Joe Thurston and Louise Kahn stroll previous solar ovens on show on the June 24 Solar Fiesta and electrical automobile present at UNM. (Chancey Bush/Journal)
Becky Salazar is mirrored in panels of a solar oven cooking a turkey June 24 through the Solar Fiesta and electrical automobile present at UNM. (Chancey Bush/Journal)
Janet Bridgers of the NM Solar Energy Association stands subsequent to an electrical automotive dressed as Wonder Woman throughout NMSEA’s Solar Fiesta on June 24 at UNM. (Chancey Bush/Journal)
Jon Verploegh, left, tells Solar Fiesta customer Wendy Schumann about his do-it-yourself heliostat, which makes use of mirrors that tilt and switch to trace the solar’s motion and replicate gentle on chosen targets. (Chancey Bush/Journal)
Ashok Ghosh, NM Tech mechanical engineering professor and present NM Solar Energy Association president, explains the contents of NMSEA’s “SunChaser,” a trailer-mounted solar classroom that was on show on the June 24 Solar Fiesta at UNM. (Chancey Bush/Journal)
A brand new cell solar show will quickly go to colleges throughout New Mexico to teach Ok-12 college students in regards to the some ways folks can harness the solar to power and warmth their properties.
Dubbed the “SunChaser,” the trailer-mounted show presents a compact, walk-in classroom on wheels for college kids to study first hand about every part from solar-electric era and back-up battery storage to sun-powered heating and cooking programs.
Students from the New Mexico Institute for Mining and Technology in Socorro designed your entire construction. And almost two dozen seniors from ACE Leadership High School in Albuquerque constructed it over the previous yr, making a miniature mannequin home that runs fully on solar energy, mentioned NM Tech Mechanical Engineering Professor Ashok Ghosh.
“It’s a mobile learning system for schools and towns around the state, including tribal communities,” Ghosh advised the Journal. “It will go wherever it’s wanted to teach about solar technology and renewable energy.”
In between its travels, the SunChaser might be parked on the Explora Science Center and Children’s Museum in Albuquerque as a everlasting exhibition.
It’s nonetheless a piece in progress. NM Tech college students count on to finish further work on the water-heating and electrical-wiring programs over the subsequent yr, including sensors to observe efficiency and a pc loaded with studying curriculum for lecturers and college students to conduct instructional tasks.
But the essential construction was on show for the primary time at this yr’s Solar Fiesta — an annual occasion organized by the New Mexico Solar Energy Association since 1998. The all-day occasion happened on the University of New Mexico on June 24. Hundreds of individuals toured reveals showcasing solar ovens, a solar-powered boat and an electrical racing automotive — each constructed by UNM engineering college students — and quite a few different shows and knowledge cubicles run by native solar corporations and nonprofit organizations.
More than a dozen electrical automobiles have been additionally onsite, together with an electric-powered bike.
It’s the primary Solar Fiesta to happen since 2019, following a two-year hiatus brought on by the pandemic. And it marked a turning level for the solar affiliation, which launched in 1972 and is now celebrating its 50-year anniversary.
In reality, the Solar Fiesta itself supplied a celebratory end result to the American Solar Energy Society’s 51st Annual National Solar Conference, a four-day occasion that, for the primary time in 24 years, was held in Albuquerque on the UNM Student Union Building.
The convention put New Mexico and the solar affiliation, or NMSEA, on the forefront of a strong, national-level dialogue about renewable energy improvement, with trade representatives and professionals from all through the U.S. and Canada — and from distant international locations like Bangladesh, Nepal, Nigeria and South Africa — converging on Albuquerque for a week-long occasion.
Renewable energy, equitable transition
The Solar Energy Society, or ASES, selected Albuquerque for this yr’s convention to each commemorate the native solar affiliation’s fiftieth anniversary, and to acknowledge New Mexico’s progress in transitioning to renewable energy, mentioned ASES Executive Director Carly Rixham.
“The New Mexico association is one of 42 state and regional ASES chapters across the U.S.,” Rixham advised the Journal. “This state has great solar potential, and it also has good, strong legislation in place to promote renewable energy.”
