News

May 31, 2009

Solar Harvest

Company founder Frank Bason ’65 works toward energy independence in Denmark

While the debate over energy independence continues in the United States, Frank Bason ’65 is on to something in Denmark. He is the founder, owner, and manager of SolData Instruments, which produces devices that help control and evaluate solar energy systems.

“The significance of my work in Denmark over the past 30 years has been more and more independence from imported oil,” he says. “We have a net energy export these days due to Danish wind energy, solar thermal energy, and of course due to our own supply of oil and natural gas from the North Sea.”

Based in Silkeborg, SolData boasts more than 3,000 instruments in use worldwide that measure solar irradiance, the level of solar energy. It also writes computer programs, consults for industry and government, and manages research projects.

Bason began his graduate degree in physics at Brown University and completed it in 1969 at University of Aarhus in Denmark. That year, he married his wife of 40 years, Ingrid, and returned to Denmark in 1971. He developed one of Denmark’s first solar collectors in 1974, leading to invitations to join government advisory committees and to perform evaluations of solar energy resources in northern climates.

Bason participated in Galathea Expedition III, a 100,000-kilometer journey around the world from 2006-07. Royal Danish Navy vessel Vaedderen carried several hundred scientists, students, and journalists from Denmark as far north as Greenland and as far south as Antarctica. Bason attended conferences in Riga, Latvia, and Beijing in 2007 and Lisbon in 2008 to discuss his work with the research trip.

He has particularly enjoyed his projects in Greenland, which is part of the Kingdom of Denmark.

“There are no roads between towns, so most transportation is by airplane, ship, or dog sled,” he says. “The Greenland Ice Cap contains nearly three cubic kilometers of ice. Many of my instruments are located in Greenland, and during the 1990s, I did a Ph.D. project based on data from Thule Air Force Base in the far north.”

Bason also is senior lecturer of mathematics and physics at Silkeborg Amtsgymnasium.

“There is excellent synergy between my undergraduate teaching and research and development work,” he says. “Many of my students have won ‘young scientist’ competitions based on instruments and data that I could provide them from various expeditions and projects.”

It was as an undergraduate at Lafayette that Bason was first introduced to his adopted country. The physics graduate spent his junior year in Denmark.

“I have been very pleased with the career opportunities which I have enjoyed in no small measure due to the excellent start I got at Lafayette,” he says. “My opportunity to take a junior year abroad in 1963-64 enabled me to learn a new language and culture. Several of my physics and math teachers at Lafayette were role models for me, and I have often had occasion to use their teaching methods with my students.”

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