Solar energy

A group of Colorado School of Mines undergraduate students have spent nearly two years preparing for a competition to build a home that generates as much energy as it consumes, and their work is about to pay off in a “tiny” way.
 
Mines Tiny House, which formed in the fall of 2015 as a way for students to prepare for the 2019 Solar Decathlon, is nearing completion of construction on a 220-square-foot tiny house. 

Mines Tiny House
Mines students installed the windows on the tiny house on a Saturday in April.

 
“We thought of it like a pilot project,” said engineering physics sophomore Katie Schneider, Mines Tiny House co-planning chair. “For the decathlon, the house will be full-size, so building a tiny house first was a great way for us to learn what a big project like that will take, while also showing knowledge and experience for our application into the competition.”
 
The Solar Decathlon, which takes place every two years, challenges teams of students from universities around the country to build a “net-zero home.” For the competition, this is accomplished primarily by the use of solar energy, through solar panels, passive solar heating and other methods.
 
Colorado School of Mines has never competed in the international Solar Decathlon competition, and Schneider noted most teams that apply come from construction or architecture backgrounds, making Mines’ team unique with their engineering and science perspectives. 
 
“We will be one of the most unique teams applying,” said Schneider, who also noted that none of the team members have construction or civil engineering backgrounds, with most of them majoring in engineering physics. 
 
In addition to building the tiny house, the team also submitted a paper for the Race to Zero competition, which asks students to design a full-size, net-zero home, but not actually build it. The team will present their paper next weekend at the competition, which will be held at NREL.
 
“We could not compete in the Solar Decathlon without having done either of these projects,” Schneider said. “Both the tiny house and Race to Zero taught us a lot about time management, organization and preparation, which will be essential for our success moving forward as we submit our application to the Solar Decathlon in October and then hopefully build a full-size home over the next two years.”
 
And while a full-size house is the end-goal, the team is celebrating their smaller success for now. 
 
“We put the windows on last week, and are hoping to have it fully complete by the end of the summer,” Schneider said. Fundraising through the Gold Mine will be used to complete the interior. The team plans to keep the tiny house, which was built on a trailer bed, on the Mines campus as a research lab and for community outreach.
 
“I’m really excited about the opportunities for outreach with the tiny house once it’s completed,” said Schneider, who noted that several community groups, including Boy Scout troops and school groups, have already come out to see their progress. 
 
“Last fall we were invited to be a part of the Golden Solar Homes Tour,” Schneider said. “We were only able to show off our design plans then, but this year we are excited to show the completed house.”
 
They are also hoping to show off the house at the 2017 Solar Decathlon, which will be held in Denver this October. 
 
Their faculty advisor, Physics Professor Tim Ohno, praised the team, made up mainly of freshmen and sophomores, saying that they have overcome a “steep learning curve” and have “pushed their limits” in order to accomplish their goals. 
 
For more information, the team has put together a website on the tiny house at www.minestinyhouse.weebly.com.
 
Contact:
Megan Hanson, Communications Manager, Academic Affairs | 303-384-2358 | mhanson@mines.edu
Mark Ramirez, Managing Editor, Communications and Marketing | 303-273-3088 | ramirez@mines.edu
 
 

Ian Lange and Peter Maniloff

Division of Economics and Business professors Ian Lange and Peter Maniloff, in cooperation with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, were awarded a Sloan Foundation grant to host the Colorado Technology Primer for Economists and Social Scientists.

Two one-week sessions will be offered July 31-Aug. 4 and Aug. 14-18 on the Colorado School of Mines campus in Golden. Application materials are due April 25.

The goal of the summer primer is to provide advanced doctoral students and early-career academic professionals with an interdisciplinary (engineering and social science) understanding of electricity distribution systems and the interface of technology and policy. The summer sessions will help participants bridge the gap between economists’ and engineers’ perspectives as well as improve the quality and applicability of their academic research.

The two one-week sessions will essentially be identical, and applicants are asked to choose their preferred week to attend but should also give notice if they are available for either week. If selected, there will be no tuition fee. A small amount of travel and lodging reimbursement will also be available and the decisions on this award will be made concurrent with admission decisions.

