Category: renewable energy

The biofuels equation: public opinion

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From time to time we've mentioned the long-term investments at UGA in people and research on the issue of developing renewable energy sources. The university has cultivated a wide range of expertise on the subject that goes back decades. And all of that research on everything from fermentation of sugars in plant lignin to biodiesel and drought resistant strains of switchgrass would not be complete without also looking at public support for such efforts:

The Southeastern U.S. is poised to become a major producer of bioenergy, and a wide range of bioenergy technologies are now in various stages of development in the region. Will residents support the new ventures? Who will grow the biomass? Will those in established industries fight against it? These are but a few of the critical questions that citizens, policymakers and investors must answer if bioenergy is to become a viable alternative to fossil fuels.

Now, researchers from the University of Georgia and the U.S. Forest Service are conducting studies in locations throughout the biomass-rich Southeast to find answers to these questions and more. They hope their unique method of investigation, using a mix of complementary ethnographic methods, will provide a detailed understanding of public opinion about bioenergy while also providing policymakers and business owners with the information they need to make sustainable energy production thrive in their communities.

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"A big part of this kind of research is to listen to as many perspectives as possible," said Peter Brosius, professor of anthropology in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, director of the Center for Integrative Conservation Research and co-investigator in the study. "From there you begin to see patterns emerge."

The Center of Integrative Conservation Research is another of the visionary initiatives designed to bring together and leverage faculty expertise and energy in the direction of solutions to urgent problems. Public buy-in is crucial if we are to move toward the reality of biofuels as a transportation fuel alternative. Let's hope that this study and related efforts serve multiple purposes that include moving more of the public toward support for comprehensive conservation efforts.

Scientists to speak at SEC renewable energy symposium

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A three-day SEC-sponsored event in February to discuss the future of renewable energy will feature two Franklin researchers with wide experience in our region's quest for renewable fuels:

The SEC Symposium theme, “Impact of the Southeast in the World’s Renewable Energy Future,” will explore the spectrum of renewable energy technologies, including bioenergy, solar, wind, wave/flow and nuclear. 

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Researchers from all 14 member schools will speak in 11 sessions moderated by UGA faculty, most of whom are members of UGA’s Bioenergy Systems Research Institute. UGA will be represented by Joy Doran-Peterson, associate professor of microbiology and director of UGA’s Biomanufacturing and Bioprocessing Program, and C.J. Tsai, Georgia Research Alliance Eminent Scholar and professor in the Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources and the department of genetics in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences. Both are members of BSRI.

 

Peterson’s presentation, “Biomanufacturing and Bioprocessing: The Missing Link for the Biotechnology and Biofuels Industry,” is part of a session that addresses the growing need for alternative energy workforce development and outreach in K-12 programs and centers of higher education.

Tsai’s presentation, “Bioenergy Targets in Poplar Improvement,” will focus on her research into the use of woody biomass as a source of biofuel.

Solar power arrives at UGA

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800px-Googleplex_solar_power.jpgThis is terrific news:

 

This spring, the Athens campus will enjoy not only the familiar beauty of renewed life and vegetation as the season unfolds, but also the implementation of renewable energy through the UGA Solar Demonstration Project.

The project will be installed on the roof of the visual arts building, which is currently under renovation in preparation for its newest inhabitants—the College of Environment and Design. The building is being renovated to function as a living laboratory and instructional tool that will actively teach sustainable design strategies to UGA students. This includes a demonstration of appropriate technology for on-site renewable energy generation in Georgia.

The building is scheduled to reopen for the start of fall semester.

The UGA Solar Demonstration Project will provide nearly 30,000 kilowatt hours of electricity each year—about enough energy to power 90 fluorescent T8 lights for 10 hours a day or 189 laptops for 8 hours a day for an entire year—and is anticipated to pay for itself over the next two decades through reduced electricity costs.

We (society, campus, individuals) absolutely must become more aggressive about renewable electricity. Plus the visual arts building, originally the new home of the Lamar Dodd School of Art when the building opened back in the 60's, was very innovative for our campus at the time and so it's great that it can once again assume this mantle, though in a different and altogether even more necessary fashion.

Genome Mapping to Biofuels

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Miscanthusbarn-230x173.jpg

Since at least the 1970's, University of Georgia researchers and engineers have been working on the many different facets of developing renewable energy sources, from biodiesel to fermentation, soil sequestration and more. The many different avenues provided opportunities for crucial bench-scale breakthroughs that have allowed further related research to flourish. That progress continues today:

Researchers at the University of Georgia have taken a major step in the ongoing effort to find sources of cleaner, renewable energy by mapping the genomes of two originator cells of Miscanthus x giganteus, a large perennial grass with promise as a source of ethanol and bioenergy.