David Luneau: These kids are definitely into alternative energy. So it’s a good combination and they’re cross-fertilizing. And that’s where innovation comes from.
Tom Good: Really, that’s what this entire race is about, is sustainability of the environment, of energy. We all know there’s an increasing dependence on foreign oil. And maybe that’s the field that I wanna go into, is preventing the U.S. from being dependent on foreign oil.
Hannah Loan: The goal here is to eventually have these solar boats become commercial and, you know, the regular fisher going out and buying one of these boats, and not polluting the water. So it’s great for us young students who will be out in the field very soon to get this experience, get it out there, let everyone else see it, and hopefully, sooner than later, it will be commercial.
Reg Pecen: The national goal is to get to 20% of our energy by 2030 from the renewable energy resources. And I believe in 2009, March, we had 13% of our energy in Iowa provided from the wind which is close to the national goal of 20. That is something great because I know the Federal Government is also watching Iowa as a pilot state. So it’s doing great but we need to continue working hard as the institutions, universities, colleges, community colleges that have almost full enrollment in the wind energy technician programs. At the same time, [at] Iowa, Iowa State and UNI, we have curriculum on wind, solar, and sustainability-related packages. So once the young generations get the idea, the message, I know the future will be brighter than ever before.
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Voiceover: Welcome to the Dream Green series with co-hosts Stuart Tanner and James Moore on solar-powered KRUU-FM: Iowans creating a greener tomorrow… today. A journey of discovery across the state featuring innovators, cutting edge projects, and communities leading the way to an energy-independent and sustainable future. Visit our website at greeniowa.org.
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James Moore: And once again, we are on the road. This is James Moore with Stuart Tanner, continuing on our Dream Green series. We’re having so much fun. You can hear the roar of the engine. We’re heading back up to Cedar Falls. We are going to be checking out a little thing called the Solar Splash, an annual event that draws on a number of university teams, engineers and so forth, for a solar boat race. This year, it’s being held in the UNI area up by Cedar Falls. The UNI Solar Panthers have performed quite well in these competitions. We’re gonna be talking with some of the different competitors from around the country and around the world. Also to Reg Pecen, who has been involved with this for many years, I believe. He is an electrical engineer. He teaches at UNI. Stuart, I have to say we’re going to a Solar Splash boat race. It certainly looks a tad overcast. How you doing?
Stuart Tanner: Good. Yes, it’s not particularly a good solar day. And I have to say, well, in fact, it looks like a misty gray drizzly day, so we don’t have the solar, but we have some rain, so maybe we have the splash. So how are the solar boats going to run if there’s no sun? It could be on a cloudy day, of course, that they go fast when the sun is out, and then they slow down as the cloud comes over the sun. It will be fun if it did work that way, wouldn’t it?
JM: Well, I have to say when you had that little [yelp] moment with Pat Higby from the Center for Energy and Environmental Education with the little [solar] cars that we put flashlights on in order to make those solar panels run. Maybe they have flashlights in the back of the boat. I’m looking forward to learn all about this. It is a serious competition that we’re gonna learn about. These different teams that come and put these boats together, pretty impressive looking stuff from the website but––yeah, you wanted to say something else?
ST: Yeah, well, you see, it could be running off the sun. But if the cloud comes over the sun, you could have this big torch and then you could shine that on the solar panels on the boat, and off, it would go again.
JM: It sounds good to me. Obviously, we’re gonna learn about this when we get there. There are probably batteries involved and I know from solar-powered KRUU-FM, the direct sunlight creates more power from the solar panels but even through clouds, we’re getting something here. But we’re just sharing with you our adventure. Hope you’re enjoying the Dream Green series as much as we are having fun scouting around the state for different projects and cutting-edge community action in regards to green and sustainable approaches. This is one of those events we are looking forward to. We’ll be back in just a little bit. We’re gonna be arriving there soon. I do know, Stuart, however, that the weather prediction for today is thunderstorms or rain for most of the state.
ST: Well, I did see that there could be thunderstorms, so I brought my “brolly” this time, so we are equipped.
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JM: And we’re in Wyth Park now, here at State Park. Very watery around here though/ Watermarks are high as we wind our way through here at the State Park. Now it’s beautiful back here, trees and woodlands, as my co-host Stuart Tanner likes to say. And now, we’re seeing some...
ST: Oh, my!
JM: Here we are. There’s a big tent up and we are at the Solar Splash team arrival center here. And I see a Solar Splash boat right out there that we’re gonna take a look at.
ST: Yeah. University of Arkansas, where I can see a sign for there. There’s a Solar Splash boat. It’s kinda like shark’s teeth, more teeth on the front. So highly competitive, one imagines.
JM: Some serious engineering going into all these. So while we’re here, we’re gonna pull out and see if we can find Professor Pecen. Stay with us. This is our adventure, and we’re sharing it with you because, well, you’re so special, too.
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DL: This is Doctor David Luneau from University of Arkansas.
RP: Yes. Yeah, this is Reg, Reg Pecen. Good morning.
JM: Good to see you. We just drove in and realized that it’s Wyth Lake, not Wyeth. So we’re getting with it, as we speak.
JM: Our first time at Solar Splash. We’re pretty excited. How are you feeling?
DL: Feeling good. We’re having good event, we need a little more sunshine but we’re supposed to get that tomorrow.
JM: You know we’re a solar-powered radio station. We know there is still some sunlight that comes through, but does that affect the speed of the race?
DL: Not on this maneuverability qualifying runs we’re doing today because they’re very short races. So they’re running off the battery power that they have. But tomorrow, when we run the endurance event, we want sunshine and it’s predicted.
JM: I think we’ve had enough rain for a while. Stuart, did you wanna jump in?