The weeklong program will consist of seven lectures by staff members from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, faculty from Colorado School of Mines as well as industry professionals. Additionally, there will be a tour of NREL’s Energy Systems Integration Facility and National Wind Technology Center that will allow students to see the renewable energy systems and electrical equipment first-hand, supplementing the knowledge gained in the classroom.

The primer will have sessions on:

•          Principles of Power System Planning and Operations

•          Industrial Organization of Electricity Markets

•          Distribution System Principles and the Evolving Interface with the Bulk Power System

•          Determinants of Electricity Demand and their Impact on the Distribution System

•          Critical Issues for Distribution Systems Moving Forward

•          Understanding the Highs and Lows and Overall Challenges of Multidisciplinary Research

APPLICATION INSTRUCTIONS
Applicants must be a registered PhD student in economics or a related field and have completed the first two years of coursework, or an early-career academic professional (post-doctoral fellow or assistant professor) in an economics or related university department.

Please submit the following for consideration:

  1. One page cover letter describing research interests in electricity distribution, renewable energy systems or related topics. In an effort to balance class sizes, please include preferred dates, and whether you are available for either session.
  2. Curriculum Vitae

Additionally, PhD students must submit a letter from an advisor or, if an advisor hasn’t been selected yet, a faculty member. This letter should be less than one page and should endorse the application to the summer primer.

The program welcomes individuals with diverse backgrounds, experiences and ideas. Participants are expected to learn as much from fellow students as they will from the instructors, and diversity will enrich everyone involved.

Send all application materials electronically in a single PDF file to ilange@mines.edu by April 25. Decisions will be communicated to applicants by May 5. For questions about the program, contact Ian Lange, ilange@mines.edu.

CONTACT
Kelly Beard, Communication Specialist, Division of Economics and Business, Colorado School of Mines | 303-273-3452 | kbeard@mines.edu
Agata Bogucka, Communications Manager, College of Earth Resource Sciences and Engineering | 303-384-2657 | abogucka@mines.edu

Do you want to help make building the most fuel-efficient vehicle possible? Support the Mines Triathlon Team? With the launch of the spring semester Gold Mine crowdfunding projects there are eight Mines student causes to get behind, no matter where your interests lie.

Colorado School of Mines’ official crowdfunding platform is only in its second semester of operation, but has raised over $32,000 with 16 different teams taking advantage of this new fundraising opportunity so far.

Students and faculty members alike have been planning and working for months to get their ideas off the ground. Spring projects:

- Helping the newly-established Filmmakers at Mines Club purchase essential video and audio equipment to serve as a resource for campus.
- Designing and building an ultra-efficient, battery-powered vehicle to compete in the Shell-Eco Marathon in Detroit, MI.
- Covering registration costs to allow up to 40 students attend the Society of Petroleum Engineers Annual Technical Conference in San Antonio, TX.
- Building a footbridge for a remote community in Nicaragua to provide residents access to essential resources. Students will be working through the Mines Without Borders program.
- Furnishing the inside of the Mines Tiny House project to complete the build and prepare the team to compete in the 2019 Solar Decathlon.
- Subsidizing race fees for the athletes of the Mines Club Triathlon Team to allow them to compete in prominent races in the Rocky Mountain Collegiate Triathlon Conference.

 

- Hosting the National Concrete Canoe Competition for the American Society of Civil Engineers on the Mines campus.
- Building an off-road vehicle for the Society of Automotive Engineers Baja Competition.

The majority of projects just launched within the last week. However, two teams are nearing the completion of their campaigns and are looking for a last-minute push through the finish line.

As the exclusive crowdfunding platform for Colorado School of Mines, project creators see many benefits over other crowdfunding platforms such as Kickstarter or GoFundMe. For one, all teams keep 100 percent of what they raise with no fees. Typical crowdfunding sites take anywhere from 6 to 8 percent of the total amount raised.

Additionally, all teams are provided with a dedicated success coach to offer training in best practices and marketing. With this assistance and the backing of the Mines brand, teams hit the ground running with strategies and a community to help them accomplish their goals.

To learn more about crowdfunding at Mines, support the currently active projects, or submit a project of your own, please visit giving.mines.edu/goldmine.

