Kevin Welch / Department of Chemistry

 One of my personal goals in teaching chemistry is to help students become aware of the tremendous effect that the chemical principles that they are learning about have on their day-to-day lives. Nowhere is chemistry more impactful, nor more often overlooked, in the life of a typical student than in the electricity that is use to power to their world. While the presence of electricity is ubiquitous and the need for a reliable and clean source of this energy is of ever-growing importance, most people don’t have a clear sense of where that energy comes from, how it is generated, and what scale is required to support the lifestyle of the members of our society.

My Dream Idea is to work with a group of 8 to 10 students from the introductory chemistry curriculum to better understand where the energy that we use in Virginia comes from, and to see how the technology involved in energy production relates directly to the concepts covered in the introductory chemistry curriculum.

This project will involve visits to four Virginia power production and storage facilities both to see where and how our electricity is generated and to meet with the scientists and engineers who run the facilities to learn about the sources of and the science behind the energy that we use. Additionally, we will consider the waste that is produced from each technology, how it is handled, and what potential implications it has for our community and for the world. 

The four facilities that I intend to visit with the students are:

1) Bellemeade Power Station in Richmond – a combined-cycle natural gas power facility

2) North Anna Nuclear Generating Station in Mineral – a uranium fuel nuclear power plant

3) Pittsylvania Power Station in Hurt – a biomass fuel power facility

4) Bath County Pumped Storage Station in Warm Springs – a hydroelectric pumped-storage power plant

Prior to these visits, we will meet to discuss what the students already know about the technology of the facility that we will be visiting as well as any questions that they want to find answers for during their visit. As the students visit the facilities, they will create a travelogue of their experience to be presented to other students in the introductory chemistry curriculum to help connect the concepts of their chemistry courses with the energy that they use every day. At the end of the semester we will meet for a dinner to discuss the experience, summarize what we learned, and share how the experience has affected our perception of the energy we use.


Van rental and lunches on days of facility visits: $500 x 4 = $2000

Dinner for 8 students and Prof. Welch: $35 x 9 = $315

Total: $2315