Chandan Lodha ’13, a double concentrator in Chemistry and Physics, has spent his summers working on renewable energy solutions in the private sector. Lodha spoke with OFS about these internship experiences and his future plans regarding sustainability.
OFS: What first inspired you to get involved in environmental sustainability?
CL: In high school, I took a class at the community college on renewable energy systems. One of the things that particularly piqued my interest was solar thermal energy, which I hadn’t heard of before. It’s using solar concentrators to boil water, which makes steam and then turns the turbine. So then I did a science fair project on solar thermal. It was cool because not only was it good for the environment and sustainable, but it was also combining a lot of science, which I am concentrating in.
OFS: How have you applied this interest?
CL: Since then I’ve been doing other things related to the environment. I had an internship at Cisco Systems in high school. Cisco has a lot of data centers where they have just rows and rows and racks full of different kinds of machines that are always plugged in, sucking power 24/7. This also generates a lot of heat, so they have air conditioning 24/7, and it’s just a huge waste of energy. And most of the time they’re not even being used—maybe a couple hours a day. I switched all of the machines in one data center from regular power outlets to phi P power outlets, which means that they still plug them in the same, but you can program them to turn off remotely and on schedules. It cut the power usage by 55%.
OFS: That is really remarkable. Have you worked on similar projects since?
CL: The summer after Cisco I worked at UC Santa Cruz, which is a university next to where I live. I worked on some renewable energy projects there too. There was a class being implemented for non science people—just people who had a general interest in renewable systems—so I helped design the labs. It was like, make your own wind turbine, make your own hydrogen-powered fuel cell for a car. The summer after that—after freshman year—I worked at ICF International—which is a consulting firm. I worked in the San Francisco office, which is mainly focused on environmental issues. The projects I specifically worked on—there was one with this company called Wesco International, which is a trucking line, so they do lots of transportation, moving goods around the United States. And the other one was Visa. Both companies had hired ICF to do a greenhouse gas inventory, which pretty much means they send in all of their energy related data—how much electricity they’re using for lighting, for data centers, for gas for cars—anything that uses energy. They send all of that data in, huge amounts of data for all of their data centers around the world. And then ICF and I, as part of this project, entered all of the data into these GHG inventory tools to figure out how they could best cut back on things to keep up their productivity and their sales while cutting back on energy.
OFS: Do you see yourself continuing to focus on renewable energy in your studies and your career?
CL: I’m planning on taking this class called Physics 129: Energy Science. It’s a lot of physics but applied specifically to renewable energy. While I’m here I probably won’t have a focus in renewable energy, but it’s certainly something I would want to get into as a career down the line. Ultimately, I would like to get back into electric transportation.