 

Contact: Brandon Farestad-Rittel bfarestadrittel@mines.edu or Rachelle Trujillo rtrujillo@mines.edu

Six Mines graduate students are competing in The Economist's Which MBA case competition, sponsored by NRG Energy, the leading integrated power company in the United States. NRG invited teams from universities across the world to submit a proposal to solve an energy issue, challenging them to create a financial model that enables the development of an energy system.

Team GreatMines is comprised of Micah Gowen, Sadie Fulton and Liam O'Callaghan; Team Westpaw is comprised of Walter Meeker, Phillip Ruban and August Steinbeck, all of whom study Mineral and Energy Economics in the Division of Economics and Business at Colorado School of Mines.

Entries were submitted online via video presentation and a written proposal. NRG will select the best three proposals—first place receives $10,000, second place $5,000, and third place $3,000. In addition, there is a People's Choice Award which is open to the public for voting. The team with the most votes will receive $3,000. You can vote for both Mines teams by visiting economist.com/cleanenergy and selecting Mines under “Participants.”

Learn more about the competition and vote for Mines.

About Mineral and Energy Economics at Mines
Founded in 1969, this world-renowned program in the Division of Economics Business leads to MS and PhD degrees in Mineral and Energy Economics. This program attracts students from all over the world, and Mines MEE alumni are known globally for their career achievements and qualifications. Students gain the skills necessary for understanding the complex interactions of markets and policy that influence the energy, mineral and environmental industries. The program focuses on applied quantitative tools and models that form a foundation for sound business and public policy. Learn more about Mines’ Mineral and Energy Economics program.

PHOTO: Mineral and Energy Economics students Sadie Fulton, Liam O'Callaghan and Micah Gowen (Team GreatMines) and August Steinbeck, Phillip Ruban and Walter Meeker (Team Westpaw) are competing in The Economist Which MBA energy case competition.

CONTACT
Kelly Beard, Communication Specialist, Division of Economics and Business, Colorado School of Mines | 303-273-3452 | kbeard@mines.edu
Agata Bogucka, Communications Manager, College of Earth Resource Sciences and Engineering | 303-384-2657 | abogucka@mines.edu

Martin Kohn, Dov Quint, August Steinbeck, Muhammad Abdullah Khawar, Phillip Ruban

Mineral and Energy Economics students Martin Kohn, Dov Quint, August Steinbeck, Muhammad Abdullah Khawar and Phillip Ruban placed third the Columbia University Energy Symposium case competition in New York City.

Five Mines graduate students placed third, winning $500 at the Columbia University Energy Symposium case competition in New York City on Feb. 2. Muhammad Abdullah Khawar, Martin Kohn, Dov Quint, Phillip Ruban and August Steinbeck study Mineral and Energy Economics in the Division of Economics and Business at Colorado School of Mines.

This competition allowed teams to present creative and innovative solutions for critical challenges facing the energy and environment sectors. Students also had the opportunity to interact with professionals, professors and students in the energy sector.

Learn more about the Columbia University Energy Symposium.

About Mineral and Energy Economics at Mines
Founded in 1969, this world-renowned program in the Division of Economics Business leads to MS and PhD degrees in Mineral and Energy Economics. This program attracts students from all over the world, and Mines MEE alumni are known globally for their career achievements and qualifications. Students gain the skills necessary for understanding the complex interactions of markets and policy that influence the energy, mineral and environmental industries. The program focuses on applied quantitative tools and models that form a foundation for sound business and public policy. Learn more about Mines’ Mineral and Energy Economics MS and PhD programs.

CONTACT
Kelly Beard, Communication Specialist, Division of Economics and Business | 303-273-3452 | kbeard@mines.edu
Agata Bogucka, Communications Manager, College of Earth Resource Sciences & Engineering | 303-384-2657 | abogucka@mines.edu


[Updated Nov. 2, 2016]

Mineral and Energy Economics MS students Bansidhar Bandi, James Crompton, Martin Kohn, Ashwin Ravichandran and David Rodziewicz finished in the top four at the “Energy in Emerging Markets Case Competition,” Nov. 1 at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business as part of the university’s “Energy Week.”

