Energy Projects, PHYS 310, Spring 2019

Project groups for PHYS-310, Spring 2019 will have 3-4 people and there can be no more than two people in the same major. The project presentation and webpage is intentionally ill defined to allow maximum freedom for you to explore. However, some of the deliverables include:

  • Calculations related to the class material
  • Environmental impact analysis, effect, benefit, or insight
  • Consideration of societal transformation
  • Policy Consideration
  • Economic analysis
  • Consideration of equity, developing country, or environmental justice.
Link to webpage Description of the topic Members_Contact_info
Solar-Powered Bike Taxi 1. Solar Powered Bike Taxi. Pete’s friend rides a bicycle cab with electric assist. The battery runs out. We put a canopy over the passengers made of solar panels to charge the battery, but it didn’t work too well. Because the solar panel only puts out 2 A, I think that what is needed is over-voltage protection, so the battery never gets higher than 55V. I would like you to communicate with her, design this device, build and install solar capacity, and then monitor the power over a few days using data loggers. See the webpage summarizing our efforts, and contact Donette Donaway, Ryan Kirk
Luis Mata
Matthew Steinborn
Ricardo Garcia
Ox-Powered Generator 2. Ox-Powered Electrical Generation. Pete’s friend, Alex Petroff established an organization in D. R. Congo called Working Villages International, that profoundly impacted the lives of about 10,000 previously impoverished people. Part of the intervention was introduction of Ox Power. Now Alex lives in Maine, where they need more electricity in the evenings. He is proposing to generate electricity with Oxen. They used the guts of a cement mixer to transmit oxen power to a lumber saw. It seems as though in India, they’re generating electricity with Oxen. I’m looking for a group to design the mechanical device that would power a generator with oxen. Then you will need to do a financial analysis of what it will cost to generate electricity like this, as well as an environmental impact study; comparing both with conventional electricity generation technologies. Adam Havstad
Jacob Lamkin
Jojo Fleischman

New Website Microhydro Philippines

Microhydro in the Philippines

3. Microhydro in Philippines. Many families in rural areas of the Philippines have incredibly unreliable access to energy due to poor infrastructure. I want to design and prototype small hydroelectric generators that could be set up in rivers or streams in rural areas of the Philippines to help solve this problem. The project team would have to research the materials and technology needed to build this, as well as the cost, both monetary and environmental, of installing such a system in an existing body of water. The size and scale of the hydroelectric generator will be an important consideration for the research team as well, and we’ll need to find the right balance between minimalist design and power output.  Scott Pirkle
Jake Perlman
William Dresser
Nolan Elauria
SLO Electrical Charging Garage

4. SLO Electrical Charging Garage. Building an all electric charging parking garage in SLO. From Derek Johnson of SLO City: 
“As you know, we are building a new parking garage at the corner of Palm/Nipomo.  More about the project can be found in the EIR found here.    In essence, we are interested in any technical support and analysis concerning graduated demand and strategies related to the electrification of the garage for the purposes of charging stations for most if not all of the 450 spaces.  There is planned solar on top of the structure and projections related to EV car ownership and demand over time related for the potential scaling of a system.  I have copied in the Project Manager Richard Burde ( who can provide more details about the project and the technical paper that we have underway on EV charging. Please start by watching this video by Stanford’s Tony Seba

Spencer Esparza
Joe Kennedy
Sydney Limberg
Javier Harrison
Combustion-free Swimming Pool 5. Combustion-free swimming pool heater. Now that it looks like SLO City will be replacing our cogen and natural gas boilers at the Sinsheimer Swim Center with solar… What would it take technically and what would the finances look like to replace the boiler with a commercial scale hot water heat pump? There is an opportunity to install a variable flow controls upgrade, solar pool heating, and commercial pool pump water heating to reduce or eliminate use of natural gas. Please watch the heat pump videos early to get started for this project. They should be around week 8. Contact person is Chris Read (, and on campus (because Cal Poly is very interested in this too), Eric Veium (  Dylan Buren
Daniel Sandborn
Ren Yee
Janine Darato
Solar Kitchen 7. Solar Powered Kitchen. Building on Pete’s Insulated Solar Electric Cooking Research, you will work with students in my appropriate technology class to design and build a solar cooking facility at Quail Springs, an intentional permaculture community an hour inland from Santa Barbara. You will contact the always wonderful and enthusiastic Jan Smith ( design and build a solar cooking kitchen. Contact her at your earliest convenience. You will do a technical/financial/environmental analysis and compare this facility with other options… like what they are doing right now. To get started:  please go to our ISEC webpage and read/watch numbers 1) describing our original ISEC work, 2) a financial analysis, and 3) (the more recent diode cooking). 

