MAILBOX: Future Renewable Energy Users

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Students of Home Power
Tomorrow’s science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) leaders were welcomed to his home.

For those of us who have solar-electric systems on our rooftops, one of the best ways to promote renewable energy is to welcome tomorrow’s science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) leaders to tour our homes. Living in a university city has provided me with this opportunity for the past four years after installing a 5 kW PV system.

During July 2014, the College of Engineering and Engineering Technology at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb hosted a weeklong Engineering Summer Academy for high school students. Outreach coordinator Brian Long indicated that “this intensive summer camp challenges students to explore a specific area of engineering. Students perform several hands-on learning experiments in our state-of-the-art laboratories, working alongside engineering faculty, alumni, and current students.”

While touring the PV system at my home, the students assembled into groups of four and cycled through several hands-on activities including:

  • Investigating the effect of shadows on energy production
  • Using a pyranometer and inverter output to determine the efficiency of the PV array
  • Viewing sunspots and solar prominences through a telescope
  • Investigating historical household production and consumption of electricity as well as calculating tons of carbon dioxide avoided
  • Studying the concepts of kW and kWh in relation to computing the charging time for my 2011 Chevy Volt
  • Viewing energy.gov’s Energy 101 videos on concentrating solar and PV power.

These students asked thoughtful questions and proceeded through the hands-on activities with great enthusiasm. It was an honor for me to have the opportunity to host them on what turned out to be a beautiful, sunny, cool morning. I am confident that with students such as these throughout our great country, our energy future is in great hands.

Richard Born • DeKalb, Illinois

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