Shaw has worked closely with IESVic director and Mechanical Engineering Prof. Peter Wild since they decided to link Shaw’s fourth-year energy, ecology and politics course to Wild’s grad-level course on renewable energy.
The interdisciplinary experiment has been a resounding success.
“The sessions are always exceptionally lively and there’s tremendous interplay,” says Wild, PhD ’94. “From the engineering side, we tend to get very absorbed in the technical and to be reluctant to zoom out and look at the some of the non-technical, big-picture issues, such as environmental, social, economic and legal impacts. Working with Kara and her students brings those forward. It gives context.”
Wild’s grad students also act as advisors to the Environmental Studies students for their group projects, helping them find resources and interpret technical information. At the end of the term, the engineers present their own course projects to Shaw’s class. “A lot of our grad students come to IESVic come because of its reputation,” says Wild, “but also because of a predisposition toward working in the energy field and trying to do something (about) climate change.”
Back in 1977, when he was deciding on an undergraduate program, Wild’s interest in solar energy led him into mechanical engineering. “Since I was very young, I’ve had a strong belief that we were doing terrible harm to our environment and that there would one day be serious consequences,” says Wild. “When I joined UVic and IESVic five years ago and began working in the field of energy systems, it was an opportunity to apply my engineering skills to the development of systems that will, hopefully, reduce the harm that we are inflicting on our environment, [including] global warming.”
Wild is part of a team of IESVic members conducting research on incorporating alternative power sources, such as wind, wave, tidal and run-of-river hydro, into transmission systems. “We’re interested in the effects of the integration of ever-increasing amounts of renewable energy into an electrical grid,” Wild says. With wind power, for example, “issues start to arise around how you’re going to manage the fluctuations in the supply of that renewable resource. So when the wind comes up in a hurry and you have a sudden peak in generation or when the wind falls off and you have a sudden drop in generation, what are the implications for the network?”
Climate Change: What Now? | 2 | 3