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WVU Energy Institute director to testify before Senate Committee on Energy Innovation and Diversity

Written by Sarah Stone on . Posted in News

Sourced from: WVUTODAY, Tracy Novack


James Wood, interim director of the Energy Institute at West Virginia University, is part of a panel reporting on the outlook of U.S. energy innovation to the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources tomorrow (Feb 7).

“West Virginia University is committed to maintaining outcomes-based research programs that improve the reliability of electric generation diversity so that industry and commerce may continue to grow and provide opportunities in the Appalachian Basin and the nation,” Wood said.

In his testimony to the committee, Wood will emphasize WVU’s research commitment to improve existing coal-fired power generation, recover rare earth elements from coal wastes, develop instrumentation and sensors to accurately measure fugitive emissions from shale gas wells, analyze underground geological structures to store natural gas liquids, store carbon and produce natural gas from shale formations at reduced environmental impacts

The University also has developed sophisticated software and algorithms that model complex fossil fuel combustion systems, as well as complex electric transmission grids responding to variable generation from intermittent sources like solar and wind. Further, eastern West Virginia has a valuable source of geothermal energy, and WVU is part of a team researching designs for the deep direct use of this geothermal resource for its Morgantown campus.

“The benefits of diverse generation are not unlike reducing financial risk by diversification of savings and investment portfolios,” Wood said. “Research that reduces CO2 emissions is also still vital to the diversification mix as the United States transitions to cleaner energy.”

Recently the Department of Energy offered $38 million in funding for technologies that make the existing coal fleet more flexible and efficient. Technologies can include conversion from coal to natural gas, replacing old turbine blades, condenser and feedwater heater upgrades and control system upgrades.

“To the extent these power plants continue to reduce emissions and operate economically, local communities will benefit from the associated jobs and property taxes,” Wood said.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), committee chair, will give opening remarks along with ranking Democrat, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W. Va.). Others who will testify are: Paul Dabbar, U.S. Dept. of Energy Undersecretary of Science; Ernest Moniz, president and CEO, Energy Futures Initiative; Jason Grumet, president, Bipartisan Policy Center; Jay Faison, founder, ClearPath; Deborah Wince-Smith, president and CEO, Council of Competitiveness.



CONTACT:  Tracy Novak, WVU Energy Institute

WVU researchers to develop economic plan for Potomac Highlands region

Written by Sarah Stone on . Posted in News

Sourced from WVUTODAY, Patrick Gregg


A group of counties in eastern West Virginia have turned to West Virginia University to develop a strategic action plan for its future. WVU’s Bureau of Business and Economic Research will lead a team of expert organizations who will prepare the plan in an effort to promote economic development in West Virginia’s Potomac Highlands region. The plan will encompass Pendleton, Grant, Hampshire, Hardy and Mineral counties, which compose the Region 8 Planning and Development Council.

John Deskins, director of the BBER, which is housed in the WVU College of Business and Economics, said the need for this study stems to a significant degree from the closure of the Sugar Grove Naval Base in Pendleton County. The U.S. Navy decommissioned Sugar Grove in 2015 after 60 years of military activity there, mostly related to communications and information gathering.

While Deskins said the closure certainly had an adverse economic impact on the region, it was part of a larger problem.

“The base closure was the straw that broke the camel’s back,” he said, “as the Potomac Highlands region has experienced economic weaknesses for quite some time. However, developing a strategic action plan will offer an outline of necessary actions to promote the region and take steps to try to attract business.”

Eric Bowen, a research assistant professor at WVU’s business school and a BBER researcher, said the project represents a 10-month effort to devise a plan for the region.

“BBER is the lead partner in this project, and we have two other partner organizations at WVU,” Bowen said. “Project partners include the Northern West Virginia Brownfields Assistance Center and the WVU Regional Research Institute. We think this team combines an array of top-notch experts to provide the long-term strategic action plan that the Region 8 counties need to move forward.”

Bowen went on to explain that there were different components to the project. “First, we propose to estimate the economic impact of the base closure itself on the regional economy. Second, we will assess workforce and educational requirements for promoting economic prosperity in the region. Third, we will conduct an assessment of existing economic development resources broadly. Finally, using the knowledge gained from parts one through three, we will develop a strategic action plan,” he said.

The plan will be designed to identify target industry sectors for economic development and provide prioritized recommendations for attracting and retaining a diverse base of business sectors. The WVU economists said the plan will be based on information gathered in focus groups, employer interviews, data analysis, asset mapping, workforce readiness assessment and market trends.

“We’ve brought together a multidisciplinary team from various areas of expertise because there are a lot of aspects to cover,” Deskins said. “Historically, this is a region that has experienced economic difficulties, so it’s important to have project team members who can meet the tasks identified by the Region 8 Planning and Development Council and the five county development authorities.”

