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WCU Assets Help Test Technology

From the Asheville Citizen-Times:

 Western Carolina University, Brazilian firm partner on turbines

By Jon Ostendorff <> • October 12, 2010

*CULLOWHEE* — Western Carolina University and a Brazilian energy company have partnered to make turbines that will use alternative fuels such as ethanol, the university announced Monday.

One of the uses for the new engines will be powering world's first “green Olympics” in Rio de Janeiro in 2016, according to WCU.

Officials from Vale Soluções em Energia, also know as VSE, will have offices at WCU's Centers for Applied Technology.

Faculty and students will work with the company to develop the new engines.

It's unclear how many faculty and students would be involved in the work.

VSE is a subsidiary of the Vale corporation, which has mining operations around the world. Vale created VSE to develop sustainable sources of energy.

WCU Chancellor John Bardo said the partnership fits with the university's mission of developing the economy in Western North Carolina while offering students a cutting-edge education.

He said the partnership, if successful, could lead to a new manufacturing plant in the region that would employ 300 people making turbines for VSE.

Disappearing manufacturing jobs in WNC have forced some people to leave the area in recent years and others to take lower-paying and less-skilled jobs.

“It's about preserving our quality of life, our heritage,” Bardo said.

Asheville attorney Steve Warren, chairman of the WCU board of trustees, said the partnership would give students a chance to learn in a real-world setting.

“It's scholarship reconsidered,” he said.

VSE discovered WCU through an engineering consultant who lives in Franklin and whose son is a student there.

WCU has worked with more than 250 businesses across the Southeast during the last five years on projects ranging from a new form of artificial poplar siding for houses to a device to help patients with rehabilitation from knee surgery, and from packaging for a Christmas tree ornament manufacturing company to tiny fiber-electronic connectors, the university said.