Center for Applied Research focuses on Kentucky's future energy needs and resources

08/19/2016 04:03 PM

LEXINGTON – The Interim Energy Special Subcommittee held their monthly meeting on Friday at the University of Kentucky’s Center for Applied Energy Research (CAER) to learn more on the advantages of having such a facility in the commonwealth.

CAER focuses on a number of Kentucky issues related to energy including reducing the environmental impact of energy production and use, exploring beneficial uses for coal ash and industrial waste, developing a new portfolio standard, insuring the affordable cost and reliability of power in the state, discovering new ways to improve energy efficiency, improving fuel security and domestic resource utilization, and promoting economic development.

The center, which was created by the state legislature in 1974, opened in 1977 when its lab was intended to support a growing synthetic fuels industry. The center was transferred to UK in 1988.

Director Rodney Andrews says the number one goal of the center is to develop technologies to address Kentucky’s specific energy needs.

“Our mission here is to work on efficient and environmentally sustainable uses of Kentucky’s resources to produce electricity, the energy fuels, chemicals, the energy that we need for our state to operate,” Andrews said.

The research facility has a talented group of staff members and students who performs a variety of functions.

“Here at the center right now, we have 153 people right now, about 65 of those are scientists and engineers from Bachelor to PhD level,” Andrews said. “We also have a large contingent of students. We have about 40 students here at any given time.”

Andrews said that the center gets just above a quarter of their funding from the university. The center then uses that to cost share in federal programs which amounts to about 60 percent of the total budget. The remainder is from industry funding programs.

The center works in a partnership with UK mining engineering by working to recover rare earth elements that are essential to modern life and are used to produce goods like laptops, tablets and mobile phones.

“Rare earth elements has become a national program looking at these strategic materials that are important to all of our electronics,” Andrews said. “They’ve primarily been imported.

“The U.S. closed its last mine for these a decade ago and there’s concerns that we could end up with shortfalls of those, or not have them available to us because they come from places primarily that aren’t necessarily providing them.”

Energy committee co-chair Jarred Carpenter, R-Berea, says that the national recognized research facility is a significant asset to the commonwealth and deserves to continue to receive funding, even during tough financial times.

“Energy is such a big part of our portfolio and this research facility really has done a great job of putting Kentucky in the forefront of that to make sure that we can protect our energy resources and find new ones,” Carpenter said. “Not only coal but natural gas and some other alternatives.”

In addition to research, the center provides hands-on scientific experiences to Kentucky students all levels of education from P through 12, undergraduates, and well as graduate students.


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