They beat several Ivy League schools to make it to the final round where they competed against Johns Hopkins (first place), Washington University at St. Louis (second place), and Carnegie Mellon (third place).

The goal of the one-day competition is to connect students, academia and industry stakeholders and come up with creative solutions to address real energy challenges affecting the developing world. By encouraging this spirit of innovation, the competition identifies emerging future leaders of the energy industry. The 2016 challenge examined the changes taking place in Cuba’s energy landscape. Teams presented their solutions to a panel of industry leaders and competed for $10,000 in prizes.

Approximately 30 submissions from schools worldwide were received. Of these 30 institutions, 12 were selected for the final round. The Mines MEE students were among an elite group – other schools competing in the finals included Columbia, Duke, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, Cornell, UNC Chapel Hill - Kenan-Flagler Business School, University of Maryland, University of Pittsburgh - Joseph M. Katz Graduate School of Business, and Yale.

The students weren't the only ones representing Colorado School of Mines at Duke Energy Week. Mines alum Mauricio Gutierrez, '99 MS Mineral Economics and Chief Executive Officer at NRG in Princeton, NJ was one of the keynote speakers at the Duke University Energy Conference. 

Learn more about the competition and participants by visiting EnergyWeekatDuke.org.

About Mineral and Energy Economics at Mines
Founded in 1969, this world-renowned program in the Division of Economics Business leads to MS and PhD degrees in Mineral and Energy Economics. This program attracts students from all over the world, and Mines MEE alumni are known globally for their career achievements and qualifications. Students gain the skills necessary for understanding the complex interactions of markets and policy that influence the energy, mineral and environmental industries. The program focuses on applied quantitative tools and models that form a foundation for sound business and public policy. Learn more about Mines’ Mineral and Energy Economics MS and PhD programs.

Photo: Mineral and Energy Economics MS students James Crompton, Ashwin Ravichandran, Bansidhar Bandi, David Rodziewicz and Martin Kohn finished in the top four at the “Energy in Emerging Markets Case Competition,” Nov. 1 at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business as part of the university’s “Energy Week.”

CONTACT
Kelly Beard, Communication Specialist, Division of Economics and Business, Colorado School of Mines | 303-273-3452 | kbeard@mines.edu
Agata Bogucka, Communications Manager, College of Earth Resource Sciences and Engineering | 303-384-2657 | abogucka@mines.edu

 
Over two decades after his show aired on PBS and took the ‘90s by storm, “Bill Nye the Science Guy” is still a hit among science enthusiasts, especially with the millennials who grew up watching him. On Oct. 5, Nye visited the Colorado School of Mines to speak to a sold-out crowd of students, alumni, faculty, and staff in Lockridge Arena. 
Bill Nye speaks to sold out crowd at Mines' 2016 President's Distinguished Lecture.
Bill Nye speaks to sold out crowd at Mines' 2016 President's Distinguished Lecture. Photo Credit: Agata Bogucka
“It was a childhood dream come true,” said sophomore Victoria Martinez-Vivot. Martinez-Vivot got the opportunity to meet Bill Nye prior to the talk, due to her role as MAC Co-Publicity Chair. 
Mines' President Paul Johnson, Bill Nye and Blaster the Burro in their matching bow-ties, all part of the Bill Nye official bow-tie collection.
Mines' President Paul Johnson, Bill Nye and Blaster the Burro in their matching bow-ties, all part of the Bill Nye official bow-tie collection. Photo Credit: Thomas Cooper

Nye’s talk— part of the President’s Distinguished Lecture series and kickoff to the 2016 Homecoming festivities— focused on the biggest problems facing our planet and what society, especially young people, can do to make the world a better place.

His catch phrase for the night was: “I want you guys to — dare I say it — change the world.”

Climate change sparked the conversation, but was only one element of Nye’s advocacy for “renewable and reliable energy for all”. In addition to encouraging the crowd to recognize renewable resources as the future of energy, he also dared Mines students to design the better battery and invent hydro-fusion engines for airplanes.

Fueled by his views on climate and the need to recognize the reality of our rapidly changing planet, Nye challenged the crowd of young engineers to solve the world's top three engineering grand challenges: providing clean water, renewable reliable energy and Internet access for all. He also expressed his support for space exploration.
 
