Going where the wind takes me.
December 11, 2007 11:09 AM   Subscribe

I wish to travel the world, learning about renewable energy. Discuss.

I have hopes to eventually get my European Master's in Renewable Energy with EUREC. In the meantime, however, I'm looking for leads on how to educate myself outside of the classroom. Room+board/volunteer programs would be ideal.

I'll be starting at the Earth Embassy, in Japan. There are ample amounts of solar-power NGOs in Nepal, like Swogun's Solar Aid or Himilayan Light Foundation. Australia seems like a ready-made solar powerhouse, but could I really expect to get a green-collar job with something like BUNAC?

And that's only solar power. What about wind, biodiesel, geothermal?

American citizen, best languages are English/Russian/German, fast learner.

Suggestions for wacky educational adventures like Thai massage courses are also appreciated.
posted by laughinglikemad to Travel & Transportation (13 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I don't have any ideas of programs, but while you're in Europe, why not tour a nuclear plant in France? It may not be on your list of "renewable" energy sources, but it's a good to see first-hand how the technology works if you see yourself working in energy in the future.
posted by General Malaise at 11:26 AM on December 11, 2007

Centre for Alternative Technology near Machynlleth in mid-Wales offers courses and volunteer opportunities from a week up to six months.
posted by tallus at 11:28 AM on December 11, 2007

Are you checking out Iceland? They're heavy users of geothermal energy.

Geothermal seems like the the most brain-dead obvious energy solution: we're using extremely messy nuclear materials to generate heat while we're sitting on a massive ball of superhot rock and molten metal. 100% clean and constantly available, more than we could ever use, and all we have to do to tap it is dig a hole in the ground.
posted by mullingitover at 11:31 AM on December 11, 2007

I know you're going to travel the world, but if you're at all interested in the American midwest's production of biodiesel, ethanol or wind farms feel free to MeMail me.

I also understand that there are some exciting things being done with renewable energy in Mexico City and certain parts of South America.
posted by bristolcat at 12:16 PM on December 11, 2007

There is something funny about traveling for green-ness. International air travel, as lovely as it is, seems pretty excruciatingly un-green.

I'm not trying to dissuade you, it sounds like a cool thing to do, and you could potentially offset more than you spent flying all around the world by the things you learned and reported back, if that is a concern. Just saying.
posted by dirtdirt at 12:41 PM on December 11, 2007

I used to live across the street from the Sonnenschiff in Freiburg im Breisgau, Germany. The whole city is pretty green, so it might be worth a visit.
posted by kjars at 2:16 PM on December 11, 2007

Thanks for the Earth Embassy link; I live in Japan. Have to check that place out.
posted by fan_of_all_things_small at 4:46 PM on December 11, 2007

Puna Geothermal Venture in Hawaii.
posted by onalark at 5:43 PM on December 11, 2007

There are quite a few places you could go:

Iceland is interesting for RE, I've led RE field trips there myself but you may find it difficult as an individual to get access to all the places they'll let a group into. There's'a visitor centre at the Svartsengi geothermal power plant, and the power plant is alongside the Blue Lagoon spa, which is actually a result of the 'effluent' from the power plant. I haven't used the visitor centre myself so can't confirm whether it would be interesting enough to justify a visit to Iceland alone. There's also a visitor centre at the Nesjavellir geothermal station and they do a 1 hour tour for free (though maybe not for one person) which is interesting but again perhaps not enough to justify stopping off (and you'd need a car to get out there). Iceland is also supposed to be working on hydrogen powered vehicles but there's little to see, a sealed refuelling station and some ordinary looking buses.
there are a few little RE related sites that I can point you to if you do decide to go to Iceland.

Denmark: The home of wind power, if you head up to northern Jutland then there are lots of wind turbines all over the place, many of different design as early versions from different companies are still in operation. I had a lot of trouble getting visits to industrial sites (eg wind turbine factories, super efficient CHP plants) organised last year for my students and I'd be surprised if you have better luck.

A Danish island, Samsoe, was nominated as a renewable energy island in the 1990s, the idea being for the whole place to go over to sustainable energy, in 2007 an Energy Academy was opened there, this offers courses for people interested in RE, details on that site, I may be taking a group there in April so hopefully it will be useful.

You might also check out the Folkecenter, in northern Jutland, they've been doing RE for years, have a collection of early turbines, lots of turbine blades of different sizes and also have working experiemnts relating to energy efficient building, bioenergy and solar energy. We had a very interesting day there this year. I think they offer courses, you 'll have to check with them. They even took us up one of their wind turbines,which was pretty interesting.

There's also an electricity museum at Tange which I found to be pretty interesting, and which has quite a bit of RE related stuff, as well as the electrically related stuff that you're likely to need anyway for an RE course.

UK: I'll second CAT, a bit out of the way maybe but very well established and they offer different courses and opportunities for day visits or more extended visits where you can volunteer for hands-on work.

The Centre for Sustainable Energy are reputable and also offer 1 and 2 day courses.

Spain: They've installed a lot of wind energy in Spain since 1990, more recently they have built a new 11MW solar concentrator at Sanlucar la Mayor which might make for an interesting visit.

One of my students is currently applying to do a summer voluntary position at what sounds like a Spanish version of CAT, I've emailed him for details and will pass them on once I have them.

France: The tidal barrage at La Rance is one of the few examples of the technology in the world, so if you're in Brittany worth popping in, they have a visitor centre but its kind of run down, probably you're not going to be there more than an hour or two at best, and little else to see RE wise in the area.

If you're planning to do any visits might I suggest getting a decent introductory text book, Boyle's 'Renewable Energy' is the one we recommend to our RE undergrads, and working through stuff so that you get the most out of your visits, in this way you could visit places and get more benefit out of the trip even if you can't find someone to tell you about stuff. For example, consider going to have a look at sites near where you live that have potential for micro-hydro, learn how you'd calculate how much solar energy an installation at a particular site might be able to capture.

Some technologies you're just not going to be able to see as yet. There's virtually no working wave or tidal stream technology on line as yet anywhere in the world.
If I think of anything else I'll pass it on.
posted by biffa at 2:04 AM on December 12, 2007 [1 favorite]

mullingitover: Iceland sits on the North Atlantic rift, they dig a 1000metre hole and hot (ie >150C) water bubbles out, the same thing doesn't happen where most of us live, so the economics aren't anywhere near as good.
posted by biffa at 3:25 AM on December 12, 2007

The place in Spain is called Sunseed, they do other stuff there but if you volunteer you can specialise in solar energy if you like.
posted by biffa at 7:17 AM on December 12, 2007

Thailand has a government-sponsored renewable energy program, actively promoted by the King, a constitutional monarch. He reportedly owns and drives a vehicle which runs on palm oil . This particular variety of biodiesel is 98 percent diesel and 2 percent bio (the palm oil).
Among the criticisms of the King's biodiesel plan as it currently stands in Thailand: use of land for growing palm oil instead of growing food crops is said to have driven the price of food up, and the rest of SE Asia is moving towards using Jatropha in biodiesel.
That said, palm oil isn't Thailand's only plan: like many Third World countries, they are enamored of Big Dam development (to prove they are the technical equals of the wealthier countries) and hydroelectricity. Currently, they buy extra electricity from the hydroelectric system developed by Laos.
posted by bunky at 8:39 PM on December 14, 2007

I've just remembered that Abu Dhabi has set up a Renewable Energy Institute which might also be of interest.
posted by biffa at 3:51 AM on December 18, 2007

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