Vivianne planned to study Artificial Intelligence. Then a trip to Bali completely changed her plans.
“I was in Bali to study and experience life abroad. I lived there for six months, and I was shocked by the standard of living and environmental problems.
People burn vast amounts of trash in their yards, or they simply dump it in the ocean. Everything from plastic bottles to furniture are treated the same. Tourists avoid many beaches because of pollution, and many people live surrounded by garbage.”
Struck by the challenge small, local communities have coping with major ecological problems, Vivianne made a decision.
Back in the Netherlands Vivianne searched for a study program that would prepare her to solve real-world, global challenges.
"ATLAS University College Twente seemed perfect for me. I was drawn to the project-based approach of ATLAS. Each semester, I work on teams to solve real problems for real people."
During the second semester, ATLAS students helped Hengelo, a local municipality, find and analyse new opportunities for investment in renewable energy.
"The local city is very ambitious in its renewable energy policy. For example, it is rolling out a system that uses residual heat from industry and geothermal to heat houses and buildings."
The municipality and its partners requested a wider view on the development of their energy system, comprising the opportunities of emerging technologies and the inclusion of sustainable, self-relying electricity production.
"It was a great challenge for the team."
During the project, each ATLAS student focused on a form of renewable energy: wind, solar or biomass.
"As I have an interest in chemistry, I investigated biomass."
Vivianne's team interviewed people from local municipality and met with researchers at the University of Twente.
"Engineers helped us to get insight into Emerging Technologies. It's great for the local city, which is now able to not only work with the state of the art, but also to plan for the next generation of technology."
The project provided Hengelo with a roadmap for their energy system to 2040.
In the end Vivianne's team chose to provide the inhabitants of city with energy from a mix of biomass, solar and wind, and recycled waste heat.
"It is very interesting to learn that just one small adjustment in our solution had major implications on other aspects of our solution."
Looking back at the project Vivianne is enthusiastic about project based education.
"It's great to apply the knowledge I am learning. This project gave me the opportunity to focus on finding solutions for a real problem on behalf of a real client.”
During the project it is essential to get enough stimulating guidance from the academic staff. Vivianne was happy about the support her team got during the project.
"We were assigned two tutors, with whom we discussed our progress on a weekly basis. We learned a lot about a successful cooperation in a team, as well as our individual capabilities."
At the end of the project, ATLAS synthesized the findings from all the teams and
presented them to the local municipality.
In their report ATLAS students propose to implement a biomass based energy system for the local municipality, which aims to be 100% sustainable in 2040. A minimum of 50% of the total energy usage is to be produced with biomass and the remainder with other renewables.
"Technology and Liberal Arts & Sciences (ATLAS) is all about solving real-world problems, taking into account both technical and social aspects to create truly sustainable solutions."
The proposed system uses pyrolysis to convert woody biomass into pyrolysis oil, which in turn is used to supply heat and to transport fuels. Fermentation of sugar-rich biomass, anaerobic digestion of waste as well industrial waste heat, play a minor role as well. Electricity is generated by PV- cells and wind turbines. These are connected to a smart grid. To compensate for peak load, the turbines that produce heat also coproduce electricity.
In the report the local municipality is advised to involve the inhabitants in the decision making process, as this has a positive impact on community acceptance. Schools, internet and a dedicated information center play a major role in the proposed communication strategy.