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SFU to build energy education classroom

LORETTO — Efforts to build a Saint Francis University Tiny Classroom Big Impact project are underway.

The project will provide hands-on, renewable energy education for SFU students and community members in central and southwestern Pennsylvania.

A year ago, the Institute for Energy had an idea to construct a tiny mobile classroom. They envisioned the classroom would utilize renewable energy and serve as a teaching tool about sustainability and power technologies for communities in the region.

Two local organizations are making that dream come true. In February, the Community Foundation for the Alleghenies pledged $21,200 for the project, and in July, the West Penn Power Sustainable Energy Fund contributed $23,000.

Environmental engineering students helped with the design concept as part of their senior capstone project last semester. Students enrolled in the new energy technology and policy minor will use the classroom as well.

The lab will include a 1.56-kilowatt solar PV system with battery storage, a small deployable wind turbine, a see-through wall demonstrating insulation techniques, a biomass heater and other energy-related technologies. The mobile power lab will travel around the region providing the opportunity for participants to experience renewable energy applications that may be feasible for use in their home.

“The Tiny Classroom Big Impact project allows our organization to reach a much broader audience and bring renewable energy to the people” said Allison Rohrs, SFU Institute for Energy director, in a statement. “Lots of people have heard about these technologies, but few have stepped inside a solar-powered house or touched a wind turbine blade. We hope this experiential learning inspires our community to be more sustainable and thoughtful about their energy use. We are so excited to offer this new program and very grateful for the support from CFA and WPPSEF.”

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