The growth of renewable energy across the globe is in the news about every day. What happens at the end of the useful life of solar and wind farms? What is the status and direction of recycling technologies associated with this equipment?
Those were the questions for Steel Dynamics, Inc., a steel producer based in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Its OmniSource subsidiary is a recognized leader in the environmentally responsible business of metals recycling and was exploring the latest recycling technologies under development or being employed in renewables recycling.
“We wanted to know the current state of the technologies available, if there was actually any industry there,” said Facundo N. Rondán, Environmental Sustainability Analyst with Steel Dynamics. “We asked the Rose-Hulman Ventures team to help with that research,” continued Rondán.
The project took place in the summer of 2022. “It was a fully collaborative effort,” said Rondán. “We were working on this report together. We would meet weekly to discuss questions, and they would send the report weekly with updates. It was basically continuous feedback,” stated Rondán.
There were occasions when the Rose-Hulman mechanical engineering students on the team would find an area of interest for which industry information was not available to them, but their partnership with Steel Dynamics provided the industry expertise needed. “The Rose-Hulman Ventures team provided us with information as to who was doing what and who the key suppliers were,” Rondán said. “They provided us a framework that we could build on from there,” stated Rondán.
The project’s deliverables were a final research paper and a PowerPoint presentation. The Rose-Hulman Ventures team also made a presentation to Rondán; Jeff Hansen, Steel Dynamics Vice President Environmental Sustainability and a 1992 Rose-Hulman chemical engineering alum; and representatives from OmniSource. “We discussed the findings, barriers, and opportunities and how we might move forward,” Rondán said.
“I was impressed with the students and their approach to the project. They were able to convert an ambiguous topic into an easy-to-understand summary. The work done by the Rose-Hulman Ventures team helped our understanding of the current state of technological development in this space” Hansen said.
“It was great to work with them—they were very enthusiastic about the project and started from scratch,” Rondán said, noting that this was a perfect kind of project for a team that included student interns. “They were very professional, and the deliverables were easy to understand. When you’re in college, you do a lot of research. They knew where to go and how to create a research report, so it was great,” concluded Rondán.