Carleton team places 2nd at 2011 Environmental Challenge International

Post date: Jul 21, 2011 1:29:23 PM

A team of four Carleton Environmental Engineering students composed of Michelle Roberge, Michelle Chiasson, Nicole MacDonald and Erqin Zeng won second place at the 2011 Environmental Challenge International, held during the annual Air & Waste Management Association Conference June 21-24 in Orlando Florida. The team made up of a combination of undergraduate and graduate students in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, had to conceive a plan to increase the percentage of renewable energy use in the U.S. from 8% to 25% by the year 2025. This problem required research into different types of renewable energies and resources and an examination of possible policies which would be needed in order to implement the proposed solution. For the competition the team had to create a proposal, poster and presentation – all of which contributed to their second place finish.

This year's challenge was to develop a renewable energy portfolio for the the United States - the goal being that 25% of all energy generated in the U.S. come from renewable sources by 2025.

To solve this problem our team researched current renewable technologies and looked at current renewable markets and trends. We developed a matrix to evaluate viable technologies based on important factors. The renewables included were: solar (photovoltaic and concentrated solar power), hydroelectric, wind (onshore and offshore), geothermal, biomass and biofuel. Some of the factors used were cost, environmental impacts, social impacts and generating capacity.

The results of the matrix led us to increase the contributions of solar, wind and geothermal power to the renewable portfolio in 2025. Upon arriving at the conference, we were given a "tweak," which informed us that large reserves of natural gas had been found and could be included. We decided to minimize use of natural gas due to its large environmental impacts, but realized that consistent resources such as this may need to used to supplement intermittent sources like solar and wind and to allow for transition to renewable technologies. We also created a map to site potential resources across the United States.

Another major portion of the project was to discuss policies that should be implemented for the solution to move forward. These included National Renewable Portfolio Standards, streamlining of environmental permitting, Investment Tax Credits, alternate transportation incentives and more.