Northwest Renewable News

Your Daily Source for Renewable Energy News in Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana & Northern California

Wind tunnel breezes onto Portland State’s campus February 15, 2010

Filed under: Oregon,University Research,Wind — nwrenewablenews @ 4:34 pm
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A new wind tunnel at Portland State University could bolster the city’s green cache by bringing top-level researchers to the city.

The custom-designed wind tunnel is being constructed in Wisconsin and will be shipped to PSU in March. It will be installed in a first-floor lab of the school’s new engineering building, 1930 S.W. Fourth Ave.

The tunnel is generating excitement in Portland design circles. Sustainability advocates expect the $500,000 tunnel to encourage high-level research into wind energy.

Having a research-grade piece of equipment in Portland will be immensely helpful to architects and engineers, said John Breshears, associate partner with Zimmer Gunsul Frasca Architects.

ZGF designed rooftop wind turbines for downtown Portland’s Twelve|West office-and-apartment project for Gerding Edlen Development Co. The four wind turbines installed in 2009 were among the first to be placed in an urban setting in the U.S.

For that project, ZGF and its partners did their research at Oregon State University’s two wind tunnels. Bringing precision research equipment to Portland will encourage similar innovation.

“I don’t know that many universities or cities that have that level of research. It will enable us to do more of the kinds of research we need to do,” said Breshears, who said the firm is interested in researching wind patterns so it can install turbines at its other projects.

ZGF also is interested in using it to study green roofs, an increasingly popular feature in sustainable design. Little is known about how they interact with the environment.

NASA and the National Science Foundation are providing the initial funding to operate the equipment and direct research, though the school is looking for additional partners and projects.

Raúl Bayoán Cal, an assistant professor in PSU’s Department of Mechanical and Materials Engineering, leads the wind-tunnel project.

The effort is getting an assist from Oregon BEST, which has pledged to match any grants he secures and is linking him with industry, said David Kenney, president and executive director. The 2007 Legislature created the Oregon Built Environment & Sustainable Technologies Center to develop and promote Oregon’s green industry cluster.

Kenney said that as the North American home to wind energy leaders such as turbine manufacture Vestas-American Wind Technology Inc. and wind power provider Iberdrola Renewables, it’s important for Portland to gird its favorite new business sector with solid research capabilities.

“It’s a great connection,” he said.

The wind tunnel channels carefully controlled wind through a five-meter chamber where researchers duplicate the conditions they’re trying to study — temperature, pressure, ground configuration and so forth.

Lasers record how the air moves through the chamber.

Doctoral candidates will use it for high-level research, but it is also a teaching and recruitment tool to attract undergraduates and high school students to the hard sciences by giving them a hands-on experience.

“There’s nothing cooler than that,” he said.

It already has helped attract talent to Portland.

Max Gibson, a Ph.D. candidate studying under Cal, came to Portland from Mississippi by way of Canada. The wind tunnel, he said, is hugely attractive to students.

“This is going to put us on the map,” he said.

Wendy Culverwell, Portland Business Journal^2877541


WSU Scientists receive $1.1 million for biofuels research January 14, 2010

Filed under: Biofuels,University Research,Washington — nwrenewablenews @ 3:19 pm

WSU scientists based in the Tri-Cities and Pullman are getting a combined $1.1 million for biofuels research from the U.S. Department of Energy.

DOE announced $80 million for biofuels projects, split between three consortia. WSU is one of several groups involved in the consortia and will receive funding as part of the two groups co-led by Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, which is getting $14 million. For more details, see the DOE press release.

For WSU Tri-Cities, this means $620,000 of research funding as part of the National Advanced Biofuels Consortium. The work will be done by the WSU Center for Bioproducts and Bioenergy team based at the Bioproducts, Sciences and Engineering Laboratory (BSEL) on the Richland campus.

“This is only the start of more great things to come in the BSEL building,” said Birgitte K. Ahring, director of WSU’s Center for Bioproducts and Bioenergy and Battelle Distinguished Professor. “This opportunity lays the groundwork for amazing partnerships nationwide and will help us find new ways to make fuels from non-food plants.”

The BSEL opened in May 2008 on the Richland campus. Construction of the $24.8 million facility was a partnership between WSU and Battelle, which operates PNNL for the U.S. DOE. The building allows the organizations to work together to develop solutions to some of the nation’s largest energy problems, to strengthen opportunities to move technology into industry and to provide students with a hands-on educational experience.

For the Pullman campus, $495,000 from the National Alliance for Advanced Biofuels and Bioproducts consortium is for algae research to be conducted in the WSU College of Agriculture, Human and Natural Resource Sciences, under Professor David Kramer with the Institute of Biological Chemistry.

Kramer is a WSU “innovator” whose research focuses on increasing plant productivity and redirecting photosynthetic energy toward new and efficient biochemical pathways in effort to harness bioenergy.

More details on Kramer’s research can be found here.

