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May 21, 2008

Precourt Institute for Energy Efficiency awards first faculty research grants

The Precourt Institute for Energy Efficiency has awarded its first competitive research grants to members of the Stanford faculty. John P. Weyant, deputy director of the institute, said that three faculty projects will receive a total of $358,000 over the next 11 to 18 months for research designed to enhance energy efficiency in the transportation, building and electricity sectors.

"In December 2007, we issued our first campus-wide call for innovative proposals for reducing energy use and improving efficiency," said Weyant, a professor of management science and engineering. "We were looking for projects that could have a big impact at a reasonable cost with a high potential for follow-on funding from outside sponsors."

After reviewing the proposals, the institute's faculty steering committee awarded seed grants to the following researchers:

Curtis Frank, the W. M. Keck, Sr. Professor in Engineering, and Sarah Billington, the Clare Booth Luce Associate Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering, to develop energy-efficient, biodegradable foam materials for structural insulated panels, or SIPS—prefabricated panels that significantly improve heating and cooling efficiency in homes and commercial buildings.

Mark Z. Jacobson, professor of civil and environmental engineering, to assess how weather and increased demand from plug-in hybrid vehicles by 2020 will impact the ability of California to deliver a consistent supply of electricity from renewable sources (such as solar, wind and hydroelectric), some of which are inherently intermittent.

Chris Edwards, associate professor of mechanical engineering, to develop a practical method for quantifying the environmental impacts of diesel and ethanol fuels.

Established in 2006, the Precourt Institute promotes technologies, systems and practices that are energy efficient and economical. Research at the institute focuses on six core areas: buildings, transportation, energy systems, behavior, economic modeling and policy.

"When we created Precourt, our intention was to develop a critical mass of faculty and graduate students doing research on energy efficiency," said institute Director James L. Sweeney, a professor of management science and engineering. He noted that institute researchers are collaborating on a wide range of projects, including a $1 million, five-year grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to improve economy-wide climate policy models to better represent energy-efficiency opportunities.

"This work is essential, because the most effective way to reduce climate change in the near-term is to reduce energy use by increasing efficiency," Sweeney said.

"Almost 90 percent of the fuels used today are fossil based," Weyant added. "New technologies will help reduce greenhouse gas emissions eventually, but what do you do over the next two decades? The answer: Be more efficient."

The institute plans to announce a second round of faculty seed grants in the summer.



Tammy Goodall, Precourt Institute for Energy Efficiency: (650) 724-7296,

Mark Shwartz, Woods Institute for the Environment: (650) 723-9296,


John Weyant, Precourt Institute for Energy Efficiency: (650) 723-3506,

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