REFRESCH - Researching Fresh Solutions to the Energy/Water/Food Challenge in Resource Constrained Environments
The REFRESCH project is funded by the University of Michigan Third Century Initiative and led by Dr. Johannes Schwank of the Michigan Energy Institute. It seeks to explore new models for energy production in off-grid locations, or locations not dependably on-grid, closely considering factors of water usage, water quality, and food security. The project is focused on finding solutions to specific, solvable, scalable problems. Funded at $3 million for three years, REFRESCH currently works in Gabon, Kazakhstan, and Michigan (through the team called REFRESCH-IT).
An interdisciplinary team of faculty and students work within REFRESCH. The project draws upon the rich resources and diverse expertise of the University to field a strong team of fifteen faculty investigators from eight separate schools and departments across campus, including: the College of Engineering, Graham Environmental Sustainability Institute, School of Natural Resources and Environment, Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning, Ross School of Business, College of Literature, Science, and the Arts, Stamps School of Art and Design, and the Department of Physics. Education is also a major component of REFRESCH, as well as the Third Century Initiative, so student involvement is a high priority. Currently, the project supports the research of ten graduate students from a range of disciplines. Student work emphasizes the development of best-practices methods for community interaction and the achievement of sustainable design to meet human needs.
In establishing project field sites, the REFRESCH team collaborated with several national embassies worldwide, reviewing cases of resource-constrained environments. The team focused in particular on areas where a variety of pressures- energy supply, access to sufficient food and water- are at play. Through this collaborative process, Gabon and Kazakhstan were selected as international locations for REFRESCH’s efforts. Locally, the REFRESCH Integration Team is working on design and implementation of off-grid and integrated technologies.
The REFRESCH project seeks to not only develop new models of energy production, but also to promote the multidirectional application of ideas and technology solutions to and from local and global settings. As REFRESCH strengthens its engagement, it looks to encourage exchange within and between all three project sites, fostering the collaboration of students and faculty, community partners, NGOs, the private sector, local universities, and government institutions. Through such collaborations, REFRESCH deepens context-specific insight, drives exchange across educational and applied platforms, and explores specific solutions at the nexus of food/water/energy challenges.