Passion for solar energy nets student Penn State Sustainability Leadership Award

Kayla Susko
April 21, 2016

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Nikhil Bharadwaj, Penn State’s 2016 Student Sustainability Leadership Award recipient, will be recognized at 1 p.m. on Friday, April 22 — Earth Day — with a tree-planting ceremony outside the MorningStar Solar Home on Penn State’s University Park campus, hosted by the Student Sustainability Advisory Council.

Bharadwaj is a rising junior majoring in energy engineering with a minor in environmental engineering. His internship with TATA BP Solar last summer was particularly influential to his passion for solar energy. Through the internship, Bharadwaj was introduced to photovoltaic layout designs and line diagrams for rooftop solar installations and developed an off-grid solar-powered bus station for Penn State.

This experience led Bharadwaj to the American Solar Energy Society, where he is project manager for a solar picnic table that will be installed in downtown State College. He has also contributed to the community through his role as special projects chair for the Green Energy Challenge at Park Forest Middle School. In addition, Bharadwaj was a major contributor to one participant's solar array design proposal for the Penn State senior class gift.

His impressive schematic plot outline earned him selection by the National Electrical Contractors Association to travel to Honduras and install a solar array in an underdeveloped community.

Bharadwaj is just as impressive academically. He recently accepted a research position that involves building electric bikes for commercial applications. An element of this research will be crafting a business plan that can assist in an entire community's shift to human/electric hybrid vehicles.

While Bharadwaj is heavily involved in both his academic and community service endeavors, he still makes time for his friends. A friend who nominated Bharadwaj for the award described him as an “incredible and charismatic person.”

A tree inventory of all the trees on campus can be found at The tree awards were started in 2012 and have become an annual tradition to recognize student leaders’ commitments to sustainability. Next year’s call for applications will be sent out in March 2017.

Last Updated September 20, 2019