Dominion Foundation Awards $10K Grant to FSU for Solar Energy Project

Monday, November 09, 2015

A $10,000 grant from Dominion Foundation will help Fairmont State University’s College of Science and Technology launch a solar energy program that has on-campus and community outreach components.

Mark Barnes, Director of Gas Operations for Dominion Hope in Clarksburg, visited the FSU campus on Wednesday, Oct. 28, to present the grant funds to the Fairmont State Foundation, Inc., on behalf of the FSU College of Science and Technology. Barnes met with FSU President Maria Rose; Foundation President RJ Gimbl; Dr. Don Trisel, Dean of the College of Science and Technology; Dr. Erica Harvey, a faculty member in the College of Science and Technology; Amantha Cole, grant author; and three FSU students, senior Chemistry major Kevin Dudley, sophomore Biology major Jenni Perkins and M.Ed. Digital Media and Technology student Sean Harwell.

The overarching goals of the project, titled “Solar Powered Learning, Research and Outreach” led by Trisel and Harvey, are to provide hands-on learning and STEM research opportunities for University and high school students in the region in a real-world application and to raise awareness among students and the community about the viability of solar energy.

“It’s a very good project. We’re excited about the partnership with FSU,” Barnes said. “As a diverse company as Dominion is, it’s important that we support ventures like we have here at Fairmont State. It is important that the business community support student ideas.”

A small solar array will be installed on campus, along with a cell phone and laptop charging station. Students will assist in the planning and preparation for these solar stations and then will observe and analyze their energy production. The project will create cross-discipline learning applications and student research opportunities for students in Physics, Computer Science, Electrical Engineering Technology, Mechanical Engineering Technology, Chemistry and Environmental Science.

“We are thankful for this funding opportunity from Dominion Foundation and for their ongoing support of Fairmont State,” Trisel said. “We are helping to train the future scientists and engineers that companies like Dominion will want to employ. We might also be able to excite some high school students about the possibilities of conducting research and contributing to society. Perhaps some of these students will consider a career in STEM fields.”

Harvey said the project provides a wonderful opportunity for FSU students to mentor K-12 students in real research. As the headquarters for the West Virginia Brigade, FSU students will recruit high school students for the West Virginia Brigade of the “Solar Army,” a nationwide search for new photoelectrocatalysts that can split water with sunlight to produce hydrogen gas for fuel. “Hydrogen gas has potential as a green fuel because when burned in the presence of oxygen, the only waste product is water,” Trisel said.

“I love the idea that a West Virginia student could potentially discover a useful new material for solar energy conversion,” Harvey added.

Originally funded by a National Science Foundation Center for Chemical Innovation grant to a group of universities led by researchers at Caltech, the Solar Army engages students in the preparation and testing of combinations of cheap, non-toxic, earth-abundant metal oxides for photoelectrocatalytic activity. FSU will become a public example of the benefits of exploring alternative and diverse energy sources.

Dominion is one of the nation's largest producers and transporters of energy, with a portfolio of approximately 24,600 megawatts of generation, 12,200 miles of natural gas transmission, gathering and storage pipeline and 6,455 miles of electric transmission lines. Dominion operates one of the nation’s largest natural gas storage systems with 928 billion cubic feet of storage capacity and serves utility and retail energy customers in 13 states. For more information about Dominion, visit the company’s web site at www.dom.com or Dominion Energy Solutions at www.DominionEnergy.com.

About the photo:

Pictured from left to right are Dr. Don Trisel, Interim Dean of the FSU College of Science and Technology; FSU President Maria Rose; Mark Barnes, Director of Gas Operations for Dominion Hope in Clarksburg; RJ Gimbl of the Fairmont State Foundation, Inc.; and Dr. Erica Harvey, a FSU College of Science and Technology faculty member.