Co-​​op student ‘lights up’ Charlotte airport

Last fall, Divyanshu Kamboj, a grad­uate stu­dent pur­suing a master’s degree in energy sys­tems, was charged with finding a new loca­tion to test Lumi-Solair’s solar-​​powered street­lights. He was on co-​​op with the New York-​​based com­pany, which man­u­fac­tures off-​​grid lighting products.

Kamboj recalled the effort of Char­lotte, N.C., to become a global model of envi­ron­mental sus­tain­ability and then reached out to Cheryl Richards, the CEO and regional dean of Northeastern’s grad­uate campus there.

Richards con­nected Kamboj with Robert Phocas, Charlotte’s energy and sus­tain­ability man­ager, who sug­gested a test site: the parking lot of the Charlotte-​​Douglas Inter­na­tional Airport.

Lumi-Solair’s project in Char­lotte, said Phocas, is “an example of how gov­ern­ment and industry can partner on sus­tain­able ini­tia­tives that ben­efit the entire community.”

Sus­tain­ability has emerged as a key area of focus at Northeastern’s Char­lotte campus, which ded­i­cated last month’s “Local Leaders, Global Impact” speakers series to the topic. The uni­ver­sity hosted the North Car­olina Sus­tain­able Energy Asso­ci­a­tion in Feb­ruary and sched­uled a second con­ver­sa­tion on energy for May.

“Working through one of our co-​​op employers to facil­i­tate this pro­gram demon­strates our sup­port of the Char­lotte community’s adop­tion of renew­able energy solu­tions,” Richards said.

Divyanshu Kamboj helped his co-op employer, Lumi-Solair, find a location to test its off-grid, solar-powered lighting units.


Though Kamboj’s co-​​op with Lumi-​​Solair ended in August, he has remained with the com­pany to mea­sure the reli­a­bility and per­for­mance of the street­lights. Should the Char­lotte project be deemed a suc­cess, the small-​​scale instal­la­tion could serve as a blue­print for fur­ther deploy­ment at more loca­tions in the air­port and throughout the city. There is good reason to believe the project will suc­ceed, according to Kamboj. Sim­ilar devices in New York sur­vived super­storm Sandy and work even after a week of con­sis­tent cloud cover.

“This is not work that limits itself to one Char­lotte air­port,” said Kamboj, whose North­eastern research focuses on bringing sus­tain­able tech­nolo­gies to coun­tries with unre­li­able power grids. “This pro­vides an ideal plat­form for projects, whether they’re some­where else in the city or on the other side of the world. If we can develop sys­tems that can reli­ably work out­side of a power grid, we can change the way we con­sume energy.”