The Wisconsin Energy Institute (WEI), the newest alternative energy research center in the U.S., is now open and was dedicated on April 5, 2013. The five-story, 104,000-square-foot collaboration-centric research center is located on the University of Wisconsin (UW) campus in Madison, Wisconsin. Dedicated to cutting-edge renewable energy systems research, the $55 million project was funded by the state of Wisconsin.
WEI is designed to serve as a collaborative hub for scientists of various disciplines. Its major tenant is the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center (GLBRC), one of three Bioenergy Research Centers (BRC) tasked by the U.S. Department of Energy to conduct research that generates technology to convert cellulosic biomass to ethanol and other biofuels. Home to the nation’s first solar energy lab and the only Department of Energy funded bioenergy research center on an academic campus, UW-Madison supports the efforts of hundreds of faculty, scientists and students working in alternative energy fields of study. WEI also hosts the Wisconsin Bioenergy Initiative and the Center for Renewable Energy Systems.
“Developing next-generation biofuels and other renewable energy systems that are efficient and economically and environmentally sustainable requires a heightened level of interdisciplinary teamwork,” said Tim Donohue, GLBRC director and UW professor of bacteriology. “We believe WEI will spark the ‘random collisions’ between scientists from different disciplines that catalyze the breakthrough advances that are our goal.”
To that end, an interior light well supports each research floor. The light well opens sightlines and conduits for interaction between researchers and staff in offices and work stations that ring the perimeter of the floor and the laboratories that populate its interior. Pedestrian bridges within the light well provide accessibility while break rooms, seating nooks and formal meeting areas offer an array of venues for communication. All told, 90 percent of the interior space garners natural daylight and exterior views.