Fall 2010

[News]

Students Win EPA Sustainability Award

A TEAM OF HUMBOLDT State University students from the Renewable Energy Student Union has won a $75,000 technology design award from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for a prototype smart-grid electrical system in Bhutan, a landlocked developing country between India and China.

The winning HSU students were awarded the maximum $75,000 at the National Sustainable Design Expo in Washington, D.C., sharing honors and more than $1 million in awards with Harvard, Clemson, Cornell, Drexel, Virginia Tech and Texas A & M.

HSU’s award will finance installation of a low-cost, micro-hydroelectric system in the village of Rukubji, Bhutan, over a period of two years. The project will evaluate the potential of GridShare technology at the village level.

The technology encourages electrical load shifting in two ways: it indicates the state of the grid to the user and prevents use of large appliances during brownouts. Overall, the objective is to spur villagers to ration use of high-powered electrical appliances such as rice cookers to help curb disruptive brownouts during peak hours of usage.

Based on a $10,000 phase-one prize it won last fall, the HSU team was able to send three students to Bhutan to lay the groundwork for the project and cement relationships with villagers.

The national competition, the sixth annual, is nicknamed the P3-Awards, for “People, Prosperity and the Planet.” It encourages college students to create sustainable answers to worldwide environmental problems through technological innovations.

This is not the first time Humbolhdt has garnered national attention in the P3 competition. In 2008, a seven-member team received an honorable mention after winning a $10,000 phase-one grant for a wind monitoring project to test Humboldt County’s large potential for energy-saving wind farms.