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March 18, 2014

POWERED UP: Partnership will give practical application to OSU's energy research

STILLWATER, Okla. — Oklahoma State University’s National Energy Solutions Institute partnered with the Smart Energy Solutions Association Monday to put its energy research into practice.

The partnership is fueled by a $500,000 donation from Colorado-based CoBank, a national cooperative bank serving industries across rural America. It is a member of the Farm Credit System.

The partnership and donation were announced Monday at Oklahoma State University Henry Bellmon Research Center.

OSU President Burns Hargis said he expects the NESI-SES association to bring energy research into the marketplace, changing the way America does business.

“National Energy Solutions Institute and SES partnership is, I think, going to transform how we do business in Oklahoma,” Hargis said, “and frankly I think it will make our energy industry even more efficient and more effective.”

Hargis said the university’s partnership with a public utility and industry serves the state.

“The opportunity to align ourselves with CoBank is really going to make this thing work,” Hargis said. “CoBank is a very important institution in our country and certainly in Oklahoma.”

NESI-SES Chief Executive Officer, David Swank said the association will find smart solutions to today’s energy problems.

“The best way I can define that is really two words I can pull out of NESI and SES, and that is solutions but smart solutions,” Swank said.

Swank said three terms define the importance of NESI-SES — collaboration, collective intelligence and analytical. Swank said collaboration is the key to discovering solutions.

“Our research can be far better if we bring together collective information,” Swank said. “The better the information the better the research.”

NESI Director Stephen McKeever said his organization’s goal is to attempt to answer questions in energy today. He agreed collaboration is the most important aspect in finding new and better answers.

“We have to work in collaboration,” McKeever said. “The key is to not work in isolation. In order to provide solutions to the industry, we need the industry to be working with us to tell us what those issues are and to lead us to the right solutions.”

The partnership provides a link for NESI and the university to the energy industry. McKeever said the association’s attempt to find answers to today’s energy problems will not be cheap.

“All of this of course requires money — requires funding,” McKeever said. “CoBank, through their generosity, has donated half a million dollars to the facility, to the enterprise, over the next five years. It’s that level of generosity that is going to enable us to move forward and provide those necessary solutions.”

CoBank CEO Bob Engel said the organization focuses exclusively on the vital industries that are a part of rural America.

“There’s tremendous needs out there,” Engel said. “This one stood out for us.”

Engel said America’s entire economy relies on one thing — reliable, affordable energy.

“It really is vital that the U.S. maintain it’s leadership position across the entire spectrum of energy,” Engel said. “We are really confident that the work that is going be produced by NESI-SES association in the coming years really will help us to achieve that broader goal.”

Engel said CoBank’s donation is worth the money when the goal is energy independence. Engel said energy independence is foreseeable for America now. He said the need for partnerships like that of NESI-SES is growing, and he said he hopes the association brings results that help push America into a new energy era.

“We really look forward to seeing the results that it is going to produce, and the solutions, those results, is really what we are looking for,” Engel said.

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