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Renewable Energy Projects at Merrimack College

March 14, 2013
A class project has brought green power’s benefits to the Mendel Science, Engineering and Technology Center and given electrical engineering students hand-on experience.

            As part of their Disruptive Technologies course, Matt Polak ’13 and Nick Walsh ’13 installed a photovoltaic  (PV) generation plant on Mendel’s roof.  The solar panels will provide about 850 watts, about one-quarter the size of a typical installation to power a home. The battery bank will power a ham radio station, a weather station and a roof-mounted web camera.

            “Since this is a relatively small system, it is meant as an instructional facility,” said Jack Adams, associate professor in the electrical engineering department. “Already, students have gained hands-on experience in placing, orienting and mounting the system.  Eventually this will power a number of devices, demonstrating multiple uses of green power.”

            The students learned that “planning is everything,” said Polak. They did not know Mendel’s roof was still under warranty, meaning they could not run a conduit from the roof to the second floor themselves. Roofing company workers had to come and make the incision, thus delaying their installation.

            “This hands-on experience with the PV panels gave me an up-close and in-depth experience with how PV systems work,” Polak said. “Our system was a small-scale DC system that is really best suited only for education purposes, but hopefully it will be there for a long time to come and many other students will have the opportunity to go up and see it to enhance their learning.”

            With this experience and a summer working as a test engineer at Maxim Integrated, Polak is aiming for a job in defense or renewable energy.


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