Wind power celebrated at OMSI

Find out why this Portland-based company brought a show with everything – including a golden eagle – to help folks learn more about how electricity can be generated from the blowing wind …

Andy Lueth of “KidWind” helps Noah Brown prepare to test his own wind turbine design.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
With exhibits set up in front of the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI) and inside their main lobby, “Iberdrola Renewables”, a company based in Portland’s Pearl District, spent the day telling visitors about the promise of wind-generated energy a couple of weeks ago.

At the event, entitled “Wind Works”, Jan Johnson, communications director and spokeswoman for Iberdrola, spoke about the special exhibit. “We start off by showing how we measure the wind – with a meteorological tower.

“We install these in places we think are likely to be good for producing energy; but before building wind turbines there, we make sure they are in the right place.”

Jan Johnson, Communications Director for Iberdrola Renewables, shows a model of an electricity-generating wind turbine.

Johnson pointed to their “turbine technician” exhibit. “Once we build the turbines, we have technicians who climb them to keep them operating at peak efficiency – and to make repairs when necessary.”

Also on the museum’s front apron was an exhibit designed to attract kids. “People can learn how turbines are made,” Johnson explained. “Working with an organization called ‘Kid-Wind’, a group of professional educators who teach kids about the physics principles of ‘lift’ and ‘drag’ – we’re showing how turbines convert wind to [rotational] energy.”

At this display, kids decorated their own three-blade turbines, and then took them to be tested in a wind tunnel. Looking at a computer readout of their turbine in action, the youthful windmill builders could see how adjustments to their turbine blades increased the power output.

Lynn Tompkins, from Blue Mountain Wildlife, introduces “Ula”, a golden eagle, to guests outside OMSI’s front doors, at the “Wind Works” event.

A display that attracted much attention was operated by Blue Mountain Wildlife, an organization that provides treatment and care to orphaned, injured, and sick native wildlife – eventually returning them to their natural, native habitat.

While holding a golden eagle, Blue Mountain’s Lynn Tompkins revealed that they are working in partnership with the energy company. “When wind turbines are built where wildlife lives, we work together to try to protect wildlife [from the spinning blades] as much as possible.”

Visiting OMSI from the Arleta Neighborhood, Logan Stromberg gets rigged up like one of the turbine maintenance people who climb up 275-foot-tall towers to keep the mechanical and electrical components tip-top condition.

Inside OMSI’s lobby, we caught up with Johnson. “In the United States, wind energy accounts for about 2% of total electric generation,” she said. “We need to use the resources we have, right here, to the best of our abilities. Wind power is part of the energy solution.”

OMSI spokesperson Lee Dawson was also looking at the displays. “We’re dedicated to becoming a community resource, helping educate people about the relationship of energy and the environment. And, there’s a lot of science and technology involved with power generations of all types. We’re happy to host this event today.”

Standing in front of an Iberdrola National Control Center mockup is US Senator Ron Wyden, one of several politicians who spoke at the OMSI event.

© 2010 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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