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TTU News

Published: Mon Apr 21, 2008

How will America generate power for the next generation -- one that will demand an additional 15 percent more power than this one?

Tennessee Tech University mechanical engineering students are prepared to tackle one of the toughest questions the United States faces in the next 25 years by staging a public debate exploring the pros and cons of several different energy sources. The debate will take place at 7 p.m., April 22, in TTU's Clement Hall Auditorium, Room 212.

"This debate will provide broad descriptions of the major options available to help provide power to the country," said participant Andrew Hutchins, a mechanical engineering senior from Mt. Juliet. "Why attend? The audience will get a good overview of the choices, and it should spark interest and conversation in exploring the most promising option."

Coal, nuclear, natural gas, solar and wind energy all will have their promoters and defenders as 25 mechanical engineering students make presentations on the t echnology, fuel, environmental information, economics and special considerations associated with each source. The debate is the final project in an upper level mechanical engineering course.

Traditionally, Glenn Cunningham, associate professor of mechanical engineering, has offered the course as a core study of the traditional power plant that burns coal and creates steam to run turbines. He even takes the class to tour the Kingston, Tenn., plants.

"As our country's needs change, I wanted to bring the class to some understanding of the renewable sources of energy that provide an alternative to traditional sources," said Cunningham. "I asked if they were to put a power plant on Center Hill Lake, what energy source would they use?"

The current electric generation capacity in the continental United States is about 967,000 MW. That number is projected to rise 15 percent, about 145,000 MW, in the next 20 to 25 years, said Cunningham.

Each team will make an opening statement lasting about 10 minutes followed by one question by each of the other teams.   The team being questioned will have 2 minutes to answer each question.

The debate is free and open to the campus community. For more information, contact Cunningham at 372-6340 or