In December 2012, renewable-energy and academic partners with UW Oshkosh, Viessmann Group CEO Martin Viessmann, and his wife Annette, pledged a generous gift to the UW Oshkosh Foundation to create the University’s first endowed chair.
As the Viessmann Endowed Chair in Sustainable Technology, Kleinheinz will play a visionary role in bringing the topic of renewable energy technologies to an international level. Kleinheinz will formally begin the role Sept. 1.
On campus, prior to the acceptance of this role, Kleinheinz has been deeply involved with environmental- and sustainability-focused initiatives through experiences leading the Environmental Research and Innovation Center (ERIC) lab as well as through his involvement with the trio of waste-to-energy biodigester projects on and off campus.
Specifically, Kleinheinz has established a research and outreach program that resulted in more than $8 million dollars of research funding for a variety of environmental and sustainability projects; the projects have involved more than 350 students and range from the development of biological systems for industrial air treatment and groundwater remediation, to the reengineering of public beaches for sustainable pollution mitigation to environmental public health programs and services in rural and northern Wisconsin. Beyond campus, Kleinheinz’s work has extended throughout the state. He has established programs and research laboratories in cities such as Ashland, Eagle River, Manitowoc, Marinette, Sturgeon Bay and Oshkosh.
Within the new role, Kleinheinz is charged with maintaining a strong relationship with the $2.5 billion, family-owned Viessmann Group, based in Allendorf, Germany while simultaneously developing and participating in academics, research, curriculum development and outreach programs at UW Oshkosh.
Additionally, Kleinheinz will lead the integration among the current academic programs of the College of Letters and Science, the Renewable Energy Institute (REI) and new UW Oshkosh engineering technology and renewable energy endeavors.
“I am honored and humbled by my selection for this position,” Kleinheinz said. “Not only has the Viessmann Group shown leadership and vision with their efficiency and sustainability efforts in Germany, but Dr. Viessmann has shown even more visionary leadership in providing for this faculty position at UW Oshkosh.”
“This position, coupled with student involvement in a multitude of associated sustainability projects, could be one of the most impactful initiatives in the history of UW Oshkosh,” Kleinheinz said. “This position will produce literally hundreds of students who are more informed citizens with sustainability as a core of their thinking and practice. It is my goal to establish a solid foundation for all Viessmann chairs who will, eventually, follow me.”
College of Letters and Science Dean John Koker said the Sustainable Technology Chair will help develop and provide additional high-impact learning experiences for UW Oshkosh students, both on and off campus.
“I am quite pleased Dr. Kleinheinz has accepted this position and has agreed to work to advance the sustainability initiatives we have committed to at UW Oshkosh,” Koker said. “I look forward to Greg taking on a key role in the Viessmann-UW Oshkosh partnership, and feel confident he will strengthen and increase our academic opportunities for students as well as our collaborations with communities and industries across Northeast Wisconsin and beyond.”
The Viessmann Group’s dedication to renewable energy and training within the industry has helped dramatically advance Germany’s goal of carbon neutrality. The company and its Wisconsin-based subsidiary, BIOFerm Energy Systems of Madison, have worked just as diligently with educational partners such as UW Oshkosh, sharing expertise and state-of-the-art technology to develop environmentally sound biogas energy facilities.
These renewable energy power plants and research instruments have significantly accelerated UW Oshkosh’s carbon neutrality timeline—a goal originally targeted for 2025 in the institution’s Climate Action Plan. UW Oshkosh’s site’s include the University’s dry fermentation anaerobic biodigester—the first in the western hemisphere—which composts food refuse, agricultural plant waste and grass clippings, harvesting the resultant methane for electricity and heat production. Students and faculty collaborate in the operation of the plant and its learning laboratory, and study how best to maximize its methane production at UW Oshkosh’s ERIC.
Additionally, a biogas facility at the 9,000-cow Rosendale Dairy, as well as a smaller “Titan 55” unit at the 150-head, family owned Allen Farm, have extended the Viessmann partnership off campus.