Hazleton engineering department receives grant for solar station

Penn State Hazleton’s engineering department has received a grant for $15,000 from the Sustainable Energy Fund (SEF) to support the development of a solar station at the campus.

According to campus Chancellor Gary M. Lawler, “Partnerships with businesses and organizations like SEF are vital to the university and allow for expansion of campus programs. This is a valuable contribution to the fund raising campaign, For the Future, currently underway at the university and the campus. The solar station is another step toward the campus offering a baccalaureate degree in engineering in alternative energy and power generation.”
 
Sustainable Energy Fund President Jennifer Hopkins said, “I am impressed with the ways in which Penn State Hazleton is contributing to the adoption and promotion of renewable energy. SEF is proud to be part of the plans to build a 3-kilowatt solar system that will power a classroom and conference room in the Chestnut Cottage. And, SEF is particularly proud that the Solar Scholars program is helping Penn State Hazleton to develop implementation of a four-year degree program in the department of engineering with a track in alternative energy and power generation.”
 
The grant is from SEF’s Solar Scholars program, a first-in-the-nation solar education initiative that promotes the adoption and integration of renewable energy concepts and technologies into the curriculum of the Commonwealth’s universities and community colleges.
 
To qualify for a grant, teams of professors and students from 27 colleges attended a weeklong experiential training program this summer. SEF provided education on renewable energy technologies, the electric power industry, solar manufacturing, and energy curriculum. Following the conference, each team submitted a grant application which described the proposed solar systems and detailed how they would integrate renewable energy into the school’s curriculum. A panel of judges from SEF and PPL Electric Utilities then reviewed the applications and selected twelve awardees.
 
Penn State Hazleton faculty members Wieslaw “Wes” Grebski, associate professor of engineering; Shaobiao Cai, instructor in engineering; and Artemio Magabo, instructor in physics, attended the summer program and competed in the grant process.
Teams submitted a variety of designs including roof-mount and ground mount solar arrays, and systems that adjust the solar arrays’ position to track the sun. The systems range from 3 kilowatts up to 4.8 kilowatts, with capacity to produce 47,375 kilowatts hours per year, or enough energy to power 1,500 homes for one day. 
 
The Solar Scholars Program also supports the colleges with the final system design, system installation, and curriculum integration as well as marketing and other educational activities related to the program. 
 
According to Grebski, the Penn State Hazleton solar station, comprised of approximately 30 solar panels, will generate 3 kilowatts of electricity and be located on campus next to a wind turbine that already generates 2.5 kilowatts.
 
The grant will allow Grebski to purchase the solar panels and materials for brackets designed by students. Students will also contribute labor to the project. He said, “This grant provides funding for materials that will give students the opportunity to work on a project and gain valuable real-world experience that is essential to education.”
 
The solar station will be used to power Chestnut Cottage, a nearby classroom and conference building, but Grebski plans to build a residential area for about 10 students that will be powered by energy produced from the wind and sun.
 
Grebski added, “The SEF’s outstanding summer program gave us an opportunity to improve our education related to alternative energy and provided ideas on incorporating alternative energy topics in current and new courses for our students and in summer engineering camps and programs for grade school and junior high school students.”
 
Sustainable Energy Fund (SEF) is a private non-profit organization whose mission is to develop and invest in economically viable, energy-related businesses, projects, and educational initiatives to create innovative, market-based technologies and solutions for environmentally sound and sustainable energy usage. The organization provides attractive, flexible funding options that include commercial loans and business partnerships. SEF has committed to provide almost $20 million to fund a variety of sustainable energy projects and education initiatives including wind, biomass, and solar energy technologies. SEF was established in 1999 as part of a settlement approved by the PA Public Utility Commission.
 
For more information, visit www.THESEF.org.
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Last Updated March 19, 2009