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Creighton's second EnergiPlant grows with hands-on efforts

A new plant in Creighton University’s budding energy garden took root this weekend.

Saturday afternoon, as part of the culmination of their coursework, students in associate physics professor Andrew Baruth, PhD’s Energy Technology Program Energy 131 course focused on installing and maintaining photovoltaic systems erected the campus’ second EnergiPlant USB charging station between the Harper Center and Davis Square.

The EnergiPlant resembles a roughly 12-foot tall metal flower with a bloom doubling as a wind turbine and four metal leaves embedded with solar panels, all producing about 300 watts of power. The flower stands between two benches studded with six USB ports where students can stop, charge their electronic devices and socialize.

“When the new dental school opens up, this walkway will be populated with a lot more students,” said Nathan Adams, a sophomore from Chicago majoring in financial planning and sustainable energy science. “Between the business school and the dental school and the residence halls, we hope it creates a nice little convergence for students to meet, relax and charge mobile devices.”

Energy 131 is a retreat course, starting with a weeklong session at the Creighton Retreat Center in Griswold, Iowa. From there the students meet on weekends for instruction on photovoltaic cells and to begin the construction of the EnergiPlant, a project that comes with a sponsorship from OPPD, a steady partner with Creighton's Energy Technology Program.

“We basically started this whole thing from scratch,” Adams said. “Dr. Baruth walked in the first day and said, ‘Who can tell me what the photovoltaic effect is?’ And nobody was really confident in answering that. But within a few weeks, we were going right at it and constructing this thing, getting to know each other really well in the process.”

Last fall, Energy Technology Program students completed the first EnergiPlant station in the quadrangle anchored by the Eppley and Rigge buildings, Dowling and Hitchcock halls.

Baruth said both classes proved themselves up to the challenge and the completion of the EnergiPlant — the component parts of which are supplied through a partnership with California-based PrimoWind — has been an integral, practical exercise for seeing solar and wind power at work.

For Adams, the retreat, classroom instruction and ultimately, the construction of the station, bore out the hopes he has always held for his Creighton education.

“It’s probably been the most rewarding class I’ve taken at Creighton so far, and that’s saying a lot because we are challenged and given practical applications here,” he said. “Talking to potential employers about internships, I’m able to talk not simply about what I’ve learned in classrooms or read in books, but about the working knowledge I’ve acquired and the practical application of that knowledge. That’s what has made this project so rewarding for all of us.”

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