW researchers around the campus, much of which is done in partnership with the federal
Inslee acknowledged that naysayers don't think the technology can deliver on its promises, but he said he's a believer: Clean energy "is going to make tons of money and create thousands of jobs," and
"We know the demand is going to be out there for clean-energy technology," he said. "This is a real-life scenario, not just some pipe dream."
The institute is focused on solar, electrical storage and smart-grid technology, but it will also examine large-scale environmental disruptions that could be caused by new sources of power, said
"All energy forms have an impact on the environment," he said; for example, hydropower creates clean energy, but it causes the loss of salmon runs and remakes the landscape. "We have to be thoughtful about how we design energy systems."
Besides thinking through the big-picture changes posed by new energy forms, the institute's scientists will also work on cutting-edge science -- creating new materials in the lab, using nanoscale molecules for solar cells and inventing new and better batteries.
Schwartz said he's especially excited about a new form of solar cell being researched at the UW that's made of copper, zinc, tin and sulfide -- inexpensive and widely available materials.
In a short time, UW scientists have been able to dramatically improve the efficiency of solar cells made with those materials. Although, Schwartz said, it's not the most efficient type of solar cell created, the low cost of the materials may allow it to one day leapfrog over other technologies.
In another project, UW scientists are creating solar "inks" that can be coated on surfaces to make low-cost solar cells. And, Schwartz said, the UW is working on solar cells made of plastic that are cheap to manufacture.
"We have, today, a world-class group of faculty that work in solar," Schwartz said.
At the same time, the UW is also participating in a
Five buildings on campus have been equipped with energy control systems that can "talk" to the regional power system, adjusting the building's electricity use to the predicted cost of power. In its first year, the program has saved the UW
The institute's research areas are "high-payoff-type research pursuits that are pretty well matched to existing academic and private- sector strengths in the Northwest, and are important in the development from fossil fuels to clean energy," he said.
There was a time in the 1970s when the U.S. led the world in clean-energy research, said
"The U.S. sort of stepped away from this stuff for quite some time, and now we're getting back in the game," Hayes said.
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