Each year, Michigan Technological University senior engineering students design and implement a project showcasing their skills as a requirement for graduation. MTU provides a small budget to each project and the organization for whom the project is completed pays the balance. During the 1999-2000 academic year, a senior project team worked with the Conservancy as client on an alternative energy project.
In the fall of 1999, Michigan Tech students, Sam Darling, Shawn Isenhoff, Lesley Knoebel, Kurt LaFrance, Kayla Manz, and Heather Rebo, under the supervision of Dr. Leonard Bohmann, began the planning and design work for an alternative energy source to benefit the GLC's education program. The Noblet Field Station which serves as overnight accommodation and classroom for students had no electrical power. A limited electrical power supply was needed to power equipment occasionally brought to the site.
Originally, wind, hydro, geothermal, solar, and fuel cells were energy sources considered. After analysis, the project team proposed that wind, solar, or a hybrid wind/solar designs would be best to meet the Conservancy's requirement for an easily maintainable and economically feasible solution that would provide the needed energy requirements of this project while meeting the Conservancy's requirement for minimal environmental impact.
The Conservancy selected the solar design, and installation began in May of 2000. The electrical hookup was completed in time to provide electrical power for the programs that took place at the Field Station during the summer months of 2000 and 2001.
The electricity generated provides adequate power for the microscopes, notebook computers, microscope lights, and aquarium pumps used for the educational programs at the field station. It also powers the VCR used at the annual Open House and it will provide electricity for the telescope donated to the Conservancy by Art Dion in 2001.
As a part of the project, the Michigan Tech students also designed an educational, alternative energy pamphlet available free of charge from the Conservancy.