TTI Graduate Student James Robertson and his two teammates will split a $5,000 educational scholarship for their participation in the 2nd Biennial Texas Energy Innovation Challenge.
The Texas A&M University team competed against teams from The University of Texas and Texas Tech University. Their challenge: how to get power to all Texans, especially those living in colonias in South Texas.
“Texas has a large population of people living in these low-income areas, and they live a far distance from electric grids,” Robertson explains. “The challenge was to find feasible ways to provide them with power.” An estimated 500,000 people in California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas live in colonias. Texas has the largest number of these unincorporated settlements.
Robertson’s team, which included Rachael Dahl and Lauren Pfeifer of the Bush School, suggested a “three-pronged policy strategy that involved loosening regulations, passing legislation and expanding existing initiatives.” The team recommended a photovoltaic battery system that includes a series of solar panels and an optimization technique to meet the subsistence-level needs of colonias residents.
In addition to the team’s presentation, members provided a background report about why colonias exist, a business plan for implementing the team’s proposed solution and policy recommendations to overcome existing political hurdles.
Hosting the Energy Innovation Challenge, Power Across Texas calls itself a “non-partisan learning center” and provides information, news analysis, and interactive resources to Texas energy issues.
The team from The University of Texas took top honors in the challenge.
A total of $22,000 in scholarships was awarded to the three teams.