IGERT fellows Destenie Nock, Rebecca Sokoloski, and Bob Darrow met Friday at the UMass Wind Energy Center with several groups of students from Four Rivers Charter Public School in Greenfield, Massachusetts. The students are completing a semester-long, multidisciplinary project on the future of renewable energy in Massachusetts. The project combines units in social studies, the humanities, math, and science that will culminate in the students producing a documentary film about an energy issue in their area. At this phase of the project, the students are developing topics for their film, and they participated in lively discussions with IGERT fellows on the topics of the grid integration of renewables and the social and political obstacles to making the transition to renewable energy. IGERT fellows shared findings from their research on these questions, and worked with the students to think through some of the major challenges to expanding renewable energy use in Massachusetts and throughout the United States. The Fellows plan to continue to assist the students as their film project proceeds.
One of the groups discussed the vulnerability of the power grid. The seniors were looking to talk to experts about what it would take to have everyone go off-grid, and operate on 100% renewables. Some of the questions included 1) How are electricity prices determined, and 2) Can we continue to operate on the old power system while adding renewable generation? Over the course of an hour and a half the IGERT students were able to clarify some of the complexities of what it would take to operate a power grid on 100% renewable energy and protection measures people go through to protect against hackers.