Students receive PACCE grant for renewable energy projects

December 10, 2013
Matthew Wolf
Rose Henkel

PLATTEVILLE, Wis. — Dr. Dino Ress, professor of sustainable and renewable energy systems at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville, is currently supervising two student projects. Both projects are being funded by the Pioneer Academic Center for Community Engagement.

The first project is an audit-based project with the Sun Prairie Athletic Club, located in Sun Prairie, Wis., to cut its water and heat expenses. The athletic club has seen a large expansion in the past few years and aims to cut its energy consumption by $30,000 a year. Students are looking at ways to reduce costs including liquid pool covers, replacing furnaces and the installation of solar water heaters.

The students went through calculations and tests to determine the efficiency of the liquid pool covers. “We built a model aquarium that simulated the actual pool conditions,” said Rose Henkel, a senior environmental engineering major from Danbury, Wis., who is working on this project. “We recorded 24 hours of observation with and without the liquid pool cover to calculate the rate of evaporation.” The students determined that the liquid cover is worth the investment for the business. “Without PACCE we cannot construct projects or visit the job site for research,” said Henkel.

The second PACCE project Dr. Ress is supervising this year is a fabrication-based project for the Four Lakes Wildlife Center. This team of students is working to create a system to grow duckweed for the wildlife rehabilitation center. Duckweed is used as feed for ducklings that the Four Lakes Wildlife Center is working to rehabilitate.

The Wildlife Center is currently harvesting the duckweed from surrounding lakes, which is very labor intensive and costly.

“Duckweed doesn’t need much more than ammonia based water as well as some other nutrients to grow,” said Kim Laufenberg, senior environmental engineering major from Middleton, Wis. This team of students fabricated a 70-gallon tank to grow enough duckweed to feed the center’s maximum duck capacity.

“We needed to create a system they could use year round,” said Laufenberg. “This way the tank is portable and can be moved inside during the winter. This system also has the capability to purify water and may have the potential to become a duck habitat.”

“The design and implementation aspect of these projects is important for the students and PACCE provides a large range of learning opportunities,” said Ress. “This option is also attractive to businesses who do not have funding or the knowledge to complete these projects on their own.”

Contact: Dino Ress, professor, sustainable and renewable energy, (608) 342-7234,

Written by: Megan Schmidt, UW-Platteville University Information and Communications, (608) 342-1194,


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