Penn State students install solar electrical system in Honduras

University Park, Pa. — Twelve Penn State members from the Student Chapter of the National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA) joined electrical contractors from the United States, Mexico, Canada and Honduras on Roatán Island, Honduras, March 5-14, for the 2009 Electri International Cross Border meeting. While there, the students completed the design, installed and commissioned a grid tied solar electrical system that will provide power for a local school.
 
The team, called the Renew Crew, used this opportunity to create, promote and explore sustainable renewable energy solutions to meet the Sandy Bay Alternative School's need for more reliable power. Their goal for this service project was largely practical. They helped design a 2.5 kW grid-tied photovoltaic system for the local school and completed the installation with the help of local NECA electrical contractors.
 
The students gained hands-on experience in both designing and installing the system. "We designed the system in class at Penn State, but we completed the installation in a completely unfamiliar environment," said Lee Cunningham, a Penn State freshman in architectural engineering. "We had to resolve numerous issues on site which made professional guidance from the local NECA electrical contractors really helpful."
 
The solar PV power generation will offset 75 percent of the energy usage of the building. With electricity rates three times higher than in the U.S., the school was spending an outrageous share of their budget on their electrical bills. The solar electrical system will help them save $50,000 over the next thirty years. This will enable them to offer scholarships to Honduran students who could not otherwise afford the school tuition.

This year's pilot project kicks off NECA's Talent Initiative which aims to increase the visibility of careers in electrical construction and renewable energy. The program at Penn State will be used as a national model for other college and university based NECA student chapters to create a more expansive program called Renewable Energies in Central America (RECA). The objective is to provide more students with the opportunity to engage in service learning abroad, while improving living conditions for communities in Honduras through cross-border, student-industry relationships.

A similar project is being planned for next year. Contact NECA Student Chapter vice president Jeff Lackey at jdl5075@psu.edu for information on participating.
 

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Last Updated November 18, 2010