On Saturday AM, I am embarking on a 2000-km bike trip across the Upper Midwest to increase awareness of solar energy and to raise funds for a distributed solar system at a shelter for abused children in Mayaguez, Puerto Rico (Hogar Albergue para Niños Jesús de Nazaret). That solar project is being designed, managed, and implemented by the UW-Madison chapter of Engineers without Borders (EWB). The trip, known as #BikeTheSun, will take me to over 50 utility-scale solar energy sites across Wisconsin, Illinois, Iowa, and Minnesota. Riding an electric bike prototype with 1000 W h of e-assist, I will be biking 160+ km per day. Why in the world would I do such a crazy trip such as this? Well, here are the Top Ten reasons:
10. The Wisconsin Idea
- This project embodies the Wisconsin Idea – that education should influence people’s lives beyond the classroom, fostering close working relationships not only across Wisconsin but also throughout the country and around the world
- The mission statement of my home department (UW EPD) is to improve the practice of engineering and related professions for the benefit of society
9. No better way to burn 8,000 calories per day
- I will be putting in an average of 250 W of torque to the bike plus about 750 W in body heat output for a total of 1000 W (i.e., 860 calories per hour) over about 7 hours of biking each day
- Even by eating as much as I can each day (probably about 5,000 to 6,000 calories per day food consumption), I will still lose about 5 pounds per week during the trip!
8. Puerto Rico’s Energy System is still recovering from September’s Hurricane Maria
- Even though Puerto Rico has excellent solar resources, the island produces over 95% of its electrical energy in the form of imports of natural gas, coal, and oil — which are not only expensive, but environmentally unsustainable
- With the installation and promotion of much, much more renewable sources such as solar energy, Puerto Rican institutions would not only substantially reduce their monthly energy bill, but would move towards a more reliable, resilient, and domestic form of energy
7. Because e-Bikes are super cool
- My e-touring prototype bike has 1,000 W h of battery capacity across two two batteries, which is only $0.14 worth of electricity each day!
- Even though the bike with a Bosch e-power train and the two batteries weighs in at 55 pounds (!), I will go further each day (about 105 mi per day this year compared to 80 mi per day last year) and faster (15.5 miles per hour compared to 12.5 miles per hour)
6. Contribute to UW EPD’s annual short course on Fundamentals of Solar Power Plant Design
- Collect photos and insights into Civil and Geotechnical/Foundation Balance-of-Plant design
- Particularly, I am seeking input for my session on site civil design and geotechnical aspects of solar power plant design and construction
5. Raise awareness of Solar Energy options in the Upper Midwest
- Solar is an energy solution that provides clean, domestic, reliable, timely, and renewable energy to regions across the United States — a country with world-class solar resources
- Last year, my #BikeTheWind campaign was exceptionally well received with over 27,000 impressions across our various social media platforms in addition to garnering 30+ local, national, and international publication articles and TV station interviews along the route — this year, our goal is 50,000+ impressions!
4. Gain insights into the various Foundation Options used at Solar Power Plants
- Helical piers, driven piles, ground screws, ballasted systems — the correct foundation system design goes a long way in an economical balance-of-plant design and installation
- I am working with industry to better research and understand the mechanics and principles of foundation system design for solar systems
3. Not just talking Sustainability, doing something
- With this information, I can better steer the discussion within UW EPD’s Sustainable Systems Engineering online master’s degree
- This online degree focuses on preparing professionals to understand and apply the policy, science, engineering and economics of tomorrow’s clean energy systems and sources.
2. Mentoring UW-Madison Engineers without Borders‘ students to foster “Learning by Doing”
- 35 students are involved with EWB’s project to design, manage, and install a 35-kW distributed solar system (with battery backup) at the Hogar Albergue para Niños Jesús de Nazaret — a non-profit center for physically abused children in Puerto Rico
- EWB-UW builds a better world by educating internationally responsible engineers and students
1. It’s all about the kids: #SolarParaNinos
- We are raising funds for a solar installation to benefit Hogar Albergue para Niños Jesús de Nazaret, a shelter that takes in, counsels, and houses 14 children that have been removed from their homes by the Department of Family
- With this installation, the center’s energy costs will drop significantly – our ultimate goal is to eliminate their typical $1,000 monthly utility bill – allowing the center to invest more of their money into helping the kids through education and social services