MARQUETTE - If you're a student with a laptop, finding a place to study on Northern Michigan University's campus usually involves locating an electrical outlet.
In the fall, though, students in the Jacobetti Center will be able to use a different kind of energy to recharge their laptop batteries.
Thanks to grants from the Wisconsin Energy Foundation and NMU Wildcat Innovation Fund, the university will be able to use the energy that is being produced by a wind turbine and a series of solar panels at the Jacobetti Center.
In the fall, Northern Michigan University students studying in the Jacobetti Center Commons area will be able to charge their laptop batteries using renewable energy, thanks to new equipment that allows the power generated by a set of solar panels and a wind turbine, shown above, to be accessed through an electrical outlet. Previously, the panels and turbine had been connected only to monitoring equipment. (Michael Martin photo)
"The solar panels and wind turbine have been on the Jacobetti roof for several years, but they have only been connected to monitoring equipment," said engineering technology professor Michael Martin. "We really didn't have any of the supporting electronics to tie it into the electrical grid. We only had one part of the puzzle."
At the suggestion of students, Martin began pursuing grants to allow the students to make use of that energy.
"The students were saying it's a shame we have the power but we're not using it," Martin said.
The new equipment, which is being installed this summer, will provide electrical outlets in the Jacobetti Center commons area that will be fed entirely from the solar panels and wind turbine. Since the building's roof is also being replaced this summer, the panels and turbine will have to be taken down temporarily, and are expected to be back up and running in the fall, Martin said.
That area of the building typically sees four to eight laptops in use at one time in the beginning of the semester, and up to 20 toward the end. Martin said the output from the solar panels and wind turbine are expected to meet that need, with batteries collecting the generated power on weekends or on school breaks.
In addition to allowing students to charge their computers using renewable energy, the new equipment also gives students in the renewable energy classes a chance to get hands-on experience with that equipment, in addition to the solar panels and wind turbine that were already in place.
Although there aren't plans to do the same with other buildings on campus, Martin said if excess energy is generated it could be put back into the electrical grid.
Johanna Boyle can be reached at 906-486-4401.