UT aims for stimulus grants

UT aims for stimulus grants

July 8th, 2009 by Joan Garrett McClane in News

UTC's Stimulus Wish List

n Central boiler replacement, $3.4 million

n Campus safety and security upgrade, $3.3 million

n Sustainable Energy Center, $15 million

n Energy Demonstration Partnership with East Ridge, $2 million to $5 million

Source: UT System

Online: Read a UT board report on the system's plans to attract stimulus grants. Read previous stories. Comment.

With funding scarce on college campuses, the race for federal stimulus dollars is heating up.

Campuses across the country are submitting hundreds of proposals in the hopes of getting served a piece of the stimulus pie, and the UT system is hoping to be one of the big winners.

These are "projects that would make our campus more energy efficient, upgrade student and faculty computer technology and add to our ability to serve at-risk students in the Chattanooga community," said University of Tennessee at Chattanooga Chancellor Roger Brown.

In the last few months, UT system campuses have submitted 275 campus-generated proposals, asking for between $330 and $370 million in grant aid from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

UTC officials have written 30 proposal for stimulus aid, which could amount to $30 million in funding if the school is awarded the grants, said Richard Brown, UTC vice chancellor of finance and operations.

"I think it is going to be highly competitive," said Dr. Brown. "But I think, collectively, UT has put together an outstanding list of quality projects that we feel like will receive a high level of review."

As of this week, Dr. Brown said he has not been notified about any awards. He said he expects to know results in the next sixty days.

"We are optimistic about it," he said. "We have been told by the system that our projects are good and will be very competitive."

The grants could allow UTC to replace its central energy plant for $3.4 million and put $3.3 million toward upgrading campus security, according to UT board documents.

Dr. Brown said the school needs to improve lighting in some places on campus for safety's sake and put in electronic card access on more than 10 buildings.

Capitol projects and campus improvements have been put on the back burner since officials are preparing to face a systemwide $66 million budget shortfall in two years after federal stimulus aid from the state dries up.

"If we don't get this money, it will take us a long, long time to put these things in place," he said.

UTC also is in the running for a $15 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy to create a Sustainable Energy Center.

The Sustainable Energy center, proposed by UTC engineering professor Prakash Damshala, would research modern concepts about sustainable and alternative energy. William H. Sutton, dean of engineering at UTC, said the center would be set up like the UTC SimCenter and try to be a leader in energy research.

Nearly all the grants being generated from UT campuses center on improvements to campus energy use or on alternative energy research and development.

Officials say the focus on energy grants comes at a good time for the UT system, which recently broke ground on a biofuels refinery in Vonore, Tenn., planned to convert switchgrass to ethanol fuel.

The UT Biofuels Initiative is competing for a $50 million grant for the biofuels refinery. DuPont Danisco, which is partnering with UT in the initiative, will match the grant received.