Beshear taps UofL to take the lead on renewable energy research; Largest private gift to the university will support the effort


Henry and Rebecca Conn.

Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear announced Jan. 26 that he is entering into a memorandum of agreement with the University of Louisville to operate Kentucky’s Center for Renewable Energy Research and Environmental Stewardship.

The governor and UofL President James Ramsey also announced that the largest private donation to UofL or any public Kentucky university will support the center’s work. Uof L engineering and business alumnus Henry Conn and his wife, Rebecca, have pledged more than $20 million to Speed School of Engineering for that purpose. The center will be named the Conn Center for Renewable Energy Research and Environmental Stewardship in their honor.

“We were looking for one cause to significantly support in an effort to make the needle move, to really make a difference,” said Henry Conn, senior executive adviser for corporations around the world, author and former vice president of the global management consulting firm A.T. Kearney Inc.

“The vision of the Conn Center at the J.B. Speed School of Engineering, and for a cause that I have advocated in all of my recent writings, speeches and a book in process, was so compelling that we bought in full-bore,” he said. “Obviously, the fact that Speed was the genesis for all of our success in this world didn’t hurt, either.”

The Kentucky General Assembly created the center in 2007 to provide leadership, research, support and policy development in renewable energy. A governor-appointed board will set priorities for renewable energy research.

UofL has expertise to address the use of wind, solar, geothermal, and biomass resources; energy storage; and the logistics and distribution challenges for new energy sources, Speed Dean Mickey Wilhelm said.

The center’s mission will include promoting partnerships among the state’s colleges and universities, private industry and nonprofit organizations to actively pursue federal research and development resources that are dedicated to renewable energy.

“As the primary sponsor of legislation that created the center, I am incredibly pleased to have UofL take the lead on research launching Kentucky to the national forefront of renewable energy and environmental stewardship,” said State Rep. Rocky Adkins. “The General Assmebly passed comprehensive energy policies that made Kentucky ready to meet the Conns’ vision, and I have no doubt UofL will deliver on the expectations of the governor, General Assembly and the Conns for innovation and job creation to benefit every Kentuckian.”

“Our commitment to pioneering research leading the United States to energy independence is equal to our quest to find the answers to cancer at the James Graham Brown Cancer Center,” Ramsey said. “We have attracted researchers who have invented the vaccine for cervical cancer and have 20-plus cancer-curing drugs in the pipeline. We’ll put our shoulders to the task of providing clean, affordable energy for the future in the same, innovative fashion.”

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Related Links
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Institute for Advanced Materials and Renewable Energy
Kentucky Pollution Prevention Center
Kentucky Energy Efficiency Program for Schools
Kentucky Institute for the Environment and Sustainable Development
Partnership for a Green City
Energizing Kentucky
Kentucky Dataseam Initiative

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