The Energy Institute (EI) is the university’s comprehensive research unit for all matters regarding energy development, usage, policy, and its impact on the ecological and human condition. The EI is one of five R&D flagship centers selected by UL Lafayette to lead the institution’s primary research emphasis areas. The goal of the Louisiana Energy Institute is to provide the State of Louisiana with a World-Class energy advocate that focuses on energy industry developments from technical, ecological, and humanistic perspectives.
Directed by Dean Mark Zappi and Dr. Rafael Hernandez, the Energy Institute has five key thrust areas: petroleum resources; cleantech fuel processes; power usage and conservation; environmental protection; policy development; and eco-sociological impacts. Other than base funding from UL Lafayette, the EI is supported by funded projects from federal, state, and industrial sources. Typically, $5M of contract R&D funds are handled by the EI at any given time with significant growth expected in the coming years. Approximately 20 faculty, 25 students, and 5 staff members make up the bulk of the workforce involved with the EI. Numerous facilities are part of the EI – including the new $9M Cleco Alternative Energy Center that opened in fall 2014. This facility houses a 3-ton biomass-fed gasifier; a 0.3 ton per day torrefaction system; a large solar thermal power system; a 300 gal-anaerobic digester; numerous gensets and turbines; and supporting equipment and laboratories. Also, the EI is in the process of installing over $5M of advanced photovoltaic equipment to support energy R&D.
Over 10,000 sf of laboratory space is utilized by the EI membership that contain a vast array of high-end R&D equipment and facilities. The EI has a full time analytical chemist that supports the analytical aspects of institute projects. It also has four full time research engineers funded via EI projects along with the faculty members who hail from 3 different colleges across UL Lafayette.