Initiative for Renewable Energy and the Environment awards more than $5.1 million to 24 U of M energy projects

Contacts: Todd Reubold, Institute on the Environment,, (612) 624-6140
Jeff Falk, University News Service,, (612) 626-1720

MINNEAPOLIS / ST. PAUL (04/21/2010) —The Initiative for Renewable Energy and the Environment (IREE) has awarded more than $5.1 million to 24 renewable energy research and demonstration projects at the University of Minnesota.

The selected projects focus on a wide-range of topics, including solar energy, wind power, next generation biofuels, materials for increased energy efficiency and life-cycle analysis of energy systems.

"The innovative research and demonstration being advanced by these new investments will lead to transformative technologies,” says Dick Hemmingsen, IREE director. “We'll continue to advance the university's position as a renewable energy leader both nationally and internationally.”

In addition to scientific and technical merit, things considered during the final selection process included the potential for major breakthroughs on the national and the global scale, an alignment with Minnesota’s competitive advantages, a strong interdisciplinary approach and a clear business plan and exit strategy for securing future financial support.

Faculty members, graduate students and post-docs, undergraduates and research scientists at University of Minnesota campuses and research and outreach centers around the state will be involved with the projects. Funds were awarded in three categories including large grants, early career grants and seed grants.

Large grants support integrated, multi-disciplinary research teams working on projects up to three years in duration. Early career grants enable faculty in the early stages of their careers to launch and/or accelerate innovative research programs consistent with IREE’s mission. Seed grants are one year and explore the potential for high-risk, high-potential projects that are in the initial stages of development.

The projects selected to receive IREE large grants include:

Engineering of a Multi-Species Fermentation Platform for Biofuel Production

Project lead: Claudia Schmidt-Dannert, biochemistry, molecular biology and biophysics
Award: $472,500

Solar Recycling of CO2 to Fuels

Project lead: Jane Davidson, mechanical engineering
Award: $500,000

New Environmentally Benign Sulfides for Sustainable Large-Scale Photovoltaics

Project lead: Eray Aydil, chemical engineering and materials science
Award: $500,000

Converting Sunlight into Electricity with High Efficiency Organic Solar Cells

Project lead: Daniel Frisbie, chemical engineering and materials science
Award: $500,000

Processing DDGS into Biofuels and Other Value-Added Products; Pilot Development and Commercialization

Project lead: Pavel Krasutsky, Natural Resources Research Institute
Award: $250,000

Pumped Hydro Energy Storage (PHES) Using Abandoned Mine Pits on the Mesabi Iron Range of Minnesota

Project lead: Donald Fosnacht, Natural Resources Research Institute
Award: $250,000

Materials Innovation to Enable Solar Home Heating in Cold Climates

Project lead: Susan Mantell, mechanical engineering
Award: $300,000

Next-Generation Biofuels and the Ecosystem Services They Provide: Sustainability and the Biomass Production Landscape

Project lead: Jason Hill, Institute on the Environment
Award: $500,000

Performance and Emissions of a Second Generation Biofuel - Dimethyl Ether (DME)

Project lead: David Kittelson, mechanical engineering
Award: $500,000

A complete list of grant recipients, including early career and seed grants, is available at:

The U of M’s Initiative for Renewable Energy and the Environment (IREE) a signature program of the Institute on the Environment, promotes statewide economic development; sustainable, healthy and diverse ecosystems; and national energy security through development of bio-based and other renewable resources and processes. Since its inception in 2003, IREE has supported nearly 200 projects in areas including bioenergy and bioproducts; solar; hydrogen; wind, hydro and geothermal power; conservation and efficient energy utilization; and policy, economics and ecosystems. Funding for IREE comes from Xcel Energy’s Renewable Development Fund as directed by the Minnesota Legislature. For more information on IREE and to view the complete project database, please visit