Monday, August 24, 2009

Brammo Electrifies Motorcycles

Much of the discussion on Energication is serious. Curriculum, students, projects, grants, how to apply the concepts of renewable energy. Sometimes, it just makes sense to have a little fun.

This is one of those times.

Brammo, Inc. is based in Ashland. Yes, Ashland, Oregon. In May, they announced their first product, the Enertia electric motorcycle. Excuse me, "powercycle." You can see from the video above, this is not "your grandpa's motorcycle." With a top speed posted at "55+" and an average range of about 50 miles, this is an amazing piece of technology - right here in Oregon.

Why share this? One of the strong beliefs I developed during my eight years as a school board member was the importance of relevance in our curriculum. If students can't relate to the topic, how can they be motivated to achieve their full potential? Sure, educating our students is serious business. But making sure we help them relate that education to a wide variety of options on how to apply it is equally important.

I would venture a guess that many high school students can relate to a motorcycle.

Whether a student picks up on the environmental benefits of an electric motorcycle, sees the potential in higher capacity/lower weight battery packs, or just thinks it's cool, this is simply one example in what I hope to be many more in the future to help... well... er... ah... "spark" interest in renewable energy and its applications.


Monday, August 10, 2009

Curriculum: Energy Conservation

In any discussion about renewable energy, there also needs to be a reminder that we must be efficient with all forms of energy. Energy conservation should be a strong component of any renewable energy curriculum. After all, why generate it if we are going to waste it?

Just as there are many sources of curriculum on the basics of renewable energy, there are virtually equal numbers related to conservation. The Alliance to Save Energy is one such source. First, some background. Here's a clip from their "About Us" page on their web site:

"Founded in 1977, the Alliance to Save Energy is a non-profit coalition of business, government, environmental and consumer leaders. The Alliance to Save Energy supports energy efficiency as a cost-effective energy resource under existing market conditions and advocates energy-efficiency policies that minimize costs to society and individual consumers, and that lessen greenhouse gas emissions and their impact on the global climate. To carry out its mission, the Alliance to Save Energy undertakes research, educational programs, and policy advocacy, designs and implements energy-efficiency projects, promotes technology development and deployment, and builds public-private partnerships, in the U.S. and other countries."

The real reason for sharing a glimpse into the Alliance to Save Energy is the small, but real-world selection of curriculum on energy and its conservation; a selection that is free of charge. But it's better than that - these materials have been developed (and used!) by teachers in a variety of settings and with a variety of age groups.
Making energy conservation an integral part of a renewable energy strategy in our schools makes perfect sense. It provides a full understanding of the value of energy, making renewable energy that much more important in the minds of our students. When something is important to them, don't they take the subject matter more seriously?

What have you found for curriculum resources? Have your created your own that you are ready to share? What other information would be valuable to you?


Saturday, August 8, 2009

Renewable Energy In the News - Oregon and Oregon State

You may have noticed the "News Widget" in the right side panel. This is a Google tool that provides a quick look at news stories that pertain to the key topics identified in the header. Click on a topic and you see current news stories about that area of renewable energy. This would be a good opportunity to ask visitors to suggest other keywords that interest you - they are easy to add and I'm happy to tailor it to your interests. Just add a comment to this post with your suggestions.

While the widget serves up general news stories, the "In the News" blog post category initiated today will provide a more filtered and education-focused perspective on various "Energication-worthy" topics.

To kick things off, it would be appropriate to start with a topic related to education directly. Let's look at the support that is growing for research and advanced study in higher education. In March, the Oregon Built Environment and Sustainable Technologies Center, or Oregon BEST, announced that the University of Oregon and Oregon State University would receive a total of $1.34 million for solar energy research. Officials hope the investment builds Oregon’s reputation as a solar manufacturing center and helps create jobs and attract companies.

Oregon BEST is a public agency that increases research and opportunities in renewable energy and green building by creating partnerships with private-sector partners.

The University of Oregon will receive $768,000 of the money, including $350,000 from Oregon BEST and $418,000 from the Oregon University System. The cash will establish the Photovoltaics Laboratory of the Oregon Support Network for Research and Innovation in Solar Energy, or Oregon SuNRISE.

Oregon State will receive $572,000, including $232,000 from Oregon BEST, $290,000 from the school’s College of Engineering and $50,000 from the school’s research office. The money will be used to establish the Oregon Process Innovation Center for Sustainable Solar Cell Manufacturing. Researchers in the center will study solar manufacturing technology.

“Solar energy companies considering locating here in Oregon need access to highly specialized research equipment, knowledgeable research experts and a workforce skilled and educated about solar energy,” said David Kenney, president and executive director of Oregon BEST. “Oregon has all of this and more distributed among our research universities, and Oregon BEST is proud to be helping build this multi-institutional research network that ultimately benefits people all over the state.”

Developing a full K-12 curriculum related to renewable energy fits hand in glove with the momentum building in the university system. Understanding that not every high school student will go on to college, preparing our students with a renewable energy background is a win-win. If college bound, they will have an advantage over other students when entering programs similar to the ones being formed at Oregon and Oregon State. If they are more inclined to enter the workforce directly, they will have had a very relevant, rewarding, and enriching experience.

The vision is to not only provide specific educational opportunities in renewable energy, but to integrate the principles in the science, technology, environmental, social and civics curriculum. You can see how this all begins to tie together.

What other areas have you found that tie the work we are beginning with the ultimate vision? How do you plan to apply these concepts in the future? What part will you play personally?


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