Renewable Energy Research and Education

Susan Stewart
Associate Teaching Professor, Aerospace Engineering and Architectural Engineering, Penn State

This article is a part of Climate Action at Penn State, a blog highlighting climate solutions, research, and other efforts at Penn State. 

My research focus is on renewable energy technology and implementation. This includes resources, hybrid designs, policies, and society as well thermal fluid system design optimization for improved energy system performance.

I also work in the area of renewable energy education at the K-12, collegiate, and graduate levels, aiming to educate in innovative and engaging ways to help grow the renewable energy workforce.

I love the nature of the competition and how it drives the students to a successful outcome.

My research and educational endeavors aim to build the workforce in this area, educate community members on the benefits of wind energy, and research the impacts of policies, design standards, and new technology on site-specific implementation. I educate students on real-world implementations of wind energy applications, providing skills which are directly applicable to renewable energy project development as well as working with energy systems broadly.

In this workforce development space, I am the primary investigator for the Collegiate Wind Competition team and advisor for the associated PSU Wind Energy Club. This competition provides a co-curricular, hands-on activity for undergraduate students, which provides an enriching, real-world experience in wind turbine technology as well as wind project development.

Wind turbines provide power.

It also requires interdisciplinary teamwork and strong communication skills to manage the highly complex nature of the design challenges. This team of students learns how to see the big picture of the design challenge at hand, fully grasping the systems perspective of the wind energy enterprise. They realize that changes to a single component can have down downstream effects in the system which need to be fully fleshed out before implementation.

The team also engages with the PA Wind for Schools program, assisting with the annual KidWind competition and other outreach activities. They understand the importance of educating the next generation of wind professionals having found success themselves in forming a club to make sure that the transfer of knowledge is continuous from year to year as they continue to pursue (and very frequently, 4 out of 6, win) the Collegiate Wind Competition.

It is really wonderful working with students who are passionate about making a difference in society. I enjoy educating others on renewable energy and then watching them take that knowledge and grow in their careers.

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