North­eastern senior Nicholas Dowmon, E’16, says his three co-​​op expe­ri­ences in the energy sector—including an inter­na­tional co-​​op in Brazil—have fueled his desire to pursue a job in energy effi­ciency after graduation.

As the mechan­ical engi­neering major puts it, “my co-​​ops became increas­ingly more inter­esting, more chal­lenging, and more impactful.” Here’s a look at those experiences.

First co-​​op: Cape Light Com­pact, an orga­ni­za­tion on Cape Cod, Mass­a­chu­setts, that delivers energy effi­ciency pro­grams
Dowmon’s role involved helping cus­tomers through the process of having energy effi­ciency mea­sures imple­mented at their com­mer­cial busi­nesses. He worked up per­son­al­ized cal­cu­la­tions for expected cost sav­ings or reviewed cal­cu­la­tions an out­side orga­ni­za­tion had already compiled.

It wasn’t an espe­cially tech­nical job, but it intro­duced me to the energy industry, specif­i­cally in build­ings, and helped me better under­stand how energy works,” Dowmon says. “It also piqued my interest in energy storage and energy efficiency.”

Second co-​​op: SourceOne, an energy man­age­ment and con­sulting firm in Boston
This co-​​op involved working in energy effi­ciency on a larger scale. Sub-​​metering refers to putting indi­vidual meters within a large building— say each unit within an apart­ment com­plex or each office within an office building—which allows for more detailed accounting for and tracking of energy usage. Dowmon’s role focused largely on ana­lytics, working in the company’s cus­tomer records data­base and building indi­vid­u­al­ized energy use reports for clients. He learned a data­base man­age­ment pro­gram­ming lan­guage called SQL as well as more about the equip­ment used in energy metering.

I had more respon­si­bility in this role, and I really had to step up and prove myself as an asset on that team,” Dowmon says.

Third co-​​op: CPFL Energia, Brazil’s largest pri­vate elec­tric utility com­pany
Dowmon led a small team of engi­neers on a five-​​month research project ana­lyzing solar panel effi­ciency at the company’s power plant in the town of Tan­quinho. The project’s goal boiled down to a cost-​​benefit analysis that informed how often to clean off the solar panels, taking into account the addi­tional solar power cap­tured by removing debris from the panels as well as the mate­rials and labor costs asso­ci­ated with reg­ular cleaning.

For the study, Dowmon’s team cleaned dif­ferent sec­tions of a solar panel field in four dif­ferent time inter­vals: once a week, once every two weeks, once a month, and once every two months. Dowmon and three other CPFL employees arrived early on Thursday morn­ings to spray down the panels with water, clean them with sponges, and dry them with squeegees.

Dowmon planned out and man­aged the project, ana­lyzed the data, and wrote a final report that went to both CPFL and ANEEL, the Brazilian Elec­tricity Reg­u­la­tory Agency. “I really got to step in and go from start to finish on this project,” he says.

What’s next?
Dowmon, who will finish his course­work at North­eastern in December, says his co-​​op expe­ri­ences have rein­forced his interest in pur­suing a job in the energy effi­ciency industry.

I would say that the one lesson that has been con­tin­u­ally rein­forced throughout my co-​​ops is the inter­de­pen­dency of tech­nical, polit­ical, social, and eco­nomic fac­tors in suc­cess­fully changing the way that the world uses energy,” he says. “There is an incred­ible amount of inertia in our cur­rent energy model; for­tu­nately, the world has increas­ingly more people willing to work toward mod­ern­izing that model. The real chal­lenge, I believe, is get­ting everyone—engineers, pol­i­cy­makers, and activists—to work effec­tively toward the same goal.”