Renewable Energy Projects

person on bike   trailer with solar panel

Renewable energy (solar and wind power) can be a leading force in moving our society toward sustainability. The Environmental Studies Program is excited to offer renewable energy project opportunities as part of the graduate educational experience. Recently, two renewable energy projects were completed: 1) the construction of a solar powered electric bicycle that was raced in the 2005 Solar Bike Rayce in Topeka, Kansas by a team of Environmental Studies graduate students and 2) design and construction of a solar power system to supply electrical power to a rebuilding project in post-Katrina New Orleans, Louisiana. Understanding renewable energy and applying it to create real world solutions is best accomplished through projects rather than classroom work. Students participating in such projects can receive credit for their participation through independent study or internship credits, if they so desire.

FLAT Solar Power System

solar panels on the flat working on the flat workingon the flat

In academic year 2010-11 Dr. Broberg worked extensively with the UM Forum for Living with Appropriate Technology project (UM Flat website) to achieve the installation of a 2.8 kw photovoltaic array that is grid tied at the main FLAT house. Any excess energy over that used in the house is fed into the grid and provides a source of renewable energy within Missoula. Solar Install Panels and RailsNorthwestern Energy donated the system and the Journeymens and Apprentice Certification and Training program of the Brotherhood of Electricians union provided expert installation as a training exercise with local solar power business Solar Plexus. This partnership with the support of the Kless Revolving Energy Loan Fund, UM Facilities Services and the Environmental Studies Program resulted in the first full pv array installed on a University of Montana owned building, the first step to demonstrate its broader utility to reduction of carbon emissions from UM Operations.

New Orleans: Rebuilding with Solar Power

The Environmental Studies Program partnered with the Tulane City Center, the Kansas State School of Architecture and the non-profit Project Locus to help rebuild a community museum and the home of museum operator Ronald Lewis in the Lower Ninth Ward that was destroyed by flooding the wake of Hurricane Katrina in August, 2005.

Faculty member Len Broberg designed and constructed a portable solar power trailer that was used to provide all electrical power needed for reconstruction on the site.

solar panel on trailer working on a building insturments

Ronald Lewis with the solar power trailer (left). Kansas State students and Project Locus volunteers work on installing the side panel support(right).

The system used three 24 volt, 170 watt solar panels to supply power to a 3500 watt DC to AC inverter and a bank of 12 volt/100 amp hour batteries. Data is being collected from the system to analyze the power generated and used as part of an ongoing research project.

Following completion of the initial project, the trailer will either be made available on other rebuilding sites or used to provide power for community projects/centers as determined by the partners. Solar power provides a resilient and useful power source in New Orleans and could contribute to the ability of the community to weather repeated storm events.

System under construction!!

More about the House of Dance and Feathers rebuilding project.