SCHOOLS SEE THE IMPORTANCE OF A GREENER VISION
When GCube, the insurance services provider, had to cover a claim to replace wind energy equipment last year, it found a way to put the damaged parts to use. GCube donated the turbine to Laramie County Community College in Wyoming. The used but working equipment was valued at $600,000 but the donation was part of a long-term company initiative to give engineering students hands-on eperience of wind energy technology.
The college, could not have afforded to buy the kit itself. Just bringing the 36-tonne unit to campus, installing it and building a catwalk around it so that students could learn how to maintain it, has cost the college more than $100,000 (€68,000, £62,000).
As schools across the US start to build renewable energy programmes, hands-on experience is increasingly sought after. The Obama administration has pledged to pour funds into renewables, with an economic stimulus package that includes $56bn in grants and tax breaks for US clean energy projects over the next 10 years and a budget of $15bn a year to fund renewable energy programmes such as biodiesel, ethanol, solar and wind energy, as well as hybrid vehicles.
In response, schools across the US are looking at ways to prepare students for the industry. Universities and business schools are broadening traditional curriculums to take in issues that arise from the world's attempts to move away from fossil fuels and embrace alternative sources.
Pennsylvania State University does so through courses in its environmental and renewable resource economics department. Stanford University's global climate and energy project works to find solutions to how to supply energy to meet the needs of a growing world population while protecting the environment.
At the Bauer College of Business at the University of Houston, Praveen Kumar, executive director of the Global Energy Management Institute, last year started trying to capitalise on Houston's standing as the world's energy capital with an increasing number of workshops, seminars and courses touching on renewables.
Given all the energy talent in the city, the school is able to pull in speakers and guest lecturers from across the industry. UH is using a partnership with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory to research the commercial viability of pyroil, a biomass-based fuel, to develop a course on the economic aspects of biofuels. It held the country's first graduate course in carbon trading, in coordination with the university's law school, given all the legal issues still to be resolved.
Earlier this year, the school offered a course dedicated to working with companies to design renewables-based business plans for its applied finance projects class. “It's been a great experience for all of us,” Prof Kumar says. “We will do it every summer.”'
Next year, UH will move such occasional courses on to the core curriculum, with three or four regularly scheduled courses touching on renewables and carbon markets.
While the US has been moving toward renewables for several years, he explains there is a time lag in higher education. “You want to make sure you have a framework you can give to the students.''
John Butler, academic director in the Energy Management and Innovation Center in the McCombs School of Business at the University of Texas at Austin, says: “To get a new course offered is very hard.” For that reason, the university offers practicums as a way to get around the formality of creating a new course. These project-based courses change topics from year to year and are a good way to get into alternatives.
In addition, the university uses alternative energy companies or issues as examples or case studies in a variety of classes. For example, students in the school's marketing class will be focusing on companies marketing green products.
“It's going to be hard to talk about running a business without talking about energy in general and sustainability specifically,'' Prof Butler adds.
The school offers its MBA students electives in Clean Technology and Energy Finance that incorporate renewables. He expects that at some point, the school will offer a class focused entirely on alternatives.
For the past three years, Kyriacos Zygourakis, professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering at Rice University, has co-taught a course called engineering sustainable communities.
It examines the US's dependence on fossil fuels, whose production will eventually peak, and the effort that is required to scale up renewables to replace them. “Students learn how to systematically analyse these issues,” says Prof Zygourakis.
This year's final project was to see how Rice University could meet its goal to become carbon neutral. “No single solution can provide the answer,” he says. He admits some students are shocked at discovering how hard meeting that goal will be.
“My goal is to make the students understand the complexity of these problems,” adds Prof Zygourakis. “Hopefully they can contribute to the solution.''
去年，当保险服务提供商GCube不得不接受一项替换风能 设备的索赔时，它找到了一种利用坏损设备的方法。GCube把涡轮机捐赠给了怀俄明州的拉勒米县社区学院(Laramie County Community College)。这台仍能工作的旧设备价值60万美元，但此次捐赠只是GCube向工程专业学生提供风能技术实践机会的长期举措的一部分。
随着美国各地的学校开始开设可再生能源项目，实践经验变得越来越吃香。奥巴马(Obama)政府承诺要向可再生能源大举投资，经济刺激计划中包括未 来10年为美国清洁能源项目提供560亿美元的拨款和税收减免，并将每年拨出150亿美元的预算，用于为生物柴油、乙醇、太阳能和风能等可再生能源项目和 混合动力车提供资金。
宾夕法尼亚州立大学(Pennsylvania State University)这样做，是通过环境和可再生资源经济系的课程。斯坦福大学(Stanford University)的全球气候和能源项目致力于找到解决办法，研究如何在保护环境的同时，供应能满足日益增长的全球人口需求的能源。
在休斯敦大学(University of Houston)的Bauer商学院，全球能源管理学院(Global Energy Management Institute)执行董事普拉文•库玛(Praveen Kumar)去年开始尝试利用休斯敦作为世界能源之都的地位——越来越多涉及可再生能源的工作室、研讨会和课程在这里举办。
鉴于休斯敦能源人才众多，该校有能力从整个行业吸引来演讲人及嘉宾讲师。休斯敦大学正利用与美国国家可再生能源实验室(National Renewable Energy Laboratory)的合作关系，研究基于生物材料的燃料——皮罗伊的商业可行性，以开发一门有关生物燃料经济方面的课程。该校拥有美国首个碳交易研究 生课程。鉴于有众多法律问题有待解决，这个课程是与该校法学院合作开办的。
得克萨斯大学(University of Texas) McCombs商学院能源管理和创新中心(Energy Management and Innovation Center)学术主管约翰•巴特勒(John Butler)表示：“推出一门新课程难度很大。”因此，该校推出了一些实习课程，以绕过开办新课程的手续。这些基于项目的课程每年都会变换主题，是一种 了解替代能源的好方法。
过去3年，莱斯大学(Rice University)化学和生物分子工程教授克里阿克斯•扎古拉克斯(Kyriacos Zygourakis)一直在合作教授一门称作工程可再生社区的课程。