“Surprisingly enough, Costa Rica is in the top three most sustainable countries in the entire world,” said Flanagan, a 2018 Taber Scholar in the Master of Engineering Energy Systems program. “(The country’s residents) are powered almost 100 percent by clean renewable energy. They are definitely not as wealthy as the majority of Americans, but they all live much more simplistic lives, and consume significantly less energy (small homes, one car per household, etc.)”
Before the trip, Flanagan had an interest in renewables, but was more consumed with his industrial engineering classes. He gained a bachelor’s in the discipline in May from the University at Buffalo in New York. Having never studied abroad before, Flanagan jumped at the chance to journey to Costa Rica.
“I knew it was an experience that could change my life,” he said. “When I was there, we were able to visit several different renewable energy plants including solar, wind, hydro, and geothermal.
“The most inspiring part to me was visiting Earth University, which is an extremely prestigious university in Costa Rica that is attended by select people from all over the world. The entire goal of the university is essentially to train students in methods to improve the energy landscape of the world and how people interact with the environment, through green technology, farming, and energy consumption. This made me look into sustainability programs when I returned home, and I eventually decided on the UIUC program.”
Now at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Flanagan hopes to concentrate his program’s capstone project and future career on solar photovoltaics technology. “I hope to combine my undergraduate background in industrial and systems engineering, which provides me with a business perspective, with the technical skills that I am learning through my Energy Systems MEng degree in order to get into solar consulting.
“The work is always more rewarding knowing that it is a topic that I am passionate about, and that I will be able to use it to help improve the world,” Flanagan said.
Update: Brad graduated from the Energy Systems program in May 2019.