ST: Yeah. What’s that actually going on at the moment? So we see some boats going, you know, being pushed down to the lake. There’s markers out there. So could you just give us a little run through on what’s happening here?
DL: There are two main events here. One is the 300-meter sprint event and the other is a 2-hour endurance event. What we have to do before they run those events is to qualify them for each of those events. So they run a 70-meters sprint, a shortened version of the sprint, so we can see that they can handle their boats at high speed. And the second one they run, as we call them, maneuverability, where they go around a fixed course and they have to go inside and outside a few buoys so we know they can handle with the steering of their boat, so that when they’re out there with 19 other boats that we don’t have accidents.
JM: This has been going on for some time. I know each year it goes to different places as the annual event. Is that correct?
DL: That’s correct. This is our 18th year. We started in Milwaukee. Were there six years. Went to New Orleans for a year. We were in Buffalo, New York for five years, and then we were in Fayetteville, Arkansas for five years. And this is our first year in Iowa.
JM: Well, welcome to Iowa! We’re glad to have you here.
ST: I just imagine that when this event first took place, you know, the boats were going very, very slowly ‘cause it was the early days of solar technology and, you know, so you’re standing on the sidelines and an hour or later, the boat would kind of go around the circuit once. Whereas now they seem to zip around––well, from what I have seen so far, even not on a sunny day––they are zipping around there at a fairly decent speed. Even the guy almost went ‘round the corner too fast and tipped over. So are they getting better?
JM: Incrementally better. And actually, the first two years of the event, we had a team from Kanazawa, Japan. They actually had a boat that got up on hydrofoils––literally wings under the water, and the boat would fly, the boat came out of the water––and that, to this day, has been the best hydrofoil boat we’ve had. They were very impressive.
ST: So they weren’t invited back ‘cause they were too good, were they?
DL: They won the first two years and skipped a year or two, then they came back, and haven’t come back since. But we wish they would because they were very good competitors.
JM: One thing, obviously, this is highlighting the power of solar power. There’s engineering involved, Professor Pecen?
Reg Pecen: You know, that one of the main objectives of the Solar Splash, an IEEE Power Electronics Society Event Solar Splash 2011 is to promote clean transportation technologies in U.S. waters. We do have some pollution in Iowa lakes and rivers because of the agricultural pollutants, and also additional gas and oil leaks from two-stroke motors has been an issue. So we basically want to promote the cleaner technologies/ That’s one of the objectives. The other one is also as part of the Solar Splash, definitely to promote the science, technology, engineering, mathematics. You see those 20 teams around here from three different countries, plus the United States. So it’s really a wonderful tool and curriculum actually throughout the year to involve the teams from different backgrounds, including the naval engineering, architecture, electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, and technologies, as well as graphics technologies and manufacturing. So all different majors here are coming together to come up with the one wonderful commercially available product. And at the same time, the Solar Splash is promoting, hey, to come up with the more commercial and feasible solar boats for our future usage. So in terms of that, I believe the whole competition is doing a wonderfully important job by looking ahead for more sustainable transportation means.
JM: Well, great. I know, at least, some of the sponsors here. I believe, the Iowa Energy…
RP: …Center –
JM: …Center is behind this and some others. Do you wanna just mention quick?
RP: Yeah. For the UNI Solar Panthers team, we’ve been blessed with funding from the Iowa Energy Center for more than ten years. Unfortunately, this year we didn’t get it but we are still using the money from our last year’s account, so we spend until the last penny. We really finished the last penny this year from Iowa Energy Center. So we will be going through to the second grant application again next year. But the Iowa Energy Center under the Iowa State University has been a wonderful support to UNI Solar Panther teams.
JM: And on that high note, we’re going to snoop around, get our, not quite get our feet wet but probably pretty close. Thank you both so much. We’ll be back talking with you very soon. Welcome to the Dream Green series here on solar-powered KRUU-FM.
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JM: And here we are ‘rounding the bend. We’re seeing, let’s see, one, two three, four, five, six, seven solar teams here, solar boats, ready to go. This is a pretty exciting kinda chilly day. I didn’t even bring an extra coat here. We are among the teams, sweatshirt clad. Kind of interesting as it’s been so warm of late. You can hear people milling around. I’m not quite sure, I think they have different heats or people to compete against each other. And we’ll get up and talk to some of the boat folks in just a moment, a lot of organizing going on. Some boats going into the water. Yup, there’s a solar boat out there. You see that?
ST: Whoa, I see that.
ST: You know, and there are solar panels, huge solar panels on the front and the back of the boat. Turned the corner very sharp out there, and almost went under by the looks of it. The trial went wild. They were ooohing and ahhhing.
JM: This is pretty exciting ‘cause these guys all know what it means to turn a sharp corner. Pretty agile boat out there actually. I just love solar panels myself. Now we’re seeing another bigger solar boat going into the water as we stand here. And here is the big board for all the different races: the Solar Splash World Championship of Intercollegiate Solar/Electric Boating. Well, I’m approaching the dock here where different boats are going in and out of the water. We see Stuart down upon one knee filming. And we see a couple of the team members with six solar panels on the boat, getting set to take off. Wow, this is a pretty fancy boat coming out here. What do you think, Stuart?
ST: I just watched this boat being pushed into the water. You can see all the mechanics of it and then there’s a big flat sort of section of solar panels on the top, as you’d expect. And then there’s a guy who’s just jumped into the front of the boat, and I think they are the team from Istanbul, judging by the fact that they were speaking Turkish. So that would be my guess. And it looks like they’re just about to launch out and go around the course. As you look out over the lake, you can see that there’s a course marked out. So the boats have to do a time speed trial around the circuit, and that will determine where they slot into the later challenges that we were talking about. So exciting stuff. And there’s, for the future, some serious commercial prospects on offer, if you can design boats that are running on solar power, and make them work efficiently enough.