By Melissa O’Neil Perdue, WSU Tri-Cities –


WSU to help implement Smart Grid December 13, 2009

Filed under: Smart Grid,University Research,Washington — nwrenewablenews @ 10:32 pm
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Though the stimulus bill is no longer making headlines, its ripples are being felt throughout the country, even in Pullman.

WSU is partnering with Avista and Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories for the $38 million Pullman section in the Pacific Northwest Smart Grid Demonstration Project.

“We are involved because the whole system on campus will be automated,” WSU electrical engineering professor Anjan Bose said. “There will be communication between our grid and the control room at Avista.” Smart Grids use the automation to route power based on where it is needed. Both WSU and Schweitzer will serve as microgrids for Avista to study, Bose said.

WSU was chosen because of its electrical engineering college and its current grid, WSU Energy Systems Director Terry Ryan said.

“The electrical engineering college is well known throughout the area,” he said. “They will be able to consistently develop new tests for the grid and analyze the data.” The project was officially announced by the Department of Energy three weeks ago. Before the project can officially begin, WSU’s grid needs to be upgraded, Bose said.

“It’s a tree of projects, and we will begin working on it early next year,” he said. “Everything needs to engineered and installed. It will take at least two years before everything will be online.” The goal of the system is to make the grids more efficient by having more sensors relaying more data to computers that analyze the data in real time. The grids can then adjust and transfer power were it is needed, Ryan said.

“We have a generating plant and supplies on campus,” Bose said. “If Avista were short on power in certain areas, the grid could turn on our generator and transfer power to where they needed it. It would work the same way if WSU was short on power.” While there is no way to predict if the system will reduce costs, a smart grid system should cut back on hidden costs, Ryan said.

“It should reduce the impacts of power outages and improve the reliability of the system,” he said. “It is definitely a behind-the-scenes improvement.” The project is costing WSU nothing at this point, but that could change throughout the project’s course, Bose said.

Ryan Horlen, The Daily Evergreen –


Pullman will be ‘smart grid’ model city November 29, 2009

Avista will lead a smart grid demonstration project that will create the first “smart community” in the Pacific Northwest. Matching funds for the $38 million project are part of a U.S. Department of Energy grant for a larger $178 million regional project which is administered by Battelle.

According to an Avista news release, the company will team up with several regional entities for the Pullman project. Participants include the City of Pullman, Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories, Washington State University, Itron, Hewlett Packard and Spirae. Avista’s portion of the matching funds will be $12.9 million.

According to Avista, the project involves automation of many parts of the electric distribution system using advanced metering, enhanced utility communication and other elements of smart grid technologies. Once the work is completed, customers in the City of Pullman and nearby Albion are expected to experience greater reliability, shorter outage times and access to their own energy use information, allowing them to better manage energy expenses.

“This project will demonstrate the viability of modernizing our electric system with proven technology, and it will prepare us for things to come in the future,” said Scott Morris, Avista chairman, president and CEO.

“I have to especially thank Senator Maria Cantwell for her outstanding leadership in making smart grid a national priority,” Morris added. “I would also like to express my appreciation to the rest of our congressional delegation and to Governor Chris Gregoire for their support on this initiative.”

The project is expected to help move the region and the nation closer to establishing a more efficient and effective electricity infrastructure that is intended to help contain costs, reduce emissions, incorporate more wind power and other types of renewable energy, increase power grid reliability and provide greater flexibility for consumers.

A group of Washington State University researchers will be working with Avista on the project.

As part of the project, WSU along with Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories are set to serve as ‘micro-grids,’ locally-based, electricity producing power grids, says Anjan Bose, Regents Professor in the WSU School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (EECS). Serving as a micro-grid, WSU will communicate with Avista to improve electric power efficiency throughout the community.

WSU has its own generating plant, which runs on natural gas and diesel fuel. The generating plant is used primarily to produce steam to heat buildings on campus, but it also includes back-up generators which produce electricity. The campus back-up generators are used to provide power to critical facilities and systems in the event a utility power outage occurs. As part of the smart grid project, WSU will be communicating with Avista for the first time to optimize power generation throughout the community, so that the WSU power-producing facilities might be called upon to provide electricity if the Avista power grid should become unstable or over-loaded.

WSU will also identify loads which could be temporarily shed in response to Avista signals to assist with stabilizing the power grid. The EECS power engineering researchers and students will be involved in research, development, design, testing, and data analysis of the ‘micro-grid’ system.

“The micro-grid provides a local way of controlling electricity production and distribution and should make the whole system more responsive to people’s needs,’’ says Bose. “This is a good demonstration project of one of the ways that we can make the grid smarter.’’

“This Smart Grid project allows WSU to take a important role in addressing our nation’s most critical challenges in energy and the environment,’’ says Candis Claiborn, dean of the College of Engineering and Architecture. “I look forward to a future in which these smart grid innovations being studied here at WSU will lead to cleaner and more efficient energy use for all of us.’’