“Space exploration brings out the best in us," said Nye. "There are two questions we all ask: Where did we come from? And are we alone in the universe?” Nye asserted that our desire to explore space illustrates the innate yearning within humankind to understand our origins, despite problems planet Earth may be faced with.
 
After a humorous introduction highlighting his father’s fascination with sundials and Nye’s own “MarsDials”, Nye quipped about how times have changed and reflected on his own scientific youth, including the moment he learned that there are in fact, “100 times more stars in the universe than there are grains of sand on the Earth.” One of the most memorable moments of the night was Nye’s birthday call to Neil deGrasse Tyson — last year’s Distinguished Lecturer — where he invited the audience to join him in wishing Tyson a “happy orbit around the sun.” The Mines crowd could not have roared any louder.
 
One Mines student gave a heartfelt thank you to Bill Nye during the Q&A at the end of the lecture — “I just want to say that your plate tectonics episode is probably the reason I’m here studying geology right now, so thank you.” 
 
Nye is currently the CEO of The Planetary Society, continuing his legacy of teaching people of all ages the joys and wonders of science. He spent Earth Day 2015 speaking with President Barack Obama about climate change and science education. He also had a short debut on ABC’s “Dancing with the Stars” but had to drop out after sustaining an injury.
 
 
Contact:
Agata Bogucka, Communications Manager, College of Earth Resource Sciences & Engineering | 303-384-2657 | abogucka@mines.edu
Leah Pinkus, Communications Assistant, Colorado School of Mines 303-273-3088 lpinkus@mines.edu
 
 

Chemical and Biological Engineering Associate Professor Sumit Agarwal has been awarded $615,000 over four years by the U.S. Department of Energy SunShot Initiative to develop a scalable and more cost-effective method of manufacturing ultra-high-efficiency solar cells.

CBE Associate Professor Sumit Agarwal and postdoc Noemi LeickMost silicon-based solar cells in the market today have 16 to 18 percent efficiency, said Agarwal, while the maximum efficiency achieved in the lab is over 25 percent. “Our objective is to make it easier and cheaper to bridge this gap between the lab and industrial-scale devices,” he said.

Agarwal and his team, which includes postdoctoral researcher Noemi Leick and members of Silicon Photovoltaics project group at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory led by Paul Stradins, aim to fabricate solar cells with around 23 percent efficiency using their new method. The research will be performed both at Mines and NREL and will take advantage of NREL’s state-of-the-art deposition and new silicon device cleanroom facilities.

Mono-crystalline silicon (c-Si) solar cells provide the most promising pathway to electricity generation at costs that are comparable to conventional energy sources. Solar cells work by absorbing light and releasing separate positive and negative charges to create a current, and using c-Si minimizes the loss of energy from the recombination of these charges.

The efficiency of these cells is further improved by collecting both charges on the back side of the cell, as opposed to the traditional front-grid architecture, where metal contacts cover up some of the cell and prevent some light from being absorbed.
 


Diagram of solar cell with interdigitated back contacts.

Solar cells that use this design, however, only account for a small fraction of solar cells currently being manufactured, as they require the use of interdigitated back contacts, where the contact materials are arranged similarly to interlocked fingers. This requires a complex, repeated process where layers of material are added and sections of it are then removed.

Agarwal proposes to bypass these steps, using light and chemical vapor deposition to put down the material for the back contacts in the desired pattern. “Only the lit areas will get material growth,” Agarwal said. He believes this is a technique that can be translated into large-scale manufacturing.

In addition to the SunShot Initiative funding, the project will also receive a 10 percent match from Mines.

 

The grant is part of $107 million in new projects and planned funding announced by the Energy Department Sept. 14 to support clean energy innovation through solar technology. Under the SunShot Initiative, the department will fund 40 projects with a total of $42 million to improve PV performance, reliability, and manufacturability, and to enable greater market penetration for solar technologies.

In addition to the new projects, the department intends to make up to $65 million, subject to appropriation, in additional funding available for upcoming solar research and development projects to continue driving down the cost of solar energy and accelerating widespread national deployment. One of SunShot's goals is to drive down the levelized cost of utility-scale solar electricity to $0.06 per kilowatt-hour without incentives by 2020.

