Western, TTU and WEP Provide Travel & Service Opportunity for Energy Management Students

Dr. Jessica Richards and Allie Huizenga recently traveled through the high country of the Andes Mountains to install solar panel electrical systems to previously off-grid communities as part of the World Energy Project.

Dr. Jessica Richards, Energy Management faculty member, and senior Energy Management student, Allie Huizenga, spent two weeks this summer in Peru partnering with Texas Tech on the World Energy Project.

The WEP provides basic solar power systems to off-grid communities in developing countries where access to electricity is unavailable through traditional sources. Students travel to the communities to learn about system design, micro-finance and install the systems. The WEP began in 2008 and has partnered with the Light up the World Foundation of Calgary, Canada, and is now permanently based in Lima, Peru.

Huizenga, originally from Elizabeth, Co. is pursuing her undergraduate degree in Business Administration, with an emphasis in Energy Management and minor in Spanish.  She is actively involved outside of class, serving as the president of Western Association of Professional Landmen, as a Western Ambassador, as a Geiman Fellow, and as a work-study student for the Energy Management program. She chose to attend Western specifically for the Energy Management program.

“Energy management is a unique profession, it’s ever-changing. You’re never doing the same thing every day,” explains Huizenga.

Richards grew up in the suburbs of Chicago and attended Illinois State University where she earned her bachelor’s degree in History and Political Science. She completed her Masters Degree in Environmental and Natural Resource Law at the University of Denver, where she then worked in the oil and gas industry in downtown Denver for 10 years. She was also teaching part time in the University of Denver’s law program, lecturing about contemporary issues in oil and gas and oil and gas agreements.  This is Richards’ second year as a professor in the Energy Management program at Western.

Western is one of only 10 undergraduate schools nationally accredited by the American Association of Professional Landmen (AAPL), and the only university in the Colorado. The program prepares it students to face challenges in the complex oil and gas industry.

“The role of the landman is very dynamic. They are a project manager and point person within the company responsible for reigning in different groups, whether it be geologists, engineers, land staff, technical staff, and organizing their work. They are working on various land title issues, using knowledge of property regulatory laws, using environmental stewardship and to make way for responsible oil and gas development,” said Richards.

Huizenga has gotten the opportunity to take field trips with her classmates to watch her future profession in action. “My sophomore year we traveled to Rifle, Colo. to tour an oil rig, a gas plant, and a water treatment plant. We got to see them in action.” Twice a year, in October and February, the students also travel to the National American Prospect Expo, where countless companies in the industry convene for a networking event. This allows Western students to interact with professionals in their field and stay current on best practice strategies. 

Similar to these hands-on learning opportunities was participation in the World Energy Project. Western partnered with the Energy Commerce Program at Texas Tech University. “They are two programs with similar goals in mind,” said Richards. The Program Director, Terry McInturff, started the World Energy Project in 2008 with the Light Up the World Foundation to give students the opportunity to practically apply what they were learning in the classroom and serve developing communities in Latin America. Texas Tech invited Western along to see if this is something that they would like to do again in the future.

World Energy Project group photo

After traveling from Gunnison to Lima, Peru through a series of plane and bus rides, the combined Texas Tech and Western team received instructions and tutorials on the solar panel systems they’d be installing. 

World Energy Project tutorial

Separate groups continued traveling through the high country of the Andes Mountains to more rural communities to apply the basics of electricity they had just learned into surrounding homes. They spent the majority of their time in the Province of Huancasancos in Ayacucho, Peru. They set up solar panel light systems and battery packs to bring basic electricity to those previously off the grid. 

World Energy Project Peru

The World Energy Project installed a total of 25 power systems on this trip. “The families themselves actually pay for the system. It comes with lights and a charging station intended for small electronics,” said Richards. 

World Energy Project install

“It was amazing. A lot of them had cell phones without electricity. They would walk down to the villages to borrow someone else’s electricity to charge their phones and walk all of the way back home. They have the opportunity to do more things in their home now versus having to go stay with family, or having to go to town to have to do that work. Now they can actually do work at home. They will be able to have closer communication and be more connected with their new electricity,” explains Richards.

World Energy Project happy family

“The biggest takeaway for me is the impact that the electricity has on quality of life. As we drove away, it was amazing to look back and see the homes lit and the happiness on their faces, it was amazing to see. Electricity in the United States is something we take for granted,” said Huizenga. 

World Energy Project happy

Huizenga and Richards will bring their global perspectives back to Western classrooms. To learn more about additional opportunities within the Energy Management Program, please visit: http://www.western.edu/academics/undergraduate/school-business/energy-management

Story by Taylor Cull, Marketing Communications. Photos courtesy of Jessica Richards, Energy Management.

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Wednesday, September 14, 2016 - 8:45am