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May 19, 2004

Solar Energy for Bunker Center

It took two years to research, finance, design and build. It will provide at least 60 percent of the energy for the newest building at Calvin College. And it will educate visitors about renewable energy sources.

It is the solar energy project for Calvin's new Helen and Vincent Bunker Interpretive Center, in the words of engineering professor Paulo Ribeiro: "the most significant engineering design project in the history of the college engineering program."

And its creator, Jordan Hoogendam, is a college student.

In fact, the solar energy project was the senior engineering design project for Hoogendam (second from left), a native of Cobourg, Ontario, and three of his fellow students — Clinton Reitsma (far left) of Whitby, Ontario, Sam Schoofs (far right) of Grand Rapids and Sharon Abraham (second from right) of Sugar Land, Texas.

Those who designed and built the new Bunker Center agree that without Hoogendam and his team the new building, slated to open this summer and be dedicated this fall, would not be solar-powered.

For his part Hoogendam says simply: "I really, really wanted to see a technology like this displayed in a large way at Calvin."

Thanks to the efforts of him and his team it will be.

Visitors to the Bunker Center first will notice on the roof a large photovoltaic array, which will supply the lion's share of the center's energy. Meanwhile a Web server attached to the system will monitor solar intensity, wind speed and direction, temperature, the system's power output and the facility's power consumption. That server, in turn, will interface with an interactive educational kiosk located in the Bunker Center and with a special Calvin website — making information about renewable energy available to multiple audiences.

The photovoltaic project is one of several environmentally friendly features which qualify the building for a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold rating from the U.S. Green Building Council. And it represents the culmination of a long-time dream for Hoogendam.

Already in 2002 Hoogendam was part of a student team which presented solar technology options for the Bunker Center to college architect Frank Gorman. At the time money was an impediment to putting the technology in place. So Hoogendam partnered with Lois Konyndyk, Calvin's director of foundation relations, and Ribeiro in engineering to write a grant proposal to the State of Michigan's Energy Office, hoping to get funds to make solar energy his senior design project.

In July 2003 the energy office awarded the student project $91,000. The college then added $17,400 to that total. Funding secured Hoogendam was determined to make the photovoltaic system his senior engineering design project. The engineering department, however, thought the project was too ambitious for Hoogendam's team to tackle.

"People were worried," remembers Chuck Holwerda, the department's electronics expert who worked most closely with the students. However, as college architect Frank Gorman says: "Jordan Hoogendam makes a practice of exceeding expectations."

Last fall Hoogendam pulled his team together with Reitsma customizing the computer program that handled all the behind-the scenes data querying, storage and retrieval, Abraham engineering the information kiosk and Schoofs handling the Website. During the 2003 Christmas break, the entire team glued the photovoltaic array to the Bunker Center's metal roof.

Hoogendam also attended numerous construction meetings as the liaison between the student team, the college architect, the construction team and everyone else involved in the building of the Bunker Center.

With the Bunker Center due for dedication on September 10, 2004, and the student team due to graduate on May 22, Hoogendam finally is able to step back and look at what has been accomplished.

"There's a system here at Calvin," he says, "that provides energy without polluting the environment — and will do so for the next 20 or 30 years. And we've left an educational tool that future classes could use in the engineering, geology and biology departments.”

Hoogendam now is eyeing graduate school in Canada (where his wife will be teaching) and a future in academia or the renewable energy industry — after he puts some finishing touches on his senior project.

"We don't get our final check from the state until everything is up and running," says biology professor Randall Van Dragt, director of the Ecosystem Preserve. "So I know that Jordan is going to be hanging around this summer to make sure everything will be operating."

~written by media relations staff writer Myrna Anderson

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Contact Phil de Haan
616-526-6475 (v)
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