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Students create solar-powered classroom
by Jim Karpen

The Review, Vol. 20, #3    Translate This Article
Fairfield, Iowa, United States
10 October 2004

One of the many projects in a recent course on solar energy had the students rewiring their classroom to photovoltaic panels on the first day of class so that everything was solar powered—lights, TV, computers, tools—thereby reducing energy consumption by 90 percent.

The course, titled 'Solar Energy and Engineering: Energy Use by Man and Nature,' had an enrollment of 25 students and was rich with field trips, guest speakers, and hands-on experience.

It was taught by Lonnie Gamble, an engineer who founded Abundance Ecovillage and who owns Surya Nagar Farms, both of which use natural energy systems, natural building systems, and sustainable agriculture methods.

The students learned about the flow of energy in nature and nature's economy and how nature runs on sunlight. They learned about human energy usage in that context. They studied wind, solar, and tidal power, among other sources of energy, as well as technologies that generate and use energy from renewable and sustainable sources.

Field trips included a visit to a hydropower plant and a wind farm with 90 state-of-the-art, nearly silent, wind turbines. One of the labs involved having the students make the kind of blades used in wind turbines.

They also visited 'high-performance buildings', which use about 25 percent of the energy of conventional buildings and which often have superior features, such as better lighting as a result of strategic use of daylight. One building they visited uses a wetlands for sewage disposal.

The students also participated in the planning of a high-performance residence hall on campus that would have many of the features they were studying.

Among the guest speakers was one who taught the students to make biodiesel fuel from used sesame oil—fuel which one of the students used to power his car.

The students also spread the word about the value of renewable energy, writing letters to the editors of various publications. 'Their letters were incredible,' Mr. Gamble said.

'It was one of the most rewarding teaching experiences of my life—all of the students were really excited about the course,' Mr. Gamble said

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