JM: Well, you mentioned in Frankfurt, Germany, when you pull up from the airport there, that you look down and you see so many roofs with–or is that rooves?–with the solar panels all across Germany. Why not? We actually get more sunlight than they do.
ST: That is a very interesting thing. Now when you’re flying in to the various German airports and flying out of sea, you can look down from the aircraft and see all housing that’s nearby, and it is remarkable actually, as you look down, you see that there are solar panels on every second or third house. So they have massively gone for promotion of solar energy. And those houses are able therefore to generate energy from the sun, to heat their water, clearly cut down on their bills and also be helping reduce CO2 going into the atmosphere as well. You do wonder why other countries haven’t come on board as much and pushed that as much. Means they also have a leading edge in this area of technology as well.
JM: We have noticed that Germany is pulling back from the nuclear edge. They are deciding to not continue with nuclear power and I believe Switzerland is, too. So now we’re hearing some yelling from the sidelines for the boat.
ST: Yeah, it’s the countdown for the launch of the Istanbul boat. The guys’re just holding the bar along side, they are doing radio communications, and they are going to get the go. And presumably, then they are gonna the timing to kick off. So we’re just waiting here with bated breath for the starter gun.
JM: And we see the number one man from Solar Splash here directing traffic. The red shirts are folks that are monitoring and making sure––another boat just behind us coming in. But right now, all eyes are on the boat from Istanbul which looks like six solar panels from the top, a boat on the bottom, little motor in the back, and they’re about ready to take off. So here we are with the Solar Splash up in Cedar Falls, Lake Wyth, this is James Moore, Stuart Tanner, reporting for the Dream Green series for solar-powered KRUU-FM.
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JM: I’m winding my way down to the rocks a little bit to see when we take off. Here we go.
Starter: Get set, go!
JM: And he’s off! You heard it right there, quite a good speed taking off as he floats into the maneuvering aspect of this round. He is making sure that he can go around the buoys that are set out there. And man, this is not your normal motorboat engine, is it? You know, you think of those motorboats and there you can––there he is, making the first turn around the first buoy out there. No problem, very agile, very sleek load of the water. Now he’s winding his way around to the second buoy. No problem, looks like, with the maneuvering there. What do you think, Stuart? That was a pretty agile display.
ST: I thought the Istanbul boat looked pretty nippy on the water there. It’s actually quite surprising how fast they go, How they cut through the water. So you can imagine in the future when the technology improves that, going to be able to go at fair old speed. Whether you’d be able to waterski behind them is another thing totally. I have to say I wouldn’t like to try it right now. I don’t think you’d get very far.
* * *
JM: Hello. What team are you connected with?
Male 1: Dokuz Eylul University from Turkey.
JM: From Turkey? Istanbul or where?
Male 1: Izmir.
JM: Well, great. Welcome to Iowa. Good to have you guys here. Were you the team that was just out in the water?
Male 1: Yes, we have completed our endurance qualifying competition. The result was okay.
JM: No, it looked very smooth. Nice maneuverability. Good job and congratulations.
ST: In front of us here, you have all your solar panels laid out on the ground obviously pointing towards the sky. I’m sure that’s part of the plan. There’s a little bit more sunshine coming through the clouds at the moment. So can you explain what you’re doing?
Male 1: Charging our batteries we have used for the next competition.
JM: And when is that? Coming up in then just a few hours or––
Male 1: It depends on the sunlight, you know.
ST: Well, you come from a country that’s blessed with a lot of sunshine. Are you seeing a growing interest in solar energy in Turkey?
Male 1: Yes. Actually it is now common useful in Turkey, the solar panels. Actually, all the alternative energies, day-by-day, we are getting used to these alternative energies. Actually now solar panels is very useful for us.
JM: Well, great. And are you guys engineering students?
Male 1: Marine engineering. We are from Maritime Faculty and we are studying Marine Engineering.
JM: Fantastic! Wow! Right here in Iowa, here at Lake Wyth, we saw them do their competition very nimbly. I always get a kick out of how quiet it is. You know, when you think of boat races usually, it’s like Harley-Davidsons or something. And here––one, two, three, go!––Pff… I like that. That’s a nice thing.
Male 1: We’re glad to be here, we’re glad to be here. It’s our pleasure and the silence and the electric motor sound is now, it’s so quiet. It’s better [than] the internal combustion engines.
JM: So we sure appreciate you taking a few minutes with us and welcome to Iowa. Good luck in the competition.
Male 1: Thank you.
* * *
JM: Right now we see the University of Northern Iowa with their special boat this year. We see one, two, three, four, five, six solar panels on the University of Northern Iowa’s boat. This looks like a very sleek unit. They are number three in this maneuvering effort here. And the boat is being turned around toward the front right now. And they have competed well over the last, if I remember correctly, the last four, five years. They have been in the top five in finishing, that they’ve come a long way from their humble start. At any rate, University of Northern Iowa’s getting prepared to do their maneuverability round. We’ll be back with that in just a moment.
* * *
RP: So they are really excited.
JM: And here’s Reg again, just out here on the dock waiting for his team to take off here.
RP: So right now is Hannah getting ready for maneuverability testing. And here we go.
JM: And she’s off.
RP: Oops! Make sure no scratches... Yes! She’s right on the water and going with the maneuverability testing and that’s a good start, going well. You can see UNI K and Iowa Energy Center logos on the back of the boat.
JM: Now Hannah is turning the first corner, very smooth maneuverability. It looks like a very sleek speed. How are you feeling about this, Reg?
RP: You know what? They’ve been here. We did use the advantages of having in home team. So we came here earlier last week. She was doing some practice here to get used to the area.
