Students from UL Lafayette, Chile to research photovoltaic, green hydrogen during cultural exchange


Student researchers from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette and the University of Magallanes in Chile will collaborate to study photovoltaic farms, green hydrogen and workforce development thanks to a $50,000 grant awarded via the 2023 U.S.-Southern Cone Innovation Fund Grant Competition.

UL Lafayette and the University of Magallanes will partner for the "Collaborative Research and Knowledge Exchange in Sustainable Energy” project. Zayira Quiroz, global programs coordinator for the University’s Division of Global Engagement, is principal investigator. Faculty members at both universities will guide the effort, which “promotes diversity by providing study abroad opportunities for underrepresented students who are poised to become renewable energy industry leaders,” she explained.

“Their interdisciplinary work will include joint research projects, experiential learning and hands-on experiences that are designed to prepare them to become future leaders in renewable energy and advocates for sustainability,” she added.

The program is coordinated by the 100,000 Strong in the Americas Innovation Fund, a public-private collaboration between the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs, U.S. embassies, the nonprofit Partners of the Americas, corporations and foundations.

Quiroz, the College of Engineering’s Dr. Terrence Chambers and a group of UL Lafayette students will travel to the University of Magallanes later this year. Chambers is a professor who directs the University’s Green Hydrogen Center of Excellence and its Energy Efficiency and Sustainable Energy Center. Then, students and faculty from the University of Magallanes, which is in Punta Arenas in Chile, will travel to UL Lafayette.

At each location during the 10-day trips – and during virtual workshops – students from both universities will collaborate for research and study in areas such as photovoltaic system design and economic analysis, and green hydrogen production. Their work will be built around extensive capabilities in both regions and at both institutions.  

In addition to its academic and research capacity, the University of Magallanes in southern Chile is in a region where wind conditions and natural resources provide an environment conducive to highly efficient wind energy projects, Quiroz explained.

While in Magallanes, UL Lafayette students’ research will include examining the feasibility of green hydrogen production using local resources, creating a climate action plan, and assessing the region’s viability for becoming a hub for green hydrogen exporters.  

During the University of Magallanes’ students subsequent visit to Lafayette, the student researchers will benefit from the University’s position as a national leader in both sustainable and traditional energy technologies.

Students will work at Antoun Hall, next to the Louisiana Solar Energy Lab, one of the largest outdoor solar testing facilities in the southeastern United States. The 4,200-panel solar field encompasses 6 acres.

They will also work at the Energy Efficiency and Sustainable Energy Center, which serves as a hub for cutting-edge research in solar, wind and hydro technologies, and at the Cleco Alternative Energy Center. Researchers at the alternative energy center explore technologies and processes such as solar thermal energy, thermal energy storage, microgrids and green hydrogen production from solar and biomass.

The collaboration won’t be all work and no play, however. During their visits, students will enjoy opportunities to experience the culture of each region, visiting places of historical and natural interest, and sampling local cuisine.  

“Along with deepening students' understanding of sustainable energy practices, participation in various cultural activities is designed to foster cultural sensitivity and help them cultivate a global mindset,” Quiroz said.

Photo caption: Student researchers from UL Lafayette and the University of Magallanes in Chile will examine photovoltaic farms and green hydrogen as part of a collaborative cultural exchange program. Faculty members at both universities will provide guidance and instruction during visits to each university. Photo credit: Doug Dugas / University of Louisiana at Lafayette