The University of Houston Magazine

GHP Windmill

New Energy Research Park Energizes March to Tier One

by Richard Bonnin

Establishing the University of Houston’s new Energy Research Park on land near the Gulf Freeway that once housed Schlumberger’s global headquarters seems almost fated.

As a world-leading oil services company, Schlumberger recognizes that universities are a fundamental source of talent and ideas. It works with more than 45 universities worldwide.

While the site will forever be a landmark to the groundbreaking technologies developed by Schlumberger in petroleum-based energy discovery and processing, its new purpose represents the future and spearheads the university’s drive to becoming a Tier-One research university.

Built in 1953, the park is comprised of 74 acres with 15 buildings, plus 19 acres of developable land.

Purchase of the Schlumberger complex  “represents one of the most important physical expansions in the University of Houston’s history and is an integral part of our goal to become the world’s foremost energy university and a nationally competitive Tier-One research university,” says UH President Renu Khator.

The Vision

The Energy Research Park includes UH academic and some energy-related research programs, UH administrative operations and third-party tenants with connections to the university. The vision for the complex is for a university-sponsored development that includes research, work force training and industrial partnerships –– the three legs of the economic development triangle.

“The university is already seeking partners whose training programs will significantly enhance the region’s energy work force portfolio with the addition of world-class programs designed to train the next generation of workers in wind, solar and electric power generation, and industrial partners who will be working with our researchers to develop new manufacturing techniques,” says Carl Carlucci, UH vice president for administration and finance.

Eventually, he says, the university will try to establish an incubator to develop new energy-related businesses that will call Houston home.

Purchase of the Schlumberger complex “represents one of the most important physical expansions in the University of Houston’s history and is an integral part of our goal to become the world’s foremost energy university
and a nationally competitive Tier-One research university.”

“This is one of the most exciting announcements ever made at the University of Houston,” says Welcome W. Wilson Sr., UH System Board of Regents chairman. “The possibilities for this park are endless. It is my hope that we can move forward aggressively in recruiting the personnel needed to develop our growing portfolio of energy research projects that will be housed there.”

The renovated complex will be home to many of the UH energy research-related centers and institutes. Relocating there, for example, is the Smart Materials and Structures Laboratory, which has attracted research grants for topics such as sensor development, structural health monitoring and piezoceramic materials.

Many of the university’s “superstar” researchers, such as Paul Chu, the physics professor whose superconducting discoveries shook the tech world in the late ’80s, will populate the park. They will do the pioneering work that broadens the use of existing resources, discovers new energy sources to power lives, shapes business practices and public policy, and reduces the impact on the environment.

Here’s one example of how the Energy Research Park will enable UH to serve as a natural hub for innovation and bold approaches to address the world’s energy challenges.

An obstacle facing renewable power is getting clean energy to market, moving electricity from the windiest sites to the load centers. Without a solution to the grid problem, effective use of wind power is likely to remain a dream.

A proposed Energy Demonstration Project to be housed at the park will address the issue of transmission of wind power from a remote source, such as the enormous wind farms in West Texas, to urban centers. UH plans to install wind turbines at the complex and focus on research and development necessary to implement superconducting power lines in an effective manner to transmit wind power. The concept is of keen interest to the 5,000 Houston-based energy companies, as well as energy companies throughout the United States.

Education ComponentGHP Solarcells

UH will integrate research and education to develop graduates who are adaptive and creative innovators in a global economy.

The park will serve as the new home for UH’s petroleum engineering program, combining leading-edge curriculum with opportunities to engage in mentored research. Initiatives will address some of the most critical needs of the energy industry from wind/solar power technicians to advanced programs related to the exploration and development of subsurface energy resources.

In an economy as challenging as a dry well, the UH Energy Research Park will create not only high-wage technical jobs, but additional jobs through site improvements and the renovation of its infrastructure.

With its unique focus on research, work force training and industrial partnerships, the UH Energy Research Park provides a wellspring of opportunity to advance UH’s mission to Tier One and helps the university lead the Houston energy industry to a better, brighter and greener future.

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