Savannah Crichton weaves community voices into agrivoltaic research

June 27, 2024
By Yuri Bult-Ito

Savannah Crichton
Photo courtesy of Savannah Crichton
Savannah Crichton is a research professional at ACEP.

As a research professional, Savannah Crichton works on outreach for several projects at ACEP. Her main focus is outreach strategies for the agrivoltaics project with ACEP’s Solar Technologies team.

Agrivoltaics is the shared use of land for both agriculture and solar photovoltaic energy generation, by growing crops or plants underneath solar panels, which can increase land-use efficiency and may increase crop yields.

Equipped with food systems knowledge, engineering training and skills in user experience research — the process of gathering insights about users’ behaviors to design user-centered products –– Crichton communicates about the project to diverse stakeholders. She helped launch the stakeholder engagement strategy for agrivoltaics program. This includes interviewing people and writing articles, conducting social science research and organizing events where people can “see, taste and experience” agrivoltaics.

Crichton also analyzes quantitative and qualitative data related to solar technologies in Alaska such as solar production and survey data, and creates informational and engaging products for stakeholders.

“Savannah is always working hard to make complicated material easy to understand and works hard to get our research out into the world,” commends Chris Pike, a research engineer and lead of the solar technologies program.

In addition, Crichton helps with logistics for the Electric Vehicles in the Arctic project team, including developing tools for community leads and participants, and writing about the Alaska Regional Collaboration for Technology Innovation and Commercialization programs at ACEP.

Crichton wanted to work with a community of applied scientists who were using academic structures to benefit folks in their communities.

“ACEP has a great culture of researchers working with community curiosities in mind,” Crichton said. “And that energy really excited me.”

Savannah Crichton poses for a photo during the T3 Juneau STEAM Fest.
Photo by Gracie Farnham
Savannah Crichton poses for a photo during the Teaching Through Technology Juneau STEAM Fest.

Crichton originally joined ACEP two years ago as a learning design fellow through the Alaska Fellows Program. She developed an inclusive science curriculum for the Teaching Through Technology high school students and an interdisciplinary multi-faceted internship curriculum about microgrids for undergraduates.

While she could apply her user research strategies to the learning environments of T3, she wanted to get more involved in the study of food systems and their relevance to energy systems in Alaska. The agrivoltaics project was a perfect opportunity to realize that.

Crichton has always been passionate about connecting with people in the community she’s lived in and finding ways to meet their needs. Her desire to study art, social science and food systems while working toward her bachelor’s degree in biomedical engineering degree at Yale University is a good manifestation. She dove into food systems work, specifically, how and why people eat the way do, through working in a diversity of food service environments — from late-night diners and a French pastry shop to soup kitchens — and through a variety of interviews with farmers and chefs to activists.

Throughout her time at Yale, Crichton was an organizer at the Dwight Hall Center for Public Service and Social Justice, the oldest student-led university-affiliated service organization in the country, to connect advocacy groups and volunteer efforts throughout New Haven, Connecticut.

She also worked different jobs in the user experience field. Her desire to make health services more equitable and accessible culminated in designing wayfinding tools for a free health clinic and helping develop a digital interface for a range of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease patients.

At ACEP, “I'm really motivated to develop equitable food systems and renewable energy projects that can benefit everyone in Alaska,” Crichton said.

When not at work, Crichton enjoys cross-country skiing, biking, hiking, dancing, cooking and eating. She likes to create ceramics, zines and paint. A couple of years ago, she DJed a radio show “Chomped” with a friend in Fairbanks, with a different food theme on each episode. Many ACEP members were guests on the show. This summer, Crichton has been gardening and foraging as much food as she can in Anchorage, where she currently resides.