ND Energy Bridges Education with Student Engagement, Alumni Involvement, and Government Support for a Cleaner, More Sustainable Energy Future for All

Author: Barbara Villarosa

Let S Share The Sun Doe Award
ND Energy represents Let’s Share the Sun Foundation in San Juan, Puerto Rico, during the meeting in which Secretary Granholm announced the first-round awards to improve energy resiliency in Puerto Rico.

The DOE Grid Deployment Office announced recently the solar companies and nonprofits and cooperatives selected to receive first-round funding from the Puerto Rico Energy Resilience Fund (PR-ERF) to deploy residential rooftop solar and battery storage systems in Puerto Rico. With deep ties to the University of Notre Dame, Let’s Share the Sun Foundation was one of the nonprofits selected.

“We are thrilled that Let’s Share the Sun Foundation was selected for first-round funding from DOE to improve the reliability of energy systems in Puerto Rico. Their service to others in vulnerable areas around the world is commendable and highly worthy of national recognition. Through their efforts and ours, we can engage our students in educational opportunities that will have far-reaching benefits to creating a cleaner, more sustainable energy future for all,” said Ginger E. Sigmon, Managing Director of ND Energy at the University of Notre Dame.

Let’s Share the Sun Foundation and ND Energy began collaborating in 2022. Their mission resonated well with the Energy Studies minor’s capstone course Puerto Rico: Road Map to a Renewable Future administered by ND Energy. Capstone students attend a one-week immersion in Puerto Rico to learn about every aspect of the island’s energy infrastructure and landscape. Through ND Energy’s connection to Casa Pueblo and the Foundation’s relationship with other partnering organizations, students participate in residential solar installations while learning valuable insights into the technical aspects of solar energy and experiencing the life-changing benefits these installations bring to the residents with health conditions in vulnerable areas.

This relationship also elicited national attention with the production of the Fighting for Renewable Energy ad that aired in September 2022. Highlighting the efforts already underway in Puerto Rico, this story provides additional insight into the devastating results of catastrophic natural disasters and the importance of improving grid resilience and reliability to save lives.

The relationship with the Foundation has flourished. Sigmon is now a member of the board, and Lucas Barreto '24, mechanical engineering major, energy studies minor, and main voice on the Fighting For ad, is the Puerto Rico Project Coordinator. This expanded relationship has enabled more opportunities for student engagement including the recent meeting in San Juan, Puerto Rico with Jennifer Granholm, U.S. Secretary of Energy, formally announcing the first-round of PR-ERF selectees. Sigmon and Barreto were both in attendance to represent the Foundation.

“It was a distinct honor to meet Secretary Granholm and to hear her speak about Puerto Rico in such a way that you could feel her compassion for the residents and her desire to ensure they feel the impact of this program with urgency,” remarked Sigmon.

“I was thrilled to be a part of the discussion and to meet so many exceptional individuals, including Secretary Granholm and Puerto Rico Modernization Director Agustín Carbó, who are working to ensure all Puerto Ricans are well taken care of and have the resources they need to ensure long-term health and safety. I am proud to be a resident of Puerto Rico and look forward to working with Let’s Share the Sun Foundation to see this through,” said Barreto.

About Lucas Barreto:

Lucas Barreto began his relationship with ND Energy in 2021 when he sought advice on finding a renewable energy internship. He joined the Student Energy Board and through this engagement presented a self-produced virtual engineering lesson for Science Alive, an annual community-wide event focused on STEM education. After he worked for a solar company near his home in Puerto Rico the following summer, he joined the Energy Studies Minor enabling his participation in the spring 2022 Puerto Rico capstone course. He later became the voice on the Fighting For story putting him in front of a much larger audience as a renewable energy advocate.

About Let’s Share the Sun Foundation

Let’s Share the Sun Foundation was co-founded in 2010 by Bill Jordan ’85 and Nancy Brennan-Jordan '85 to facilitate the use of solar energy in poor communities throughout the world to enhance quality of life. The Foundation helps install solar power in places that are rich in access to the sun but lack basic resources.

About the DOE PR-ERF:

A total of $440 million, with $40 million allocated across the nonprofits and cooperatives, is expected to fund approximately 30,000-40,000 solar photovoltaic (PV) and battery storage systems installations in Puerto Rico. Installations will occur in areas where low-income, single-family households with chronic health conditions requiring electricity for survival experience frequent and prolonged power outages. This funding is part of the $1 billion Appropriations Act signed into law by President Biden in December 2022 to establish the DOE Puerto Rico Energy Resilience Fund (PR-ERF).

About ND Energy:

ND Energy is a University Center whose mission is to build a better world by creating new energy technologies and systems and educating individuals to help solve the most critical energy challenges facing the world today. For more information, please visit the ND Energy website at energy.nd.edu or contact Barbara Villarosa, Business and Communications Program Director, at bvillaro@nd.edu or 574-631-4776.

Originally published by Barbara Villarosa at energy.nd.edu on November 14, 2023.