Obama will tour Penn State energy labs

    President Barack Obama will visit Penn State’s main campus on Thursday. The university is providing leadership for the Greater Philadelphia Innovation Cluster for Energy Efficient Buildings.

    The research is still in its earliest stages, but the president plans to tour labs focused on the work. Last year, the school received $122 million from the Department of Energy to develop more efficient building designs and ways of  retrofitting old facilities.

    Hank Foley, Penn State vice president for research, said there’s good reason there is an emphasis on the university. “It’s part of our DNA, if you will, to work on these kinds of things,” he said. “To reach out and take research from the laboratory or the classroom as quickly as possible and to convert it into real work that goes on in the field.”

    Along with its 21 partners, Penn State hopes to find ways to cut building energy usage by 50 percent in five years.

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    Jin Wen of Drexel University is part of the research team. She said the pressure is mounting.

    “Starting from day one, this has been a mixture of excitement and also the feeling of really high responsibility,” she said. “At this point, the whole nation is looking at our team to see,  ‘Hey can you guys really do the right job? Can you really improve our building energy efficiency as what you have promised?’ ”

    Buildings account for nearly 40 percent of U.S. energy consumption.

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