More than 450 folks participated within the convention — about 350 in particular person and the remaining on-line — together with energy specialists, college researchers and nonprofit leaders, plus executives from the U.S. Department of Energy and Sandia National Laboratories.
ASES, which initially fashioned in 1954, noticed its membership balloon over the previous yr, leaping from about 4,600 members in June 2021 to just about 13,500 this yr. The growth displays mushrooming curiosity in nationwide and worldwide efforts to decarbonize the worldwide economic system as local weather change intensifies, Rixham mentioned
“We need to get to 100% renewable energy as soon as possible to avert a climate crisis, which is already upon us,” she mentioned.
The convention itself went far past solar energy to embody the general energy transformation at present underway within the U.S. and elsewhere. It coated every part from clear transportation, energy effectivity, and eliminating the carbon footprint of business buildings to public coverage and academic applications.
This yr, ASES additionally launched the theme of “energy transition with economic justice” as a central focus for dialogue. Panel displays highlighted the environmental harm from fossil fuels that disproportionately impacts minority and low-income communities. And members mentioned methods to assist those self same communities transition to renewable sources, and to mitigate the financial affect of shutting down coal crops and different carbon-based industrial operations.
“This conference really aimed to shine a light on all that,” Rixham mentioned. “That’s critical, because the transition to renewable energy is inevitable, but an equitable transition is not inevitable.”
Education on the forefront
At its core, nevertheless, the solar convention and the accompanying Solar Fiesta targeted totally on schooling. Those annual occasions are all about enriching the information and expertise of individuals already concerned in renewable energy, whereas inspiring youthful generations and the neighborhood generally to become involved, Rixham mentioned.
“The conference facilitates a real exchange and sharing of ideas,” she mentioned. “Education and building community is at the foundation.”
Many convention displays targeted particularly on methods to achieve out to college students in any respect ranges to interact them within the problems with local weather change and clear energy by way of hands-on studying that may doubtlessly inspire them to embrace science, know-how, engineering and math, or STEM, schooling.
One program, for instance — California-based We Share Solar — supplied a singular instructional strategy on the convention. The program permits center and highschool college students throughout the U.S. to instantly construct a compact solar system that, as soon as completed, is shipped to growing international locations to supply electrical energy to colleges that at present function with out lights or electrical home equipment.
To date, about 37,000 college students have participated in almost 700 workforce tasks across the nation. They’ve collectively constructed almost 900 compact solar programs, or “solar suitcases,” that at the moment are lighting up lots of of faculties in Central and South America, East Africa, the Caribbean and the Philippines, mentioned program co-founder Hal Aronson.
“The program allows kids in the U.S. to actually build systems that get installed in schools overseas,” Aronson advised convention members. “It’s an opportunity for students to work together on projects that can empower and educate them while raising their interest in STEM.”
The nonprofit supplies all of the instruments wanted to construct a 12-volt DC standalone system that matches right into a suitcase for cargo to neighborhood organizations abroad. Those teams, in flip, work with native college students to put in the programs at their very own colleges.
The package features a full instructional curriculum for college kids to assemble the solar suitcase, offering real-world expertise that within the course of teaches them about international energy poverty, primary electrical energy, solar energy and engineering. In return, solar-suitcase recipients share tales and photographs of abroad beneficiaries for college kids right here to see the complete affect of their work.
We Share Solar’s strategy engages the “heads, hands and hearts” of scholars, mentioned program co-founder Gigi Goldman.
“It makes all the difference in the world for students to have a compelling reason to learn and understand why STEM is important,” Goldman mentioned. “Having a purpose draws in students who might otherwise never engage. That’s especially true for girls and minorities.”
And by embracing the problems of local weather change and renewable energy by way of direct motion, educators might help offset emotions of tension and helplessness in regards to the future that many children expertise, Aronson mentioned.
“We have a real problem today in education,” Aronson mentioned. “Students are overwhelmed and anxious about climate change, and yet they’re expected to go to school and sit in classrooms to learn about subjects they believe may only be useful in five or ten years, which makes it irrelevant for them and hard to focus. Kids are wondering if the world is going to end, and that leads to feelings of despair and futility, which tunes them out.”
