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Feasibility Study Presented to Lowell Tech Board

Student Service-Learning Project Leads to Grant Proposal

Tanya Martinez and Jorge Barrientos

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Two students in the graduate Energy Engineering Program are putting their knowledge to work at the Greater Lowell Technical High Schoolߞ;and helping the school make use of state funds to install an educational renewable energy system.

Tanya Martinez and Jorge Barrientos developed a formal study and site analysis to propose a solar photovoltaic system as an alternative energy source for the school. They made a presentation to the March meeting of the school committee that broadcast on local cable; based on the students’ proposal, the committee voted to apply to the Renewable Energy Trust Fund administered by the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative. The proposal will fall under the Large Onsite Renewable Initiative of the fund.

Greater Lowell Tech has a renewable energy committee that is spearheading the initiative for alternative energy. Still, convincing the administration was “our biggest challenge,” says Martinez. “Although the available grant makes the financial situation more attractive, the school must come up with the upfront costs for the system and it is a substantial investment for any school.”

Martinez and Barrientos think the most important aspect of the project is the educational opportunity for the school. Says Barrientos, “The students can interact with the system, tracking temperature, solar irradiance, energy generated and an estimate of the carbon dioxide load reduction.”

Based on their analysis, the students recommended installation locations for photovoltaic (PV) panels: a pitched roof location that faces south and a building-integrated PV system that acts as shades above the windows. They also suggested incorporating light shelvesߞ;indoor shelves below high windows that reflect light to the ceiling and reduce glare.

The students both graduate in December. Martinez hopes to gain green building experience, then apply that knowledge with the Mi’k Maq Nation in New Brunswick. Barrientos is looking for company experience before returning to Peru.

John Duffy, professor of mechanical engineering, directs the Energy Engineering Program and leads the Service-Learning grant project in the College of Engineering. David Turcotte, program manager in the Center for Family, Work and Community, helped set up the research project in the school.