Renewable Energy Projects on the Mediterranean

After graduating from college with a degree in mechanical engineering, Michael Plescia knew he wanted to work in Europe. He ended up at a Spanish ecological living center on the sunny island of Ibiza working on renewable energy projects.

| October/November 2007

What better place to work on renewable energy projects than on the sunny Mediterranean?

I grew up in Mentor, Ohio, and went to school in Syracuse, N.Y. When I graduated from college in 2003, like many other 22-year-olds, I had no idea what path I wanted my life to follow. I did know I wanted to travel, so taking a leap of faith — or at least a very long jump — I packed up everything and moved to London.

I also knew I wanted to work with renewable energy projects. In college, I had majored in mechanical engineering, but it wasn’t until the final semester of my senior year that I was really inspired by my classes. That semester, a course on refrigeration and another class on energy conversion opened my eyes to the way our society produces and consumes energy. I was fascinated.

I’ve always been a bit of a hippie, and the prospect of working with photovoltaics (PV), hydrogen, cogeneration and renewable energy technologies seemed perfect for me. It was exactly the fusion between engineering and nature I wanted. So, with visions of wind turbines spinning in my head, I set off for Europe and got a job … as a bartender.

The city of London, although vibrant and diverse, is far from any offshore wind farms, and it has so few sunny days that it’s not a promising place to pursue solar power either. After about six months, I decided it was time to move on.

Heading to Sunny Spain

I had some friends who were living on a farm in northern England, and they got me interested in the Web-based organization known as WWOOF (Worldwide Workers On Organic Farms). WWOOF provides information that helps pair up idealistic wanderers like me with thousands of hosts around the world who provide food, lodging and sometimes a stipend to people willing to work on their farms. The hosts are typically organic farmers, and they often have an interest in renewable energy as well.

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