JM: Well, it looks good. She’s been through…
JM: …the slalom and now the final curve, heading back this way. We are pleased to say, it looks like A okay, in terms of the round there.
JM: And we see the folks here. There’s a little bit of a hand.
[Screaming. “Let’s go, Hannah! U.S.S. Hannah!”]
JM: We see Hannah coming…
JM: …and we’ll see if we can catch some comments from her. Stuart, what did you think there?
ST: I think the boat, the University of Northern Iowa boat, looks very slick actually,. Nice design. And the panels are arranged and it went ‘round very smoothly. Slightly slow off the mark but I think it did well. But we’ll find out from Hannah.
* * *
JM: And there she is––Hannah!
JM: How are you doing?
ST: So we watched you go around the course,…
ST: It’s actually a very sleek looking boat, very nice design.
Hannah: Thank you.
ST: So what was your impression? Did it go well?
Hannah: It did go well, yeah. We’re prepared for this year. We’re excited about it. So it went very well.
JM: Tell us a little bit about your role in this, and also, being a woman, as well. That’s an interesting thing in terms of the engineering. Give us a sense of what this race means to you.
Hannah: Well, we put a lot work into this boat, and as a team, we all get along really well. And as a woman in this career, I think a lot of people are surprised by, you know, “Oh, you’re on the team,” and, “Oh, you’re the driver, too?” Yup.
Hannah: It’s a lot of fun and I get a lot of respect, and it’s a great experience.
JM: Tell me about the engineering part of that. From the outside, it looks like the same boat, but inside, much more going on. Is that right?
Hannah: Yup, and that’s right, the team, and as far as batteries, electronics, so most of us are electronic engineering major. So we specialize in the electronics and other teams are mechanical and naval so their boat design is a little more unique. But there is a lot of different motors being used for different teams, batteries, and everything, lots of different strategies.
ST: Clearly, this is a great event. It’s fun.
ST: There’s some learning involved but what’s the sort of more serious side of it, looking at solar power in the future?
Hannah: Think the more serious side is that the goal here is to eventually have the solar boats become commercial and, you know, the regular fisher going out and buying one of these boats, and not polluting the water. So it’s great for us young students who will be out in the field very soon to get this experience, get it out there, let everyone else see it, and hopefully, sooner than later, it’ll be commercial, so.
JM: Well, speaking of getting out there soon, I understand you’re gonna be getting out there soon. You want us to talk about what you’re gonna be doing?
Hannah: Well, we just qualified for maneuverability, which is a little lap of endurance kind of. Next, we will be doing sprint, and then also the slalom, the figure eight.
JM: All I can say is good luck. I know UNI has done really well the last few years. Is that correct?
Hannah: Yup, the last two years, we placed 3rd, and the two years before that, we placed 4th. So this year, maybe 2nd or 1st, we’re hoping.
* * *
JM: Hi. I’m James Moore. We’re with solar-powered KRUU-FM, and we’re doing a featured program on the Solar Splash. I know you’ve been involved with this for many years.
Jeff Morehouse: Yeah.
JM: And I see you’re very active out there on the peer, getting everybody on and off.
JM: And you’ve been connected with the Solar Splash forever, right?
JMH: I’m Jeff Morehouse from the University of South Carolina. And another couple of guys and myself got it started through a professional organization.
JM: Is there really an opportunity for a boating industry, a solar industry, do you think from this with teams working on these things?
JMH: And I think what we’re doing is we’re basically, these are one-man boats, and there is no question that we are looking at the sprint capability and we’re looking at the endurance capability in a single boat. And then we were laughing when we talk about, “Did you see the professional bass fisherman?” What do they do? They sprint from location to location. Then they sit there going as slow as they can with their trolling motor and everything, and casting. We always laugh and we said, “Well, we’re perfect for them, but we have to do a little more work on the boats.”
JM: Being in Iowa––I know this is the first time here––what are your thoughts there?
JMH: Actually, you have tremendous water sports in Iowa. We’re looking at Iowa’s lakes––some of them are electric only now and there’s no question that the solar/electric is the approach for a lot of lakes. And we were in Wisconsin; we went on a lake that held the competition up there that was electric only. So they’re going that way and I think some people are gonna end up and start looking around and saying, “What can we do for solar?”
JM: They’re sitting in the sun a lot anyway, why not take advantage and be sustainable?
JMH: Some of these kids are getting into solar-related industries. They are engineers. They are graduating. They are going to work. I know the South Carolina team is actually two ensigns. They’ve been commissioned and they are heading out, so they are maritime. These are maritime schools, some of these. So this is their living. This is not all fun and games or anything. Cedarville has somebody out working on the solar-powered buoys. Absolutely did the same type of thing and they are self-maneuvering. Some are using this directly right now.
ST: I remember the State of the Union address from President Obama and he talked about the requirement for innovation in America and keeping America at the leading edge of things. So how does this play into that idea?
JMH: There’s no question as far as the alternative energies and so forth, you know, that these kids are definitely into this is a different alternative energy. And for a lot of mechanicals, this is a good electrical combination. And electricals, this is a good––hey, wait a minute––I use my electricity to move something generally. And so it’s a good combination, and we’re cross-fertilizing, and that’s where innovation comes from. Sitting there saying, “Wait a minute, I have an idea. Maybe a little bit different than my electrical engineering ideas, that I can do this. Same with the mechanical.” Sitting here saying, “I don’t have to run this with an internal combustion engine––maybe not, you know. Let me think about that too.” So it’s going both ways and I think that’s our academic thrust on this is can we get people thinking of a lot of different things, that’s all.
