Message From Director Mahendra Sunkara

The Importance of Renewable Energy Research and Environmental Stewardship

In 2007, Governor Steve Beshear, State Representative Rocky Adkins, and the Kentucky State Legislature had the foresight to recognize that maintaining our energy resources is a growing concern for Kentucky and the United States. Kentucky is home to the nation’s most productive coalfield and is rich in natural gas resources, which have powered our way of life and positively transformed its comfort, quality, and productivity. In fact, coal is the dominant feedstock for meeting over 92% of the state’s electricity needs. However, the increased build-up of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere raise considerable risks to the health of our planet and future generations. Changing weather patterns and extreme weather conditions are testament to the planetary effects our civilization has wrought. Admittedly, there is controversy over the validity of these risks, but waiting out the proof may come too late for recovery.

The energy requirements for transportation are at least one-third of the entire energy demand for our nation. Dependence on foreign oil to meet this need poses a considerable security risk. Therefore, diversifying our electricity and fuel generation using renewable and otherwise wasted resources becomes even more important. Meeting this challenge requires creative solutions and offers a number of economic and technological opportunities, such as electrification of transportation and the development of homegrown fuels. This work has begun, but we still have a long way to go.

There is a growing demand to transform the Commonwealth’s economy into a stable marketplace that can provide our citizens with high-paying jobs by expanding technology-oriented manufacturing. Over the last two decades, Kentucky has lost over 100,000 manufacturing jobs. Now is the time for us to attract technology industry segments that can yield the highest growth in capacity, quality, and global reach. Manufacturing of renewables and energy efficient technologies constitute vital markets that are poised for massive growth in the next five decades. However, such transformation of the region’s economy cannot occur without local innovation, viable market, and committed investments. With Kentucky’s unique blend of manufacturing and agricultural capabilities, we still have great potential and can sustain industries for many renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies.

The University of Louisville, the state, and the community have made the choice to invest in the development of the Conn Center for Renewable Energy Research. Hank and Rebecca Conn, as champions of energy, economy and environmental stewardship, generously set the tone for the importance of this endeavor. The work performed at the Conn Center is truly defining the future on a global scale. As we continue to develop our facilities, attract and train great minds, and create collaborations with industry partners, we are influencing how energy is captured, stored, and utilized for maximum benefit. Our country's energy challenges are well known. Our goal is to develop and promote renewable energy solutions that increase our society's ability to function with available resources without poisoning our world. It is essential to our way of life, and to our children's children's way of life, that we succeed.

To do this, we need to keep growing. Additional recruitment and retention of outstanding faculty members, research scientists and engineers, and students as well as continued commitments at the community, state, and federal levels will ensure that the Conn Center becomes a preeminent center for renewable energy research and environmental stewardship. Most importantly, we will continue to work to move ideas from the lab to the marketplace seamlessly and share our discoveries with the world.

Mahendra Signature

Mahendra Sunkara

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