In addition to Bose, other EECS researchers on the project include Mani Venkatasubramanian, Dave Bakken, and Carl Hauser. Terry Ryan, director of WSU’s energy systems operations, has also taken a leading role on the project. In addition to WSU and Avista, other team members on the Pullman project include Schweitzer Engineering, Itron, Hewlett Packard, and Spirae.

Work is expected to begin by the end of 2009 and should be completed in 2014.



Ellensburg to join in ‘smart grid’ effort

The city of Ellensburg will more than triple the size of its renewable energy park under a unique grant that taps a team from around the Northwest to build a “smart-grid” demonstration project.

The city will receive about $600,000 from the project, which
was announced this week by the U.S. Department of Energy.

The larger project is called the Pacific Northwest Smart Grid Demonstration Project and includes utilities and energy companies from Washington, Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Wyoming.

Estimated to be a $178 million project, it will be managed by Battelle, which operates Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland.

Smart grid is the general concept of applying technological innovations to improve power delivery and enable such communications as real-time monitoring of electric use.

“Smart grid really has a lot of definitions,” said Bob Titus, Ellensburg’s energy services director. “Our focus is on distributed energy, which is expected to be much more prevalent in the future.”

Through the city utility company, customers can invest in renewable energy and receive a credit on their power bill. The city started the renewable energy park in 2006 on the west edge of Rotary Park, adjacent to Interstate 90. It is composed of about 60 kilowatts of solar panels.

With the grant, the city will add another 72 kilowatts of solar energy from different types of panel technology and 80 kilowatts worth of small wind systems.

Titus said that by expanding the park, more residents will be able to reap the benefits of solar and wind power.

“We’re making it so individuals can recognize same benefits as if the installation was on their own property,” he said.

Titus hopes to have all the paperwork associated with the project completed this spring so the installations can start in the summer, with a targeted completion date of 2011. Central Washington University will be involved in analyzing data from the project.

Leah Beth Ward, Yakima Herald-Republic


OSU Researcher receives grant for Renewable Energy/Grid research November 16, 2009

Five researchers in the College of Engineering at Oregon State University have been recognized this year with National Science Foundation CAREER Awards. The 2009 award recipients are Thinh Nguyen, Ted Brekken, and Bechir Hamdaoui, Desiree Tullos, Michael Scott.

Each award provides funding of at least $400,000 for a new research project with an educational/outreach component.

Brekken is studying improved ways to deliver electricity from renewable but highly variable resources, such as wind, wave or solar energy, to the power grid. This could help reduce reliance on fossil fuel-based power

Gazette Times –


WSU gets $1M for transmission grid research and development October 23, 2009

Researchers from WSU’s College of Engineering and Architecture have been working on developing better power grid technology.

Sen. Patty Murray included $1 million for transmission grid research and development at WSU in the 2010 Energy and Water Development appropriations bill.

The Senate passed the bill Oct. 15.

Eli Zupnick, Murray’s deputy press secretary, said he expects President Barack Obama to sign the bill into law soon.

“Our nation’s transmission system is badly aged and vulnerable to disruptions,” Zupnick said. “WSU researchers are working to develop faster, more advanced technologies that will ensure the stability of the power grid.” WSU’s specialty is creating computer and communication systems that allow the power grid to function in real time and increase efficiency, reliability and stability, said Anjan Bose, a co-principal investigator and Regents professor in the College of Engineering and Architecture.

The technology helps to avoid and anticipate major blackouts as well as incorporating renewable sources of energy such as wind and solar, Bose said. The grant will be used to create a platform to simulate the behavior of the large grid to test the computer and control algorithms being developed for the smart grid.

“This platform should be running in about a year,” Bose said.

Other professors from the College of Engineering and Architecture, Dave Bakken, Carl Hauser and Mani Venkatasubramanian, will work with Bose as the other co-principal investigators for the transmission grid research and development.

Last year, the professors received a similar grant from the U.S. Department of Energy, and with a team of graduate students, research associates and postdoctoral fellows, they started researching and developing this summer, Bose said. They are having the first of many meetings with the DOE on Monday.

WSU has also been working with local companies like Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories, Inc. and Avista Corp. on similar projects.

Improving the electric grid to smart grid technology is a national focus, and an initiative for the smart grid was included in the $819 billion stimulus package passed by the House of Representatives on Jan. 28.

Avista has paired with other regional partners, such as Battelle, and proposed implementing smart grid technology through the Pacific Northwest Smart Grid Demonstration Project. The project would make Pullman the region’s first smart grid community to be followed by the rest of the Northwest. The companies hope to get matching stimulus money from the DOE to pay for the total implementation cost of $178 million.

If approved, this would create benefits for students as well as Avista customers, Avista spokesman Hugh Imhof said.

Avista customers’ rates would remain the same, but new technologies, like a smart-meter, would allow consumers to better control and cut down their usage and essentially save them money, Imhof said.

“People don’t realize how much they can save by making a few adjustments,” he said.

WSU is one of the multiple partners that would participate in the smart grid project for Pullman, and the university already has a lot of interaction with Avista, Imhof said.

Kerry Gugliotto, The Daily Evergreen