Environmental Engineering Internship Opportunities

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Covers renewable energy systems including solar thermal, biomass combined heat and power generation.
Great opportunity for college students, grad students, and experienced engineers interested in ecological technologies.

This internship has been filled and is no longer available. If it’s something that interests you, you may fill out an application to be kept informed about future Environmental Engineering internship opportunities at Dancing Rabbit.

Dancing Rabbit is offering two, 3-month summer research internships in environmental engineering, researching the feasibility of a solar thermal and biomass combined-heat-and-power system for producing thermal energy and renewable electricity for our village.

Program Background

Dancing Rabbit (DR) is an ecovillage of 50 people with plans to grow to be as many as 500. The village is powered completely by solar and wind power with all spaces heated by passive solar and wood. We are beginning the design on a new community building scheduled to break ground in 2012 and we will need a source of heat for this new building.

Concurrently we are preparing to install a 35kW wind turbine and a village-wide electric grid to connect our stand-alone photovoltaic/wind systems. This new power source will provide power for future homes, electric vehicles, as well as commercial and small-scale industrial spaces. We would like to add a biomass-fueled electric generator to our portfolio of renewables so that we might provide for power when sun and wind are not sufficient.

DR Common House

Dancing Rabbit’s Existing Common House

Combining these needs, we envision a system that collects thermal energy from the sun, supplemented by a biomass fired boiler which together power electricity generation with resultant heat going to meet the common house’s heating requirements.

The Internship Opportunity

We are seeking two interns for 3 months this summer to research the feasibility of developing a solar-thermal/biomass-fueled combined heat and power generator at Dancing Rabbit. The goal is to analyze the technology options for small scale solar thermal energy production (parabolic trough, parabolic dish, lenses, reflectors, evacuated tubes, etc.), thermal storage (oil, molten salt, phase change material, etc.), biomass fuel (pelletized waste wood, pelletized prairie grasses, local sustainable forestry, biogas, etc.), and combined heat and power generation systems. In addition, interns will investigate the options and technologies for appropriate uses for thermal energy including space heat, domestic hot water, cooking, heated greenhouses, refrigeration and cooling, etc.

SkyFuel Solar Panel

Parabolic Trough Solar Collector

At the end of the project the interns will have produced a paper suitable for publication on the Dancing Rabbit website (and potentially other locations), outlining the technological feasibility and the financial and ecological costs and benefits of the various options. We expect to begin implementation of some version or portion of the best options starting in 2012.

The interns will be supervised by Tony Sirna, Dancing Rabbit co-founder, member of DR’s Common House Design Committee, and manager of the BEDR Power Co-op and Wind Turbine project. Tony has a computer science degree from Stanford University.

Life at Dancing Rabbit

Tony Sirna, intern supervisor, installing an earthen floor

Tony Sirna, intern supervisor, installing an earthen floor

Interns will be expected to work 30 hours per week on the research project with other time available to explore other projects at Dancing Rabbit such as natural building (strawbale, cob, etc.) organic gardening, permaculture, solar electric installation, and ecovillage design and planning. You will also be immersed in the social fabric of the Dancing Rabbit community with opportunities to participate in things like ultimate frisbee, parties, games, musical events, dances, and more.

You will be provided food and a shared room in Skyhouse, a 6-bedroom strawbale home. Food is primarily vegan, organic, homegrown or local, and seasonal. Interns will be expected to help out with cooking and cleaning chores as we all do in Skyhouse and Dancing Rabbit.

Life at Dancing Rabbit can be intense and simultaneously challenging and rewarding. You will learn much more than engineering in your time at DR, both in terms of ecological sustainability and community living.

Environmental Engineering Qualifications and Experience

Due to the complex and involved nature of this project, selected candidates will be of the highest caliber.

An ideal candidate would be:

Dinner in the courtyard

Dinner in the courtyard

  • working towards, or have completed, a bachelor’s, master’s, or PhD in engineering
  • self-motivated, responsible, and organized
  • able to work well with a team and independently
  • a clear communicator, both in writing and orally
  • a fast learner, capable of quick and detailed analysis of complex subjects
  • skillful in finding information from the internet
  • experienced in the use of spreadsheets and doing data analysis
  • passionate about sustainability and ecological technology
  • excited about community living
  • excited to learn about eco living and try new things

Ideally interns would be able to bring their own laptop computer for use during the internship.

Solar Electric Installation on Skyhouse

Solar Electric Installation on Skyhouse

Interns will spend approximately 3 months at Dancing Rabbit working on this project. Starting date is flexible but we hope to have both interns here primarily at the same time.

We are actively seeking a diverse array of candidates and are very interested in candidates traditionally underrepresented in engineering.

Your Compensation

This project is funded by Dancing Rabbit’s 501c3 non-profit and so funds are limited. These internships are set up as work in exchange for learning and room and board, so no compensation is available. All of the interns’ basic expenses will be covered while at Dancing Rabbit, but you would be responsible for travel costs to and from DR (or our nearest train station). Minor expenses for things like movies, snacks or special foods, alcohol, etc. are not covered, but are usually quite minor given the nature of our community.

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