By Michele Lanctot
Health/Science Reporter

As if studying abroad wasn’t enough, Baltic Sea Solutions is hosting a summer program overseas to study cutting-edge renewable energy technology. For the first time, students from UC Santa Cruz, UC Davis and UC Merced will travel to the island of Lolland in Denmark in July. This small community on the Baltic Sea will host a summer school program that 15 students will have the privilege to attend.

The course will not be in a single, sterile classroom with a monotonous professor. Students can leave their textbooks in the hotel as they travel around beautiful Zealand and visit different companies that are currently dealing with real-life issues surrounding renewable energy implementation. Through practical lessons, students will learn and develop solutions working tightly with the business community, politicians, and nonprofit organizations. This incredible opportunity is specifically designed for students who may be graduating soon and could be potential career candidates.

“The program is to give students a chance to get out into the field and understand the complexity and interdisciplinary issues of implementing renewable energy,” said Anders Müller, Baltic Sea Solutions’ senior adviser of environmental affairs.

Baltic Sea Solutions, a company composed of project developers and planners, integrates technology into the market. They are the liaison between the universities and industry, closing the gap and helping students form careers. Currently they are working on projects like hydrogen fuel cells, using algae as biomass for clean-burning fuel, and wave power. They are also using agricultural waste products instead of precious corn crops to produce ethanol fuel.

“We can have a significant impact with the technology already available,” Müller said. “But are we ready as a society to turn and accept this issue?”

Mona Hammoudeh, an environmental studies and economics combined major at UCSC, said she cannot wait to be immersed in Danish culture and learn about new renewable energy technology. She is interested in working with Vestas, the No. 1 producer of wind power in the world.

For Hammoudeh, the choice to go was easy.

“I already wanted to be an education abroad student in Denmark, and this program was in line with environmental studies,” Hammoudeh said. “I would like to see how their form of government might allow sustainable energy to be more successful.”

Ali Shakouri, professor of electrical engineering, will be joining Baltic Sea Solutions and the students in Denmark. In 2009 Shakouri, thrilled to have international cooperation, will host students and professors from Roskilde University, Technical University of Denmark and Risø National Laboratory here in our own backyard.

Shakouri is organizing the program, to be hosted in 2009 jointly on the UCSC campus and at the Silicon Valley center at NASA Ames. Shakouri expressed his excitement that the people from Baltic Sea Solutions are interested in this area because they see the Silicon Valley as a hub for innovation.

Shakouri recognizes one of the most difficult problems with introducing new forms of energy production: Not all homeowners can afford an investment like installing solar panels for their roof. Shakouri hopes these issues will be addressed in the program because he knows students come up with some of the best solutions.

“The [energy] problem is so big that we need to work on all fronts,” Shakouri said. “I hope to have students majoring in arts, literature and sociology — not to make scientists out of them, but to have a variation of minds developing ideas for successful implementation into society.”