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Cutting Away from the Power Grid

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2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Vancouver, BC

Publication Date

June 26, 2011

Start Date

June 26, 2011

End Date

June 29, 2011



Conference Session

Sustainable Energy Education

Tagged Division

Energy Conversion and Conservation

Page Count


Page Numbers

22.414.1 - 22.414.7



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Paper Authors


Robert Chasnov Cedarville University

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Bob is a Professor of Engineering and has been presenting the need for his mechanical engineering students to understand climate change. Mark is an Assistant Professor of Biology and heads the Environmental Science program at Cedarville.

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Cutting Away From the Power GridOne of the course objectives for the junior-level Thermodynamics course being taught to ourmechanical engineering (ME) majors is “students will analyze engineering systems to evaluatetheir thermodynamic designs”. The Rankine Cycle and its application to power plants werestudied intensely. Students were provided with the results of the campus Energy Usage andEmissions Inventory. Some key data which they noted was (1) 74% of the campus energy usagewas electricity purchased from the local distributor (2007), (2) roughly 90% of the campusenergy usage over the past 10 years was attributed to either purchased electricity or purchasednatural gas, and (3) while the student body has grown a modest 8% over the past 10 years, thedollar amount of the energy purchased by the university has risen 50% over that same 10-yearperiod.Students were then placed onto teams and assigned one of three zero-emissions alternativeenergy sources (hydrogen, wind, or solar) for which they developed a Partial Replacement ofEnergy Supply plan. Student teams were required to identify the campus electricity supplier’senergy source, the university’s cost of purchasing the electricity, and the carbon output resultingfrom the electricity purchased by the campus. Their task was to identify an existing commercialpower generating unit, determine its cost of purchase per kW of output, and perform a life-cycleanalysis in order to compute total cost to the university over a 10-year period for implementingtheir plan.Though Congress has yet to finalize “Cap-and-Trade” legislation, students were asked tocompute the cost savings to the university for a “carbon credit” of $1 per ton of CO2 saved. Thestudent teams then developed conclusions as to the viability of their proposals. They freelyexpressed their feelings about the relative importance of “carbon neutrality” versus their personaleducational expenses.

Chasnov, R. (2011, June), Cutting Away from the Power Grid Paper presented at 2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Vancouver, BC. 10.18260/1-2--17695

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