Charlotte Energy Tour

(P.M. Michael Baker left, Co-Pres. Nathan Hsieh right)

The Duke Energy Club sent participants on the Energy Initiative’s Power Trip to Charlotte this last week, and Co-President Nathan Hsieh and Project Manager Michael Baker were both on board from the early hours to see what energy companies in North Carolina are like! The trip entailed a tour of the facilities that belong to EPRI (Electric Power Research Institute), as well as a talk on their mission statement as a non-profit research organization. The group stressed the importance of their independence and reliability to their overall business model because of the fact that their success is truly tied to their ability provide the public with better services.

Afterwards, the trip continued onto DukeEnergy, located in downtown Charlotte. Students and faculty heard about the companies plan to implement a large-scale solar generation project and their movement and growth as a business, aiming to leverage more sustainable forms of energy. Moreover, the tour group was also allowed a sneak-peek, behind the scenes, at what it looks like to manage the demand-response of power generation in virtually all the Carolinas. The also gave out some cool, solar-powered flashlights!

The next stop was the SIEMEN’s manufacturing plant, where immense turbines and generators for power plants are built. It was an incredible opportunity to see the sheer scale and scope of what the industrial heart of America looks like. It was also a cool intellectual activity to get to see the cogs of the machine that we, as consumers, use on a second-by-second basis, but never get to hear, touch, feel or see.

The trip then moved onto dinner in Greensboro, where the group was taken to the Proximity Hotel, a leed-certified building equipped with solar panels to clean and heat water, regenerative driving in their elevators, as well as a state-of-the-art electric grid design. In the rooms, lighting and outlets have been designed and implemented in a way that is incredibly efficient, cost-cutting and innovative and the elevators actually generate electricity on the way down, leveraging algorithms to appropriately determine the number of floors required to make it back up.

Ultimately the tour ended up back in Durham, sadly to us all, but it was an awesome opportunity to experience the facilities and work-culture that surround a number of not-so-local energy companies. These reputable groups are providing ground-breaking research and innovative materials to the industry in order to spur growth and development. As a result, it was an incredible opportunity to get a hands-on look at what businesses in the energy space are getting involved in. The Energy Initiative plans on scheduling further events like this, so check in on their listserv to get involved and get signed up – we highly recommend it!

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