Alicia Cheong
Micah Quintana
George Slivka 
Gabriel Sartori

SLO Smart Grid 8. Smart Grid for SLO City. Through Community Choice Aggregation (CCA), SLO has become it’s own electricity distributor, working with Monterey Bay, and can control the buying and selling of electricity! The obvious thing to do is real time pricing, where the consumers pay the cost of electricity at the moment they use it. This will allow the demand for electricity to meet supply, rather than the other way around! However, it’s crucially important that the consumers know the cost of electricity at every moment. Another option is to use OhmConnect in conjunction with the Monterey Bay CCA. Maybe we need a simple LED display to go into the house that reads the cost of electricity from the utility… or through a cell phone app? I don’t know. Look up Sense, Engage by Efergy, Smappee, and EKM monitoring systems. You will study this and come up with a solution for SLO. Heidi Harmon personally wrote me that this is interesting to her.

Haley Pierce
Marcel Rodriguez 
Anders Johnson
J. Ethan Adams

Solar Powered Charger 9. Solar Lighting / Cell Phone Charger. Associated with Insulated Solar Electric Cooking Research, a group of students in Pete’s appropriate technology class are building a lighting system that is charged from a USB port powered by the cooking technologies that other groups are developing. Another USB port will charge cell phones. Working with Kuyere in Malawi. Please see this publication illustrating how important charging capacity is for use of cookers. Last year’s project may be helpful: Cell Phone / Light Charger. Additionally, a group of 4 electrical engineering students wrote a Report on Solar Charging for EE413, an advanced design class. I would like your group to help design these systems and do an economic and environmental analysis of the technology. Daphne Shieh
Owen McKenzie
Ambrocio Rivas

New Website Eating Bugs

Eating Insects

11. Eating insects. Insects are a good source of protein and they have a very small environmental foot print compared to larger animals ESPECIALLY beef. A group in Pete’s appropriate technology class will build and raise insects for consumption such as Meal Worms, Black Soldier Fly Larvae, or Crickets.  Please see last fall’s project on insects for a sustainable future. We might do a thorough literature review and do an analysis for energy use, CO2 emissions, and financial costs and compare this to other meat production methods. Please communicate with the “eating insects” students in my Appropriate Technology Class, because they will be eating insects. 

Eric Hafemann
Summer Rutherford
Kenneth Nguyen

Carbon Repurposing 12. Carbon Sequestration. We’ve had two proposals for carbon sequestration technologies: Christian proposes a panel that is being developed to wash CO2 from the atmosphere. George is exploring ways that algae can make carbon fibers direction from atmospheric CO2! Are these realistic CO2-reduction technologies? Cost effective? Please consult with Christian Vian (

Jason Chauvin
Sean McGowan
Christian Vian

  Projects Not Selected  

6. Electrifying thermal processes on campus. One of our major challenges is eliminating natural gas used to heat the campus (via Heating hot water) from the central boiler plant. Eric Veium of Cal Poly facilities ( thinks this is an excellent opportunity for students to think about potential approaches and solutions for how Cal Poly could get off of or significantly reduce our dependence on natural gas for heating.

  10. Solar Ice Production. Building on Pete’s research from direct solar electric ice production, I would like your group to do a technical / financial / environmental analysis of our direct DC ice production technology, with particular focus on Ghana, where we plan to visit this August. You will work with our research students regarding the technology. Contact Nathan Heston, Cal Poly Physics, with ties to Ghana. With a different technology, we can make ice by directly connecting a solar panel to a freezer and make ice during the day, using insulation to keep it cold at night. We’ve been working on it a lot with solar ice, and the solar ice cream truck. You might compare the two different technologies.