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Report: Winter 2019 Energy Programming

This winter has been another season marked by immense interest in the energy space at Dartmouth. In December, the Sustainability Office and Arthur L. Irving Institute for Energy and Society partnered on two programs to create opportunities for students to learn about energy systems from a diverse group of stakeholders: the Dartmouth Energy Horizons Program, and another Dartmouth Energy Immersion Trips.

Energy Horizons, a five day program piloted over interim, was developed to increase energy literacy and to help students understand the energy landscape they are connected at Dartmouth and in their hometowns. Programming included mini-lectures, discussions, homemade group dinners, and teamwork. The group also visited the Middlebury College Biomass plant in Middlebury, VT, the Wilder Dam operated by Great River Hydro, LLC in Wilder, VT, and the Elizabeth Mine Solar Project in South Strafford, VT.

Chibuzo Chiwike ‘22, says Horizons helped open her eyes to a field she hadn’t given thought to before. ”I went from knowing that energy is the capacity to do work to thinking about where energy comes from and how it is used … Now, I am seriously considering a career in an energy-related field.”

Students visit the Elizabeth Mine Solar Project in South Strafford, VT

Throughout the week, students had opportunities to speak with Dartmouth Campus Services staff, alumni and regional energy experts. The program concluded with a day long workshop in which students used design thinking skills to solve challenges they identified in the energy system.

“When we think about energy education at Dartmouth, we are interested in ensuring that we can graduate students who have been trained in the energy space and who want to work in leadership and management in the energy system explicitly,” says Amanda Graham, Academic Director at the Irving Institute for Energy and Society. “We also need to ensure all Dartmouth graduates understand their role in energy systems transformation and how energy and society interact. We want to generate this energy fluency for a wide range for Dartmouth graduates; that’s how we’re going to change systems in the world. The Horizons Program is getting at that second goal.”

In addition to Energy Horizons, the Sustainability Office and the Irving Institute developed the Gulf Coast Energy Immersion Trip, a third trip in the Energy Immersion series. This trip took students to the heart of the US energy industry in Texas and Louisiana. Through engaging with over 15 stakeholders, students gained an appreciation for the complexity of the regional energy system.

Students visit a wind farm in San Patricio County, TX

“We chose the Gulf Coast for this trip because it vastly surpasses any other region in the United States in terms of total energy produced,” says Sustainability Fellow, Forrest Town. “This is largely due to the abundance of crude oil and natural gas, but it’s also worth noting that Texas has become the largest producer of electricity from wind power. With all of these superlatives, we wanted to explore the systems, infrastructure, economy, and politics that have led to the Gulf Coast becoming the most critical player in meeting our country’s energy needs. Additionally, Dartmouth has an amazing alumni network in this region that helped us meet with many folks working on energy on the ground.”

Students learned about the complex interplay of local histories, law, economics, technology, and grassroots efforts that influence the way our energy systems operate. The goal, says Town, is that students walk away with the ability to apply this lens of complexity to a wide range of systems.

A fourth Energy Immersion Trip will return to Appalachia this March. Previous trips have visited Appalachia and New England. You can read more student reflections about the Gulf Coast trip on their blog.

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