Say Watt? UMPI Maine Policy Scholar Presents on Power Transmission in Maine

You probably don’t think a lot about how your electricity comes to you. Usually you just flick a switch or press a button. We know that the power travels to our homes from power lines, but how does the power reach the power lines on the roads? The answer is transmission lines.

UMPI senior Evan Zarkadas was the Maine Policy Scholar for the campus this past year. He applied for the scholarship last October and was delighted to be announced as the UMPI scholar.

“I felt proud and honored,” Zarkadas said. “It was a great opportunity for me to advance my research and advocate for an issue that I thought the legislature should focus more on.”

The Maine Policy Scholarship is a year-long program where students work closely with a faculty advisor to explore an issue of policy in Maine. The student provides a final report in a memo to the governor or legislature and presents to a panel at the University of Maine. One student from each of the seven University of Maine System campuses is selected for this scholarship.

Zarkadas was assigned Dr. Larry Feinstein, assistant professor of biology at UMPI, as a mentor. “I serve on the Maine Policy Scholar committee,” Feinstein said. “When Evan was selected, the committee chose the faculty member who was most closely aligned with the student’s topic of interest to be their mentor.”

When he started, Zarkadas spent some time deciding what topic he wanted to cover. Although he was a history major, he wanted to explore beyond his expertise and finally decided to study the weak transmission lines in Maine. In his presentation on Friday, Nov. 8, at the University of Maine, he discussed how renewable energy in Maine would be problematic until the transmission lines were either replaced or improved with newer technology.

“At the beginning, I didn’t know I was going to research transmission lines. My initial topic was energy development in the state. After some initial thought and after some comments by the policy fellows, I decided to focus on a more specific topic. As I was researching, I found a lot of complaints about transmission, so I decided to do my topic on that,” Zarkadas said.

“The primary challenge was how to navigate through such a vast array of information and hone in on a specific topic,” Feinstein said. “Evan’s boundless enthusiasm had him reaching out in multiple directions. Each direction he investigated was accompanied by thorough research, so there was a lot of work there and much of it was so that we could understand which directions not to head in. Ultimately, he honed in on a singular pertinent topic.”

Zarkadas was very passionate about his project and took the challenge in great strides. “Because of the extensive research in the topic and trying to learn all the details of it, I felt like an electrical engineering student,” Zarkadas said.

Zarkadas not only learned a great deal about renewable energy and power transmission, but also found it was an excellent opportunity for experience in research and to make new connections. He hopes to continue some of the research in the future.

Evan Zarkadas presenting at the University of Maine for the Maine Policy Scholarship program.