updated 1/13/2009 4:13:21 PM ET 2009-01-13T21:13:21

Stanford University announced Monday it has raised $100 million to create a new research center focused on combating global warming and developing cleaner sources of energy.

The new Precourt Institute for Energy will focus on research related to improving energy efficiency, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, studying national energy policy and developing renewable power sources such as wind, solar and biomass.

The $100 million in new funding will bolster the $30 million the university already spends annually on energy research.

One of the institute's goals is to help the world move to a "future where renewable energy is both economically competitive and environmentally friendly and becomes the energy source of choice," Stanford President John Hennessy said. "Our success will impact millions if not billions of lives across our planet."

The founding donors are Stanford alum and energy executive Jay Precourt, and Thomas Steyer and his wife Kat Taylor. Steyer is a Stanford trustee and managing partner of Farallon Capital Management.

The donors say that even in an economic downturn it is essential to direct more research dollars toward solving energy issues that affect everything from national security and climate change.

The Precourt Institute for Energy will be headed by Lynn Orr, a professor of energy resources engineering who has served as director of Stanford's Global Climate and Energy Project, which will become part of the new research center. The new institute will bring together more than 130 faculty members working in 21 departments.

The new funding will allow the university to add six to eight new faculty members, 20 fellowships for graduate students and more fellowships for postdoctoral researchers, Orr said.

In addition, the center will create an "energy innovation fund" to finance promising research projects, and help the university expand course offerings related the energy.

"The energy challenge is a big and very important one, but it is just the sort of challenge that the students and faculty at Stanford should tackle with enthusiasm," Orr said.

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