An adventure in renewable energy and sustainability!

It’s one thing to learn about sustainability in the classroom, and it’s a completely different one to experience it first-hand in Costa Rica.  A program in its third year called Global Renewable Energy Education Network, or “GREEN,” provides an educational adventure for motivated students excited to explore renewable energy and sustainability.  Joelle Zerillo, the Director of University Outreach for GREEN, describes the program and encourages MIT students to attend.

1. What is GREEN?

GREEN is a 12-day program in Costa Rica for students from all different walks of life, from the U.S. and abroad, from business students to engineers, all bound by their interest in sustainability and renewable energy.  Students get an overview of five types of alternative energy, including hydropower, geothermal, wind, solar, and biomass, through site visits.  Through a rigorous curriculum and exclusive access to renewable energy technology, this program helps students of all majors to bridge the gap between typical book learning and accelerated career advancement.  Finally, students work together on a capstone project in which groups come up with an idea, either a business plan or an invention, to implement at their university or hometown.  It’s a great opportunity for students who don’t have a lot of time to study abroad but still want the hands-on educational experience.

2. Why Costa Rica?

Costa Rica is the epicenter of renewable energy, where the 5 types of renewable energy are within driving distance of each other, allowing them to power 80% of the country’s energy consumption.  Plus, who wouldn’t want to go to Costa Rica!

3. Who teaches the program?

GREEN’s course discussions are presented by industry experts in each respective type of renewable energy industry.  Facility tours are conducted by managers, lead engineers and operators of the plants.  For example, Frank Boyd Daniels is the Lead Plant Engineer at Marubeni Co Geothermal Plant.

Sustainability modules in various topics including engineering, economics, policy, design, and implementation, are led by experienced sustainability practitioners such as Roberta Ward Smiley at the La Reserva Foundation and Jean Paul from B-Green Sustainable Homes.  Local culture and community sustainability tours are led by Luis Diego Murillo (Vice President of the Tilaran Cattle Association) and Don Bovillo (President of Parceles Water Committee).

4. What is the main motivation to attend GREEN?

Students say that the main motivation about GREEN is the process of pooling all of their knowledge into a culminating capstone project.  Students who attended this program in the past have cited it as “one of the best experiences of their life.”  Some have returned to Costa Rica for summer internships in the renewable energy sector. Others applied their experiences to succeed in internships and jobs in the United States at leading companies such as General Electric, Bechtel, the USDA, USPTO and others.  Finally, GREEN participants are graduated into an extensive alumni network of bright, like-minded individuals.

5. There are many programs at MIT that focus on or have aspects of renewable energy, such as D-Lab, Energy Ventures, IDEAS, and 100K. How does GREEN stand out?

As the only program that exposes students how Costa Rica “got sustainability right,” GREEN is the missing link for renewable energy education.  The country’s advances in renewable energy allow them to power 80% of the country with renewables.  They have designed the country in a way that will allow them to create a sustainable future, right down to the strategic placement of the man-made lake, Lake Arenal.

There is a saying in Costa Rica, “Pura Vida,” which literally means “a pure life”, but the GREEN students know that with a pure heart, an open mind and a little innovation, they can create a GREENer tomorrow.  As more MIT students participate in GREEN, the program directors will customize the trips to student preferences and interests. The applications are processed on a rolling basis so contact the program soon if you’re interested in being a campus ambassador for GREEN.

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