Engaging NM college students
NMSEA’s new SunChaser cell classroom integrates all these instructional parts and techniques to learn New Mexico college students and native communities, mentioned Brad Humble, the professor at ACE Leadership High School who led the ACE SunChaser building challenge that included 22 college students.
“This was a senior class project,” Humble advised the Journal. “The students spent all year working on it. … They did all the construction — we taught them and supported them — but they did it.”
That included classroom studying about solar energy, photovoltaics, solar-based water heating programs and extra, Humble mentioned. Then the scholars put that STEM-based studying on to work on the SunChaser, gaining direct expertise in every part from welding, carpentry and sheet metallic work to challenge administration and studying and making use of blueprints.
Working as a workforce and speaking with each other about issues and challenges, comparable to supply-chain points created by the pandemic, drastically added to the educational expertise.
“All the windows we ordered came in damaged, and the students had to physically repair them,” Humble mentioned. “Apart from construction skills, they learned the deeper stuff, like how to communicate and what to do when something isn’t going right. … Those things help build self confidence, and that’s tremendously positive for youth.”
For Humble, nevertheless, the largest profit was publicity to real-world points, know-how, and new profession choices.
“It makes them aware that these technologies exist, and that there’s a whole world out there with employment possibilities that they never knew existed,” Humble mentioned.
In some methods, the SunChaser challenge displays NMSEA’s persevering with evolution after 50 years of advocacy. The group has grown from a small grouping of solar fanatics and researchers in its early years that targeted totally on passive solar energy — comparable to water heating programs and solar ovens — to embody instructional applications and outreach that train about and promote trendy programs and renewable applied sciences generally.
The new cell classroom, for instance, is definitely a second-generation model of NMSEA’s authentic SunChaser, which was constructed by affiliation volunteers within the late Nineteen Nineties and traveled to colleges and neighborhood occasions across the state for about ten years. That outdated mannequin is now in disrepair, giving rise to the brand new one, which the scholar designers at NM Tech have dubbed “SunChaser 2k20.”
NM Tech doctoral pupil Gabriel Maestas mentioned the 2k20 model fuses previous information about passive solar and early photovoltaics with in the present day’s trendy capabilities.
“Since the 1990s, technological innovation has led to great improvements in renewables, especially in solar energy,” Maestas wrote within the newest version of ASES’ quarterly publication Solar Today. “The new SunChaser has greater capabilities and is more representative of modern renewable technology while still displaying the pertinent heritage methods.”
And quite than NMSEA skilled volunteers constructing it, this one was designed and constructed by highschool and faculty college students, reflecting the affiliation”s efforts to double-down on outreach to youthful generations, mentioned NM Tech professor Ghosh, who can also be NMSEA’s present president.
“The whole purpose of everything we do is to make the community more knowledgeable and aware of everything going on,” Ghosh advised the Journal. “Education and outreach is a huge component, with a special focus on youngsters to make sure the next generation is properly trained.”
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The group has grown and expanded its actions over time. Since the mid-2000s, for instance, it’s been instrumental in lobbying for pro-renewable laws, such because the state’s ongoing solar and wind tax credit.
It at present has greater than 200 energetic members, with native chapters in most areas of the state.
The Solar Fiesta supplies an annual alternative to instantly work together with the area people, mentioned Rose Marie Kern, an NMSEA life time member and previous president who in earlier years organized and ran the occasion.
Kern wrote “The Solar Chef,” a ebook with greater than 400 southwestern recipes for solar cooking, which she teaches about by way of UNM Continuing Education and thru the Bernalillo County Agricultural Extension Service. At this yr’s Fiesta, she ran a sales space that displayed small and huge solar ovens with onsite cooking demonstrations that included every part from lasagna, muffins and brownies to corn bread and carne adovada.
“The organization has changed a lot over the years, but the central purpose remains the same — to teach people about all things solar,” Kern advised the Journal. “At the Fiesta, people can walk through all the exhibits and information booths to see solar being used in dozens of ways and get ideas about how they can use it in their own daily lives.”