Summer Travel Class Offered Through NV Energy


Students in the summer course will study renewable energy in Nevada.

Ryland West, Editor

The groan of the coffee maker as it squeaks out the morning cup of joe, or the flash of bedroom lights in the late afternoon. The flick of an electric switch makes these marvels work—and most of us never think about what it takes to make that happen.

“Most of us don’t know how it works. We don’t know where our energy comes from, or what source of energy we are using, science professor Andy Rost said. “The only two times we pay attention to the power is when we pay a monthly bill and when it goes out.”

This summer, Rost and sustainability professor Nicholas Babin are working side by side to teach a new course meant to educate students about the energy systems that power our lives. Simultaneously, students will learn about Nevada’s natural history. The three-week course, ENVS 380, combines a three-credit energy systems class with a one-credit Great Basin natural history class.

Beginning Saturday, June 3, students will embark on a seven-day trip starting at Great Basin National Park. They’ll visit a nearby wind farm to learn about wind energy, then head east to Hoover Dam, then up Nevada’s northwest edge to visit a methane recapture plant, a solar farm and a hydrothermal plant. The class will wrap up with a few days on campus and around Reno.

Rost said the class will offer valuable insight for sustainability and science majors, but students from other majors could benefit from it as well. He believes Nevada has the potential to be a big energy producer, so this class might be intriguing for entrepreneurship students.

“Every time I visit a local site, I’m blown away by how little I know, and how very little the students know,” Rost said. “Knowing how the [energy] system works is a critical part of being an adult.”

Babin will teach the course’s natural history segment, and he said the class will be camping and hiking for most of the week. “This class is a unique opportunity for students to gain a deeper understanding of the plants, animals and environment of Nevada,” Babin said. “I’ve always had a fascination and excitement for natural history, and it’s just a great way to enjoy nature.”

ENVS 380 also has an incentive for students seeking relatively inexpensive summer courses. Due to NV Energy’s sponsorship of the course, the course fee is only $100, which includes travel and living expenses throughout the week. The utility company is sponsoring the class as a way to promote its renewable energy program, which currently includes 20 geothermal projects, 11 solar projects and a dozen wind, biomass, and waste heat renewable energy projects in Nevada.