CIT, NASA Explore Alternative Energy

Nov 15th, 2005 | By | Category: 17-2: Sustainability, Tribal College News

SUNNY STUDENTS. CIT students (left to right) Jonathan Begay, Candice Craig, and Charley Herbert display photovoltaic modules, which convert the sun’s energy into electricity.

With the soaring price of oil and gas, a tribal college in Crownpoint, NM, recognizes the need to establish other energy options and change the norm. The Alternative Energy Program at Crownpoint Institute of Technology (CIT) teaches renewable energy methods and theories and offers practical lab and field applications.

The current program is a 1-year certificate program totaling 24 credits, with plans to offer a 2-year associate degree in the future.

The Alternative Energy Program centers primarily on photovoltaics and wind-generated power. Solar hot air collectors, energy conservation, and other energy-saving components are covered as well. Students integrate science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, and sometimes they can even “learn and earn” through work-study positions.

In October 2003, CIT’s program won a 3-year, $299,000 grant from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to study and enhance renewable energy applications. Raymond Griego, alternative energy instructor at CIT, is the project director for NASA’s Curriculum Improvement Partnership Award Program.

Last year CIT offered a 7-day workshop on photovoltaic design and installation, coupled with installing an 1,800-watt grid-tied photovoltaic system at the CIT library. The system now promotes renewable energy as it supplies approximately 10-12% of the library’s electrical needs, at a savings of $30-$55 per month.

Participants included the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 611, journeyman workers from Navajo Tribal Utility Authority, interns from Sandia National Laboratories, students from the community, and students from Jamaica.

Currently, students are in the final stages of constructing a 400-watt wind generator. And recently the National Renewable Energy Laboratories (NREL) agreed to loan CIT an anemometer to study wind patterns for one year. CIT students will install and maintain the instrument, which will determine if CIT has sufficient wind to power industrial-scale wind generators.

CIT has an advisory committee of experts in renewable energy that includes the Bureau of Land Management, Sandia Labs, National Renewable Energy Laboratories, Sacred Power Inc., Navajo Tribal Utility Authority, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Solar Energy International, Institute for Sustainable Power Inc., Diné College (Tsaile, AZ), Southwestern Indian Polytechnic Institute (Albuquerque, NM), and San Juan College (Farmington, NM).

“CIT recognizes the need to educate our students and our communities,” Griego says. “We continue to encourage our students to seek energy that is friendly to our environment.”

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