Region 8 Planning and Development Council Executive Director Terry Lively said that funding for the project came from a grant from the U.S. Department of Defense to the Pendleton County Commission. While the Council is overseeing the comprehensive action planning process, Lively said that the project is a joint effort between governments and economic development officials in all five counties.

“The Council is fortunate to have partners like the Pendleton County Commission,” Lively said, “whose members realize that the local economy does not stop at the county line.”

Bowen and Deskins said that the team is working with community leaders in the region to gather data, which makes for a stronger action plan.

“Our plan is to have significant input from community and business leaders in the region,” Bowen said, “We expect to have multiple information-gathering sessions and to widely share our findings after the project is completed. Explaining the data we used to come up with this plan and making sure leaders and residents in the region understand it is an important part of all of this.”



CONTACT: Patrick Gregg
WVU College of Business and Economics; 304.293.5131

Northern Brownfields Assistance Center Announces Job Opening

Written by Sarah Stone on . Posted in Employment, News

BAD Buildings with West Virginia Univeristy Research Corporation is seeking applications for a Project Associate. This position will help communities establish sustainable community development initiatives that will enhance the well-being and quality of life for the people of WV, attract investment to communities, and maximize resources in the state. This position facilitates the implementation of community development strategies on abandoned and dilapidated properties, including coordinating stakeholder groups, project identification, project prioritization, site redevelopment plans, and pursuit of public and private sector funding opportunities.

For a full position description and to apply click the link:

City of Fairmont, WV, attends Capital Investment workshop for downtown investment, social services ideas

Written by Sarah Stone on . Posted in Blog, News

Sourced from WVNews, written by Mark Shaver

WHEELING — Hoping to spur more ideas and conversation about investment in the downtown area and social services, representatives from the city of Fairmont attended a Capital Absorption workshop Monday.

The workshop, held by the Center for Community Investment, saw Fairmont work with officials from Wheeling, Parkersburg and Charleston, with each city focusing on a unique problem that they’d like to tackle. Alex Petry, Fairmont’s program manager for economic development, said the workshop was a great venue to brainstorm ideas on how to bring more investment to downtown.

“I think this has been a great use of our time,” Petry said. “They’re trying to change the way we think about this. They aren’t trying to solve our problems for us, but they’re trying to really engage us in some different types of exercises that make us think about our issue and things going on in our city differently.

“We started off by identifying our shared priorities, and I think we learned a lot there. From there, we developed a pipeline of current projects that are happening within our city, and we kind of ran down those deals within the pipeline. We identified what we’re doing right, what we’re doing wrong and where a lot of those ideas get stuck.”

Preparation for the workshop started several weeks ago, at which the team — consisting of representatives from Main Street Fairmont, the Fairmont Community Development Partnership, United Way and more — spoke about ways to grow the downtown area despite an issue, or a perceived issue, with homelessness.

However, the conversation evolved and looking into ways to directly help those experiencing homelessness became a main topic on conversation.

“It’s been interesting to see how the idea has evolved from our first meeting,” said Fairmont Community Development Partnership leasing agent and project manager Emily Swain, who was one of several representatives at the workshop. “It seems like what we were originally talking about with the social services component was just an assumed integration into economic development instead of having a whole separate piece. My main concern is making sure that doesn’t get lost in the shuffle.”

When asked to come up with a shared priority, the group agreed that the end goal is to make downtown Fairmont “a place where people want to be.” Both Swain and Petry said that a day at the workshop really put things into perspective, and the group decided that the city needs more conversation and open communication between agencies.

“Any time you can sit down and actually strategize and define goals is (worth it).” Swain said. “It’s difficult. You can think about what you want and what should happen, but when you put pen to paper and actually define it in a concise way, it’s difficult, but in the best way, because you have to think about it and prioritize. That’s where the most growth has happened so far.”

True to the workshop’s nature, Center for Community Investment Executive Director Robin Hacke said these revelations and advancements are the reason for getting these groups together.

“The framework gives people a structured way for people to think about where they’re getting stuck, and to use the experience of other places that have walked this path and think of some new angles and perspectives,” Hacke said. “The work, in the end, gets done at home, but this is an opportunity to give a jolt to the system and maybe think about how you can escape from the status quo and get different results.”

With a fresh perspective on things, the group is ready to take the next step, and will soon bring its findings back to Fairmont’s “home team” to further discuss how to breathe new life into the downtown area.

“I’m excited to move forward, really,” Petry said. “We have these new ways of thinking, and we can take these systems and exercises to our home teams and stakeholders, share everything we learned here and just try to move forward.”