Renewable energy station reenergized at David Douglas High

Even though it isn’t still powering the “DDExpress” – find out why this solar/wind generating station is again in operation …

April Placencia, an Oregon Institute of Technology student, checks over the switch gear she’ll be monitoring, during her year-long Senior Project based at David Douglas High School.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Thanks to an $9,000 grant from Portland General Electric (PGE), an Oregon Institute of Technology (OIT) senior will design and implement a monitoring system for a combined solar and wind power installation at David Douglas High School.

Using a massive bucket-lift truck, a PGE crew reinstalled solar panels and a wind turbine on the school’s campus on August 27. The renewable energy system, installed by the school’s Industrial Technologies students, was once used to power the David Douglas Express, a light rail system that connected north and south parts of the campus. The transport fell into disuse, due to repeated vandalism and theft.

Getting the lineman’s truck into position wasn’t an easy task – the driver skillfully wheeled the big rig across the football practice field before she threaded it between fences – with only inches to spare on either side of the truck.

Linking weather to electric generation
OIT student April Placencia is installing a system to monitor and track monitor temperature…wind speed and direction…air pressure…solar energy…alternating and direct current and voltage…three-phase power…and kilowatt hours generated by the system.

“PGE approached our school, wanting a student to oversee a monitoring system for this installation,” Placencia told us, as she watched the wind turbine being hoisted up into position. “As a senior in our Renewable Engineering Program, I’ll be correlating weather conditions with the amount of energy output.”

PGE Director of Research and Development Wayne Lei, OTI student April Placencia, and the college’s president, Dr. Chris Maples, pose for a photo, while the bucket rig gets positioned to do the reinstallation work.

Unique urban renewable energy study
PGE’s Research and Development Director, Wayne Lei, was enthusiastic about the program, as he watched the crew carefully wrestle the electricity-generatng windmill into place.

“This is a unique opportunity to study both solar and wind generation in one location,” Lei told us. “Because they’re both intermittent, we’re looking to learn how these two renewable power sources can complement each other.”

When the Earth warms up or cools down during the sunrise and sunset periods, the air tends to get more turbulent, Lei explained. “By combining daytime photovoltaic energy production with wind-generated power, we may find extended power generation periods, even here in an urban setting.”

Because they hope to place renewable energy installations in cities, Lei says the 35-foot elevation of this mandrel would be typical for urban installations. “It’s quite windy here in outer East Portland. This is a good start; if it shows potential, we may start co-locating solar and wind generation in other installations.”

PGE linemen Mike Evans and Chris Woods begin to rewire the wind turbine circuit, high above the David Douglas High campus.

Tech education in action
After driving from their main campus in Klamath Falls, the President of OIT, Dr. Chris Maples, PhD, told us, “This project is a clear demonstration of our mission at OIT.  It’s hands-on applied research and learning that involves our students in problem-solving. And, we’re helping to extend our teaching into the high schools as well.”

Students in the Industrial Engineering Systems class at David Douglas High will also have access to the “human-machine interface”, to help them better understand how renewable-power output is affected by changing sun and wind conditions.

(From our Front Page) The PGE linemen took great care when working to remount the wind-powered turbine atop the 35’ mandrel that also supports photoelectric solar panels.

“This will be a good teaching tool for students here,” commented Dan McCue, speaking for the David Douglas School District. “Our students will soon be living in a world where this kind of power generation will be the norm. It’s a good experience for them.”

As the lineman worked high above the campus installing new wiring, Placencia checked out the electric control systems in the shed below. “In addition to using the skills I’ve learned at OIT, I’m also looking forward to helping young people realize that their classes in science and math can help them make a difference.”

Soon, this combination power station will start generating electricity that will be fed back into the power grid – as students measure when, and how much, juice is produced.

© 2009 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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