JM: Cross-fertilization, cross cultural, and I know the boats’re out there are waiting for you. Thank you so much for having the vision to start this. Stay with it and keep it going. Good luck. Really been a pleasure to meet you.
* * *
ST: Now we’ve got a new boat going into the water. I have to say it looks a little bit basic, wouldn’t you say?
JM: It does. This is the high school group. Orono High School...
ST: Oh, okay. Fair enough.
JM: …with their project so…
ST: And it’s a baby boat as well. It’s not much bigger than a model. I mean you could––I could imagine standing on the side with a little radio controller and sending that one off, but maybe that would be cheating.
JM: Well, we can ask later to see what the––I bet there are certain––we call it regulations.
ST: So there is someone getting in. And if you notice, they’ve got a camera on the front. So I don’t know whether that’s pointed backwards recording themselves and the boat or pointing forward to capture the little adventure that’s about to go on.
JM: Well, we’ll see. I see quite a few folks here on the sideline with very interesting-looking cameras to check this out. Stuart, I was just getting a kick out of how quiet, you know. You usually to think of motorboat races, and you hear those engines kind of whining and hurrying. That last, the boat from Istanbul took off, it was like, “pff.”
ST: Yeah. But this is a thing with––the thrill of the thing. You know, maybe that’s one of the downsides for solar energy and electric cars Is there’s something about the combustion engine? Obviously, we were listening to Harley-Davidsons goes pass the other day. People quite like the raw, the roar energy, the roar of the engine in a way. It does have a certain basic fundamental attraction, I suppose. But yeah, and you listened to the solar boat, and it’s going, “Weeeeh.” A bit like that, which doesn’t quite have the same feeling about it.
JM: Well, I don’t know. You make a point there ‘cause I know somebody that had a––I think it was a Suzuki or Yamaha motorcycle––that ended up putting on special pipes so that it sounded like a Harley, just so it had that sound. Personally, I’m kind of a fan of the non-loud sound. Particularly on water ‘cause water really carries. I don’t know if you have ever been on a lake that has water that has motorboats on it as well. And it’s like, you’re out in this beautiful nature thing and all of a sudden, you’re hearing the equivalent sometimes Harley-Davidsons riding around and I know there’s a power to that. Actually, while we’re speaking, the next boat is getting ready to go. They’re about ready to count it off.
Starter: On your mark, get set, go!
JM: Wow, some juice in that puppy. A little bit more of a kick, too.
ST: I was actually, you know, joking about that boat but it actually went off at quite a cracking speed. It’s come to a dead stop, by the way, right now. Maybe it burnt its candle twice as bright, half as long.
JM: I think you’re right. The boat sped off and then chunked out. And what is your name again?
Tom Good: Tom Good.
JM: Tom Good? Oh yes, it’s all good to me. We noticed out there in the water that you guys took off like nobody’s business but it seemed to sit pretty flat in the minute. What happened out there today?
TG: Well, when we got out of the hole there, when we took off, we got up and over and on to a plane and skipped along the top of the water in the most efficient way possible.
JM: But you seemed to paddle back.
TG: That was intended to save energy. I mean, it’s a solar boat race but there’s no sun so you got to paddle back.
JM: Well, I gotcha and I want to ask a little bit. Is it Orono High School? How do we pronounce that?
JM: Okay. Orono High School. Pretty cool. I don’t think there are too many other high schools represented here today. Is that correct?
TG: Yes, that is true. We are the only one.
JM: Oh nice. Congratulations on that. Tell me a little bit about your high school––Technology Education, I see––but tell me a little bit about it.
TG: This is our first year at the Solar Splash event. But up in Minnesota we have a local solar boat regatta called the MRES [Minnesota Renewable Energy Society] Solar Boat Regatta and we’ve been doing that for 3 years. First year in the student class, which is just a small boat, 12-volt system, all the way up to the experimental class. We beat some adult teams and some other college teams and so we decided to bring it down here, this, our 4th year, and see how we faired at the Solar Splash against other colleges.
JM: Pretty exciting.
ST: Yeah, that’s pretty impressive going so far. What are you planning in the future? Do you have strong lasting interest in this area of solar power and boats?
TG: Yeah, I think I might eventually go to college, become an electrical engineer, and go into the renewables field.
JM: Well, that’s pretty cool. What a leg up into that doing this.
ST: Yeah, why are you making those choices? What’s the reason behind it?
TG: Sustainability. I mean, really that’s what this entire race is about is sustainability, the environment, of energy. I mean. we all know there’s an increasing dependence on foreign oil. So maybe that’s the field I want to go into, is preventing the U.S. from being dependent on foreign oil.
* * *
JM: And here we are walking among––well, this is the dry dock, I would say here. All the boats when they’re not in the water, recharging batteries, looking at different things, tops off. We’ve been talking with several of the teams and they have their little areas. This is something where we can see them working on. Here’s a boat that’s all opened up. This is the Saint Louis University boat here, the batteries in the middle. So very interesting. We have the checkered flags in between in each of the areas so it gives you that sense of car race here but a lot of different teams. You can hear them busy at work here getting things. I think right now one of the biggest orders of the day is making sure everything is recharged, that the batteries are recharged, because of the sunlight issues here. We’re looking at some of the other boats here. Here we see some very interesting looking panels. This is for the Washington State University Team and they have them bolted right on to the top through. Hey guys, how you doing?
Male 2: Excellent. How are you?
JM: Let me ask this: how’s the competition going so far?
Male 2: It’s going pretty well. We just finished our first qualifying. We’re about to head out to do the spring slalom.
JM: Oh, fantastic. So Washington State University. Are you a long-time competitor in this Solar splash event?
Male 2: Yes, we’ve been here for the last 5 years straight. I think we started in 2002.
JM: Well, great. And has the boat evolved, the design at all, or staying pretty similar to the originals?
