UNI awarded more than $800,000 for energy-focused projects
The University of Northern Iowa was awarded more than $800,000 in grant funding for two projects aimed at boosting energy efficiency in underserved rural areas and educating Iowa students about energy market career opportunities.
Both grants were provided by the Iowa Energy Center (IEC), an entity funded by utility assessments, managed by the Iowa Economic Development Authority and overseen by a governor-appointed board.
Nearly $420,000 went to UNI’s Earth and Environmental Sciences department, which will develop and disseminate an energy curriculum for Iowa middle and high school students that incorporates career connections into each topic.
“The project will offer teachers a variety of classroom materials to select from and will provide an important update to the last energy curriculum UNI produced in the 1990s, when coal generation was more prevalent and wind and solar energy generation were significantly smaller,” said Alan Czarnetzki, a UNI professor in earth and environmental sciences who is the principal investigator on the project.
“There also is great employment potential in the power sector of Iowa's economy,” Czarnetzki said. “We want to help students learn about those opportunities at a time in their education when many are starting to think about careers.”
The IEC also awarded $395,680 to the Iowa Rural Energy Planning project submitted by the Center for Energy & Environmental Education, which will create 20 new positions for high schoolers, college students and young professionals to improve energy efficiency in 8-10 rural areas.
The project will help schools and small businesses reduce costs and provide residents with money-saving energy audits and weatherization services for their homes. Their work will be carried out in conjunction with the Green Iowa AmeriCorps program and UNI’s Energy Planning services.
“This work is vital in not only providing more individuals with professional development opportunities in the growing field of energy efficiency, but it allows rural communities to receive services in a comprehensive way,” said Ashley Craft, program director for UNI’s Green Iowa AmeriCorps. “We know that many of our communities are struggling financially, as schools, as small businesses, and as residents. This project has the ability to help each of these community hubs save money and feel additional support during challenging times.”
In total, the IEC awarded more than $2.7 million to 11 projects throughout the state.