As part of the $50 million grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration to the H2theFuture coalition in South Louisiana, the New Energy Center of the U.S. will be established at The Beach at UNO. A $10 million federal award from the Build Back Better Regional Challenge will be matched by $5 million in state funds. Known as NEXUS, the new center will serve as the physical and programmatic hub for a range of clean energy initiatives.
“This positions the University of New Orleans and The Beach at UNO to be catalysts in the burgeoning sector of renewable energy,” said UNO President John Nicklow. “This is a critical time for our region as we take our existing expertise and infrastructure and apply them to solving our long-term energy challenges. NEXUS will be at the center of what could be a transformational era of investment and technological advancement.”
Located on 30 acres adjacent to the University of New Orleans, The Beach at UNO is a research and technology park that houses more than 30 tenants from government, nonprofits and the private sector.
“The New Energy Center of the United States will benefit from our existing investments in wind energy, the community we have built, our innovative ethos, and our strong public private partnerships with academia and industry,” said Rebecca Conwell, president and CEO of the University of New Orleans Research and Technology Foundation. “NEXUS is a perfect fit for The Beach, and we are thrilled to be a part of this tremendously significant collaboration.”
NEXUS will feature a well-designed collection of classrooms, innovation labs, offices, coworking spaces and conference rooms for corporate partners, entrepreneurs and professionals working on technologies around green hydrogen. It will house several H2theFuture project and partner components. The Louisiana Wind Energy Hub at UNO, already established at The Beach at UNO, will integrate seamlessly into NEXUS by supporting emerging companies and spurring the development of novel technologies in the renewable energy sector.
A coalition of 25 partners led by Greater New Orleans, Inc., H2theFuture aims to build a clean hydrogen production cluster to decarbonize the South Louisiana industrial corridor. H2theFuture is a set of linked projects spanning the entire green hydrogen life cycle, from R&D and education programs at universities to an end use project at the Port of South Louisiana.
“The New Energy Center of the U.S. at UNO is the latest in a series of transformational projects in the New Orleans area and across Louisiana that are putting Louisiana at the forefront of the global energy transition,” Gov. John Bel Edwards said. “Louisiana is committed to diversifying our economy and leveraging our world-class higher education system to become leaders in the good-paying clean energy jobs of the future. H2theFuture should play a significant role in moving Louisiana toward our goal of net zero carbon emissions by 2050.”
Green hydrogen is different from traditional “gray” hydrogen in that it is made from water, as opposed to natural gas. The hydrogen is extracted from water by an “electrolyzer,” which is powered by offshore wind-generated electricity. The result is a hydrogen molecule that is chemically identical to one made from gray hydrogen, but with zero carbon footprint. This hydrogen is then used as a feedstock for the production of ammonia for fertilizer, refining oil and steel, and other processes. It can also be used for fuel.
As part of the grant to the H2theFuture coalition, the University of New Orleans will also receive $6 million in combined federal and state funds for a Maritime Green Energy Lab within the Boysie Bollinger School of Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering. The lab will serve as a testbed and development center for hydrogen-fueled ships to improve seagoing ship technologies. UNO faculty, staff and students will conduct research, collaborate with industry partners, and mentor middle school and high school students. “The presence of NEXUS at The Beach at UNO will provide exciting research and education opportunities for our faculty and students related to renewable energy across a number of disciplines,” Nicklow said.