Male 2: It’s completely––everything inside the boat has changed, electrically and mechanically over the last 4 years. So the hull is very similar but everything else is changed.
JM: Great. It’s what they say, it’s the inside that counts, right?
Male 2: Exactly. [Laughter]
JM: And are you guys engineers as well?
Male 2: We have electrical, mechanical, biology, computer science and the whole very good range.
JM: We call that covering the gamut, don’t we, Stuart?
ST: We do. Your solar panels look different to other people’s solar panels, slightly archaic, may I suggest but I don’t know, maybe they’re the latest thing. Which way around is it?
Male 2: They’re definitely the latest. They were going to go out on the NASA satellite, so they’re very light and are quite fragile.
JM: Light and fragile––I can relate. But are we talking 480 watts total or what?
Male 2: Yeah. We’re right up at the limit.
JM: And what is your experience with these NASA babies compared to the more standard, you know, German models or whatever. Come on, you guys are technical people? Give me the difference.
Male 2: Well, they’re much more efficient so we can get the 480 watts in less area, so the panels can be smaller than a lot of the rest of the teams. And because they’re built on a honeycomb layer, that’s where they get their lightness. And the cells themselves are also much thinner.
ST: How come you guys get to use the NASA panels? You got someone on the inside there?
Male 2: We do. There was an alum that worked at Lockheed Martin and he saw these panels sitting in the corner in the warehouse and he contacted us and got them donated from their company.
JM: Fantastic. That’s what you call a good alumni.
ST: Yup, and that’s what it takes to win, you see.
JM: Do you see commercial applications for the boating industry over time?
Male 2: Boats are pretty much out in the sun all day long and most of time they’re not moving so there’s plenty of time to get them all charged up for when you’re not actually moving out on the water.
ST: Actually when you think about it, you think, well, yeah, that’s kind of really obvious that you know the boats are still there. They might as well be soaking up the sun and powering the batteries. It’s a wonder how it hasn’t happened already and much faster. Is there a reason why it’s slow to really get commercialized?
Male 2: The reason’s the battery technology, I think mostly. It’s hard to get a lot of power packed into a small dense area, so battery technology is definitely getting a lot better and then the solar panels are definitely coming down in price very quickly.
JM: Any final thoughts, Stuart?
ST: Yeah, well, good luck when you get out there and let’s hope your little NASA edge really kicks in.
JM: All right, Washington State, NASA! Thank you guys very much. Cheers.
* * *
JM: Well, can you tell us where you’re form?
Male 3: We are from Kansas State University at Salina.
JM: Nice. I see you got the top off here. Looking inside. All the wires. Got some major solar panels up here. These are some big boys. What are these guys?
Male 3: Those are Sony Sharp panels and we have 480 watts total.
JM: And that’s the limit, right? Is that correct?
Male 3: Ah, yes.
JM: And are you engineering students and that sort of thing like most seem to be?
Male 3: I’m a Mechanical Engineering Technology student. My teammate, Eric, over here, is a Computer Programming major.
JM: Nice. So that’s a good combination. How you doing, Eric?
E: I’m doing well. Thank you.
JM: Well, thanks so much. I don’t want to interrupt. I know we’re in the fierce of competition here but what are you doing at this moment?
Male 3: We are currently trying to recharge our sprint batteries.
JM: That’s coming up in just a little bit, huh.
Male 3: Uh-huh.
JM: How are they looking?
Male 3: We got about 2 volts to go and complete mobile to get that.
JM: You hear that? We’re counting on you, Mr. Man upstairs. Come out. It’s supposed to be sunny. I guess it takes a little less time when the sun’s full on, is that right?
E: Right. We’re currently charging at 2 amps. If we had full sun we could be charging at 12 amps.
JM: Wow. Well, there’s the difference for you. It did lighten up a little bit. It was almost full out raining. I know you have a question here.
ST: I want to ask you why you got involved in Solar Splash? Do you have a sort of deeper interest in solar energy?
Male 3: Absolutely. Actually, we’re really trying to start an EV company so it’s up been a great experience. Knowing how to work with an electrical power system to power a vehicle.
ST: Sorry. What does EV stand for?
Male 3: Oh, electric vehicle. We’re looking at making electric ATVs and starting a solar-powered boat line for the simple reason that most people take their boats out on the weekend, so you can leave them to recharge a week. And more importantly, since electric motors are so reliable and maintenance free, you could just let the thing sit over the winter, pull off the covering, go to the lake. No oil change, no fuel swap, just pure simple, starts every time, no hassle.
ST: If you’re going fishing, the only way out. You’re not going to frighten the fish with the big loud noise, I suppose.
Male 3: Exactly, yeah. You know, most those big 40 mile hour bass boats have this little dinky electric motor. That’s precisely why they have it. They don’t want to scare the fish away.
JM: Hey guys, thank you so much for taking the few minutes. Good luck.
Male 3: Thank you very much.
JM: And we’ll see them in just a little bit.
Eric: All right. Have a good day.
* * *
ST: Hi. We’re from KRUU-FM radio. Where are you guys from?
Male 4: We’re from Mexico.
JM: Fantastic. Mexico. So how you are feeling about the competition? I see your team’s just about ready to go in the water here.
Male 4: Yes, we have it all ready--the boat, I mean. It’s our second try and we’re hoping for the best.
JM: Maybe I shouldn’t be talking with you just as you’re getting in the water but we’ve been talking with a number of the teams and it’s really great to see the international aspect of this with some team from Turkey as well. We certainly wish you all the best. Is this part of the challenge? Is there some affinity for solar energy? How is it going in Mexico with these kinds of approaches?