Contact:
Mark Ramirez, Communications Manager, College of Applied Science & Engineering | 303-384-2622 | ramirez@mines.edu
Ashley Spurgeon, Editorial Assistant, Mines magazine | 303-273-3959 | aspurgeon@mines.edu

In a state with an energy economy as purple as its politics, it can be hard to decide where to stand.

The Payne Institute for Earth Resources at Colorado School of Mines teamed up with Inside Energy to host Spark! Unpacking the Politics of Energy in Colorado on Sept. 8 at Mines' Ben H. Parker Student Center.

The Payne Institute and Inside Energy explored everything Colorado’s energy portfolio stands to lose, gain or change in the 2016 election. Journalists from Inside Energy pressed a panel of experts on critical energy issues to help the public make their own decisions in November.

The panel included Ian Lange, PhD, Mineral and Energy Economics Program Director, Division of Economics and Business, Colorado School of Mines; Tracee Bentley, Executive Director, Colorado Petroleum Council; Meghan Nutting, Vice President of Policy and Government Affairs, Sunnova; and Lee Boughey, Senior Manager, Communications and Public Affairs, Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association.

“This panel coversed a wide variety of the Colorado energy landscape,” says Dr. Lange. “It was exciting to hear the views of my fellow panelists and share my thoughts on how Colorado could be impacted by the policies on the ballot this fall.”

Read a recap and view photos from the event.

Visit EarthPolicy.Mines.edu for more information.

About the Payne Institute at Colorado School of Mines
The mission of the Payne Institute for Earth Resources at Colorado School of Mines is to inform and shape sound public policy related to earth resources, energy and the environment. Its goal is to educate current and future leaders on the market, policy and technological challenges presented by energy, environmental and resource management issues, and provide a forum for national and global policy debate. For more information, visit EarthPolicy.Mines.edu.

About Inside Energy
Inside Energy is a collaborative journalism initiative among public media with roots in Colorado, Wyoming and North Dakota. It is funded by a grant from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Its mission, in collaboration with its partner stations, is to create a more informed public on energy issues. Inside Energy seeks to make energy issues a household topic and to inspire community conversations on the topic of energy. Learn more at InsideEnergy.org.

Contact:
Kelly Beard, Communication Specialist, Division of Economics and Business, Colorado School of Mines | 303-273-3452 | kbeard@mines.edu
Kathleen Morton, Digital Media and Communications Manager, Colorado School of Mines | 303-273-3088 | kmorton@mines.edu

Two solar panels have been installed at the Geology Museum, providing power to the Critical Materials Institute exhibit inside and proving the importance of the materials that the exhibit highlights.

“The solar panels demonstrate how critical materials such as telluride are important to new advanced energy technologies," said Cynthia Howell, research faculty and energy education specialist for CMI and the Colorado Energy Research Institute.

The setup passed its official state inspection on Friday, July 29, and now powers a video demonstrating the importance of certain mined elements, as well as a phosphor viewing box.

The idea for the critical materials exhibit arose about a year and a half ago in discussions between Howell and museum Director Bruce Geller. Mandi Hutchinson, then a master's student in geology and now research faculty, led the assembly of the exhibit, which opened in February 2015 with the solar panels still waiting in the wings.

Troy Wanek, a solar energy expert and a member of the energy technology faculty at Red Rocks Community College, was recruited to install the panels. He also provided a behind-the-scenes presentation alongside fellow RRCC faculty member Tim Kjensrud, turning the project into an educational partnership.

Capital Planning and Construction and Facilities Management inspected the solar panel installation on July 22.

The Critical Materials Institute at Mines is a Department of Energy Research Innovation Hub. Its focus is developing technologies that assure the supply of materials critical to advanced energy technologies such as solar cells and wind turbines. Rare-earth elements have essential roles in high-efficiency motors and advanced lighting, but such metals and alloys are not manufactured in the United States, making innovations in the supply chain vital.

Contact:
Mark Ramirez, Communications Manager, College of Applied Science & Engineering | 303-383-2622 | ramirez@mines.edu
Kathleen Morton, Digital Media and Communications Manager, Colorado School of Mines | 303-273-3088 | kmorton@mines.edu

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