April 29, 2006

LEWISBURG, Pa. — Sunny days on campus next year will mean more than Frisbee games and sunbathing on the quad. They will also mean that electricity is being generated by solar panels installed as part of the Solar Scholars program.

Bucknell is one of six Pennsylvania schools selected for a pilot program by the Sustainable Energy Fund (SEF) of Central-Eastern Pennsylvania. The program, the only one of its kind in the nation, offers undergraduate and graduate students an opportunity for hands-on study, training, and research in the application of photovoltaic (PV) solar technology, as part of an overall academic curriculum in renewable and sustainable energy.

The Bucknell University Environmental Center in conjunction with the student Environmental Club spearheaded the effort to bring the grant to Bucknell. A total of $25,000 was generated from both the SEF grant and matching funds from Bucknell.

Peter Wilshusen, co-director of the Environmental Center said, "without the tremendous interest of the students, the grant wouldn't have happened." According to Wilshusen, the students, led by sophomore Jessica Scott, were instrumental in obtaining the matching funds required by the grant.

With this money, one of the modular dorms in Bucknell West will be outfitted with solar panels. New lighting and a special energy efficient refrigerator will be installed to help make the dorm as energy efficient as possible. Four students recruited to live in the dorm will be responsible for transmitting real time data on energy generation and usage which will be streamed live to the Bucknell website as well as to SEF.

The Solar Scholars program provides each school with an internet-based curriculum on solar power and other clean energy methods. The program also financially supports the attendance for two students at an intensive training and certification workshop on applied photovoltaics. The students are responsible for designing, building, operating and maintaining the solar power system.

The Solar Scholars mission is to create innovative applications of solar technology. The first round of six schools selected to pilot the program includes Bucknell, Clarion University, Mercyhurst College, Messiah College, Pennsylvania State University, and Villanova University. The goal of SEF is to have a solar installation on each of the Commonwealth's 152 campuses by 2008.

"We're in the midst of a global energy crisis and will all be faced with some very important and perhaps difficult decisions about our energy choices," says Dr. Rex A. D'Agostino, president and executive director of the SEF. "It's important that those decisions are informed by science, and are business- and technology-based."

Scott believes that college students are the best group to target to make an impact on future policy. "We're the people who are going to be propagating this when we leave college. We're going to take that knowledge with us. If you can get colleges involved, that's the next step for getting alternative energy used more often and have people realize that it's a good thing to do."

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Story posted April 28, 2006

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