Male 4: As you know, in Mexico we have a lot of sun and we are not using all these resources. But there are some energy we try to explore, some technologies. I mean, this is also to motivate the students to this kind of technology and we’re trying also to give more participation of the people about this, to know about this technology.
JM: Great. How many of you came up from Mexico? How many are your team?
Male 4: Seven students and one faculty.
JM: Well, fantastic. Keep up the great work. Thank you and good luck, Mexico.
Male 4: Okay, thank you.
* * *
JM: This is kind of exciting to see these minds involved with making these things in a more playful way. Serious competition but then what comes out of this and the kind of cross-cultural, you knowm=, Mexico, Turkey and others involved. Any thoughts?
ST: Well, yes. You know this is the grassroots of something happening. The beginning of the new whole line of business in a way and it’s very good to see. You can see all these people with their various skills coming together in teams, solving fundamental problems. They’re getting better at it. The technologies that supports those efforts are getting better. Battery technology, solar panels--especially if you got an insider in NASA who can slip you a few the latest solar panels. You put it all together. How many individual just stand there and he says, we asked him, “Where’s the commercial application?” He said, “Well, I’m setting up a company, an electrical vehicle company. We’re going to start making these solar boats.” So we’re talking about the origin here of new business. The origin here of actual jobs that this will result to and they can be created locally and they can be using technology which is the very latest and really can help in terms of, not only renewable energy and saving on fossil fuels and saving on pollution and not polluting lakes and all the rest of it, but we’re talking about jobs. This is the whole thing about when you listen to Germany and you realize that, no, they have put money into the new technologies. What’s that resulted in? So the results for them is having a leading edge in the companies. That means that the solar panels here turning up are from Germany. So that’s when you think, “Well, get with it.” You know, get it with it, in terms of supporting this stuff because it’s not money wasted. It’s creating the industries of the future.
* * *
ST: So Reg, you’re involved in the Solar Splash, obviously quite deeply, and it’s a fantastic event. We’ve been having great fun here talking to the different teams. But actually perhaps you could talk to us about your other work with renewable energy?
Reg Pecen: I joined UNI in 1998, so for the last pretty much 13 years we’ve had a number of renewable energy projects that promotes sustainability throughout the campus and the community. The very first project––even before the solar boat––was a solar power wheel chair. That was really neat project. That was just using the solar panel and two electrical motors and a regular wheelchair just converted to solar power. So that was great again as long as it was sunny [inaudible] felt wonderful. And then we built a small scale wind solar power system at UNI Campus. It’s only, you know, 1.5 kba at that time. It was 2000.1.5 kilowatt to show the feasibility of the hybrid solar/wind systems. Because Iowa is sometimes windy, sometimes sunny, sometimes both, so we can have the power at the same time from both renewable resources. And after that we had another one just finished very recently in Christmas time 2010. That is larger scale, a 12 kilowatt wind/solar power system. We got a grant from Iowa Wind, iowawind.org, Iowa Wind Association. Again the major funding came from the Power Fund from State of Iowa. That really turned out to be, of course, the best and largest scale ever we finished at UNI Campus. It is a 100-foot tower, Bergey-made in the USA––Norman, Oklahoma. It’s a wonderful machine. It’s gold-colored and the purple turned out to be our color for the blades because the company said that we can paint any color you want for the blades. So we had purple and gold wind turbine, 10 kilowatt machine. It’s been running pretty much January 1st. It started a few days earlier and we had some technical difficulties. So from January 1st to today. I checked the numbers yesterday. We have produced 3400 kilowatt hour wind-powered based energy on UNI Campus and we basically inject the power directly to the Industrial Technology Center, where we use it as part of the UNI grid. And we calculated more than 5000 pounds CO2 emission saved on campus, if the same amount of electricity will be produced from the coal fire power based.
ST: Are there things the State of Iowa is doing in terms of the growth of renewable energy? I mean, some people will say, “Well, it’s good. there’s good things happening. There’s a bit extra wind. There’s a little bit of extra solar there. There’s some research going on. There’s some event like this.” But obviously there is a really a huge energy crunch and we also know about the climate change. People saying that you can see the effects of that in Iowa already. So you one of those people with the rate of progress or do you feel things need to be moving much faster and you need a lot more support?
RP: That’s a wonderful question. As far as I know, Iowa has initiated as the first state for the renewable energy portfolio. I believe we had 5 to 7 percent, you know, part of the energy suppose to come from the renewable energy based in the State of Iowa energy generation and after that I believe it slowed a little bit. Now Minnesota, Colorado and New York, California their renewable energy portfolios are s a little bit higher than us. So I believe we are the first one initiated this in bit of State of Iowa. We really want to go and increase this and, you know, the national goal is to get to 20 percent of our energy by 22 percent from the renewable energy resources and I believe in 2009, March––that was also in the Iowa Wind website––we had 13 percent of our energy in Iowa provided from the wind, renewable energy resources, which is closer to the national goal of 20. That is something great because I know the Federal Government’s also watching Iowa as a pilot state doing great job on that. We are right after State of Texas. I believe Texas has almost close to 9500 megawatts installed wind power capacity. We are pretty much around 8000. Yeah, close to 8000. So it’s doing great but I’m sure we need to work hard with the budget issues and others. It will be challenging but we need to continue working hard as the institutions, universities, colleges, community colleges that have almost full enrolment in the wind energy technician programs. At the same time, University of Iowa, Iowa State and UNI, we have curriculum on wind, solar and sustainability related packages. So it’s taking because the future is over there on those universities and institutions. Once the young generation’s got the idea, the message, I know the future will be brighter than ever before.
JM: Are you feeling that students are kind of carrying the ball, creating some momentum in this direction. And what more can any of us do to make it happen?
