Office of the Vice President for Global Communications

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

U-M Students to explore energy options in Wyoming

Imagine if a small community could become an “experimental city” for cost-effectively testing alternative energy systems before actually investing in those options.

Well that’s exactly what will happen at the University of Michigan’s Camp Davis Rocky Mountain Field Station in Jackson Hole, Wyoming this summer, when a group of U-M undergraduate students take a class called “Sustainable & Fossil Energy: Options & Consequences.”

As part of the class, Camp Davis will be installing miniature, yet fully functioning, versions of several alternative energy solutions, including solar photovoltaics, solar hot-water, wind generation, and hydroelectric power. Students will then have the opportunity to operate, monitor, and report on these systems and their effectiveness.

“This is truly an experiential course,” says U-M Geology and Ecology Professor and Camp Davis Director Joel Blum, who will be co-teaching the course with Professor Rodney Ewing, U-M Geology and Nuclear Engineering. “Camp Davis is exploring the feasibility of becoming 100% carbon neutral, and students in this class will be engaged in an important, early-stage component of our analysis. It really is a unique opportunity for the students and the University.”

Students in the course will also travel throughout Wyoming and Idaho to examine multiple power-generation facilities in the area – allowing them to compare and contrast a diverse spectrum of energy producing alternatives. These facilities will likely include a nuclear reactor, hydroelectric dam, wind farm, uranium mine, coal mine, and natural gas field. Students will also study the ecological consequences of the various energy options.

“Real-life experience is critical to learning,” says Professor Don Scavia, director of the Graham Environmental Sustainability Institute, which is sponsoring the course as part of the Graham Scholars Program. “And this new Graham Scholars course at Camp Davis is the epitome of such learning.”

To learn more about the Graham Scholars Program, please visit the Graham Institute website at You may also learn more about Camp Davis at