University of Wisconsin-Madison engineering professor James Tinjum is biking 2,000 kilometers around the Upper Midwest in the summer of 2018 to increase awareness solar energy and raise funds for a solar energy project in Puerto Rico.
The bike journey, known as #BiketheSun, will take Tinjum, an associate professor in the Department of Engineering Professional Development with an affiliation in Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, to 50 solar energy sites across Wisconsin, Illinois, Iowa and Minnesota.
Tinjum will complete the trek in about two weeks, starting July 28, 2018, by riding an electric bike prototype 160 kilometers per day.
“Solar is an energy solution that provides clean, renewable, domestic energy across the U.S.,” says Tinjum. “In the last year, if you include rooftop solar, about 2.5 percent of our nation’s electrical supply came from solar. Although this energy source is growing, there is still a lot of room for expansion.”
Along with bringing attention to solar energy, the purpose of #BiketheSun is to raise funds for Solar Para Niños, a solar installation project at a nonprofit shelter for abused children in Puerto Rico. The panels will reduce the shelter’s energy costs by as much as $1,000 per month, allowing the shelter to invest more money into educational and counseling services the children. The project will help provide long-term, sustainable relief after Hurricane Maria devastated the island in September 2017.
“Puerto Rico’s power grid was completely knocked out during the hurricane and electricity was not restored across the island for as long as nine months after,” Tinjum says. “Renewable, distributed energy sources like solar will provide more resilient and reliable power, particularly for when another natural disaster occurs.”
Puerto Rico has the highest electricity rates in the U.S., according to Tinjum. Even though the island has excellent solar resources, it produces over 95 percent of its electrical energy by burning imported natural gas, coal and oil, which are not only expensive but environmentally unsustainable.
“With the installation and promotion of more renewable sources such as solar energy, institutions like the children’s shelter will substantially reduce their monthly energy bill, as well as move toward a more sustainable use of energy,” he says.
Last summer, Tinjum embarked on a 2,000-kilometer bike ride called #BiketheWind to raise awareness about wind energy, so he’s familiar with long trips triggered by good causes. To prepare for this year’s ride, Tinjum is biking upwards of 24 hours a week, getting in hours by biking to “everything,” including work, groceries and intramural soccer matches.