RP: That’s excellent, that’s what exactly, you know, it really makes me happy. As we know, the enrollment on the Science Technology, Engineering and Mathematics have been suffered in the last 10 years in United States compared with the European and Asian countries definitely. And also with the problem with the Baby Boomers’ retirement, expected retirement, for the next 5 years, it will be an issue. So there are a lot of initiatives, one of them is the Iowa Mathematics & Science Education Partnership and many other outstanding programs in these Iowa Institutions. Community colleges and universities are really helping. So the Solar Splash, IEEE Power and Energy Society Solar Splash, is one of those initiatives and really encouraging, I mean, as we see Cedar Valley, the people of Cedar Valley, come and see here that these young people are doing wonderful job from the scratch. I mean, the boat did not exist initially. They design by the simple solar works or in other software with the design that they prefer and then they get into the electrical, mechanical, dry train, telemetry, electronic wireless systems, so that they have the complete engineering product. That includes a lot of troubleshooting, a lot of testing and a lot of last minute challenges that require teamwork which is what pretty much the engineering and technology involve so I’m really impressed with these young men and women’s involvement on that.
ST: You talked a lot about wind and solar and others talk a lot about biomass. Now all of them have their advantages and maybe disadvantages. Are you one of those people who think all of those play a very important role in Iowa or you perhaps less keen on ethanol production?
RP: That’s a good point. Yeah, you know, the diversity among the people and same thing I have my message is diversity among the energy resources. The more diverse the better the future is. We cannot rely on only just one. So I believe it totally depends on, you know, the biomass or the ethanol might be a little bit risky because of the cost and also the food prices that increase worldwide. So when you compare with that, I believe the wind will be the better option. We’re proud of agricultural structure in Iowa but at the same time it doesn’t mean that we put all our eggs into the same basket. Because what happens when we have a very dry summer or very cold winter and with affect our corn production. Then we don’t want to buy corn from Brazil and then run out of ethanol factories here.
ST: But actually we’re seeing something of some of the dynamics you’re talking about that because corn futures, as we speak, are going up quite a lot due to weather conditions. But it’s also due to the fact that some of that crop is diverted to a new industry, ethanol and, of course, is subsidized. So would that be one of your areas of concern?
RP: Absolutely. I agree with you, Stuart, on that. The subsidy is definitely a totally different subject area. We can discuss hours and hours on that. I guess we need to be careful on that balance.
JM: Thank you so much for kind of being our tour guide here and for your work. I wonder, are things looking up in Turkey as well, in terms of renewables?
RP: Yes, the wind energy’s picking up very fast in Turkey. Also, Agean Sea right across the Greek Islands has been really, really windy. The solar is behind but definitely the wind energy projects has been doing very good. Coal’s also a driving force in Turkey––coal-fired power plants––but at the same time the solar, especially in the Mediterranean Coastline, the town that I go every summer for some vacation if my parents over there. Every home has these passive solar heaters and so they don’t basically, they have a hot water whole day and night from the solar. I feel really good on that and I know we got to have those more and more in United States also.
JM: Well, on this cool day, I could almost use it right now, the solar heat! But anyway we’ll sign off for now, grab a bite to eat and be back with a little bit more. This is Stuart Tanner and James Moore for the Dream Green Series on solar-powered KRUU-FM.
* * *
JM: Well, here we sit on the opposite side of Lake Wyth, as we are about ready to pull out of Cedar Falls. Might be fun just to summarize our feelings here having been exposed to some great educators, some really visionary people.
ST: Well, what a splendid day. Totally enjoyable and as you said, some very inspiring people. I just think, well, how are you going to spend your day? Are you going to spend your day eating a squeezey cheese sandwich? Or watching drama on TV? Or you going to spend the day working together as a team, building solar boats, creating a better, sustainable future for the planet? So for me, it’s a much better option than sitting in a Golden Corral increasing your body mass--to be out here with a group of people creating events which are fun to do but also working for a better future. So that’s why I find it so satisfying. It’s satisfying to cover, it’s fun to be with, and always with these things, you just meet such great people.
JM: Isn’t sort of the common dominator, in terms of moving things forward, if the question is, how do we become more sustainable? What can I do? Where can I go to make that happen? You know to hear that these are sort of genesis of ideas, of new applications: solar boating, quiet lakes. Why not move in that direction?
ST: And these are the green shoots. The green shoots of a whole new industry. I think it’s very inspirational when you look into these things and get a sense that there are lots of things happening actually and it’s picking up momentum as well. So great day and with that I think my final comment is, “Eat shoots and leaves.”
Starter: On your mark, get set, go.
[Music from Skunk River Medicine Show]
JM: And be sure and join Stuart and I next week when we speak with Mike Smith of Hy-Vee, the grocery chain, Iowa-based and also does business all around the Midwest, a leader in LEED Building. We’ll talk about their Madison store. That’s L-E-E-D, leadership in energy and environmental design, and also the brand new store that‘s opened right here in Fairfield. We’ll take a tour and talk with Director Randy Menke. You know what? We might even throw in a little bit of a visit to the Hydroelectric Dam in Ottumwa. Join us every Thursday at 7pm. Rebroadcast Mondays at 7am on kruufm.com. Or go to the greeniowa.org website. Join us on this wonderful journey of discovery of sustainability and energy efficiency––all the good green stuff all across the State of Iowa. We’ll see you next week right here on the Dream Green Series.
Voiceover: Produced by Stuart Tanner and James Moore at solar-powered KRUU 100.1 FM in Fairfield, Iowa. Online at kruufm.com. This series is funded in part by a grant from the Iowa office of Energy Independence and nearly 70 individuals companies and organizations. For a list of sponsors, visit our website at greeniowa.org. Archives available for download under Creative Common License. Music from Skunk River Medicine Show and Zilla.