MARQUETTE – In light of global warming and the increasing costs of energy and gasoline, electrical generating facilities worldwide are looking to alternative energy sources such as wind and solar power as a means of producing electricity and heat. Germany and several other foreign countries have been harnessing alternative energy for decades, and the practice is now spreading to much of the United States, including California, Texas and the Midwest.
Starting in the 2006 fall semester, Northern Michigan University will implement an alternative energy minor, giving students the opportunity to learn about this burgeoning industry and familiarize themselves with its technology.
The 20-credit minor consists of the following courses: introduction to alternative energies, DC circuit analysis, solar power, wind power, bioenergy, and heating systems II.
Daryl Kobie, an instructor in the engineering technology department, said that the wind power and solar power classes have already been offered and are getting good reviews.
“Even though this minor is brand new, a few students have shown an interest in including it with their degree,” he said. “The solar power class has been offered twice and the wind power class has been offered once, both with an average enrollment of 12 students. I expect this value to rise as the minor gains recognition.”
Kobie added that the minor has few prerequisites and could be fused with any major that has room for 20 credits of electives. The NMU School of Technology and Applied Sciences proposed the first classes for the program two years ago due to the increasing career opportunities in the renewable energy field.“There are many manufacturers and installation and maintenance companies in this field that are looking for people that are knowledgeable about the technology that applies to their products and services,” Kobie said. “We want students to be able to take advantage of that.”
In conjunction with the solar and wind power classes, two solar panels and a Whisper 200 wind turbine have been installed at the Jacobetti Center as a hybrid alternative energy system.
This equipment allows students to gain experience in expected energy output of photovoltaic systems, energy output of wind systems, measuring wind speed and other issues such as tower design, site selection and safety.
Future plans include the addition of two more solar panels and a larger inverter. The electrical energy produced from these can be wired to the Jacobetti commons area, allowing students to operate and charge their laptops from a natural energy source.