Club joins renewable energy discussion

Students look into making solar-powered bus tracking system


NICK SANDIFER | The Daily Evergreen

SYDNEY BROWN, Evergreen reporter

The Renewable Energy Organization will focus their efforts on placing a solar panel energy grid at the Campus and Thatuna bus stop this winter.

President Jacob Halela, a senior majoring in mechanical engineering, said that this will be the club’s first official project. Their ultimate plan is to implement a system that uses an interactive display to turn solar energy into something accessible for anyone at the bus stop.

“We’re still determining what exactly the energy will be used for,” Halela said, “but our main goal is to show people that renewable energy is so easy to apply to daily life.”

They will most likely use the panel to charge phones at the station, Halela said. The club has also been considering a bus tracking system using solar-powered LED lights. This will require collaboration with multiple researchers on campus as well as with the transit system at WSU.

“We want to make sure that we deliver on whatever we’re promising people,” Halela said.

Vice President Kayla Loy said the success of the solar array system will directly affect the credibility of the renewable energy debate. If the energy is sufficient and cost-effective, more people will be able to understand the full scope of what renewable energy can offer.

Loy is majoring in mechanical engineering and said she was moved on her ten-day trip to Iceland, where she was given the opportunity to tour multiple power plants. Loy also witnessed the significant recession of many glaciers in Iceland, which is a direct result of global warming.

“Seeing a real-life example of what we’ve learned about global warming was a direct influence on why we wanted to start this organization,” Loy said.

Upon her return, Loy and Halela also felt negatively affected by President Donald Trump’s defunding of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

According to The New York Times, Trump cut the EPA’s federal funding by 31 percent in March. This affected many government-run programs for the restoration of the Great Lakes and the cleaning of contaminated industrial sites.

“Even if we can’t make that much of a difference in the environment, it’s important that we are at least doing something,” Halela said. “If the government won’t be proactive, it’s up to smaller groups like ours.”

Although the organization is small, all members are adamant in their goal to develop the solar panel, Halela said. All members have backgrounds in engineering and are well-versed in the mechanics of developing a solar panel.

Club member Travis Filleau, a senior in electrical engineering, explained the chemistry and progression of a solar panel system. Renewable energy is not just about reducing a carbon footprint — it also requires finding the most efficient and logical way of achieving this.

“There is a lot of planning involved in building something like this,” Filleau said. “We have to look at … designing batteries and how to protect the power emitted by these power grids.”

Though this process is seemingly complicated, there are PDFs available online that give step-by-step procedures on the building of a solar panel, Halela said. For anyone with a computer and the know-how, developing a solar panel is not an unreachable goal.

“The biggest problem with renewable energy is that many people aren’t educated on it,” Loy said. “We’ve noticed that once you understand the benefits, it’s hard to flat-out deny them.”

The Renewable Energy Organization meets at 7 p.m. every Thursday in Sloan Hall, Room 167, or as directed on their Facebook page.