Renewable Energy Engineering: Extraordinary Solutions to Intricate Problems

picture of photovoltaic panels on Klamath Lake for sucker fish recovery project
Klamath Falls

Floating Solar-Powered Aeration Systems for Endangered Fish Recovery

In 2019, the Oregon Renewable Energy Center provided funding to develop a prototype system that is intended to aid the endangered Shortnose and Lost River suckerfish. The floating solar-powered aeration system consists of a buoyant platform anchored on the lake which supports the photovoltaic panels and electrical components boxes; the photovoltaic system generates power for air pumps that aerate the water. Inside the electrical component boxes, there are batteries and charge controllers so the system can operate 24/7 - even when the sun isn't shining. OREC laboratory manager Jennifer Berdyugin designed the 12-volt prototype aeration system. The goal is to monitor the system and observe how it impacts the suckerfish population over several years while making design improvements as needed. This ongoing project has provided opportunities for both graduate and undergraduate students to participate and get hands-on experience. 

Rural & Renewable Energy

Rural Energy at Work Flyer OREC REDA 2021
Klamath Falls

Rural Energy and Renewable Energy Works | United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)

USDA Energy Audit funding for the “Rural Energy Works for Oregon and California” project will deliver energy audits to rural small businesses and agriculture producers in Klamath, Lake and Harney counties in Oregon, and Modoc County in California. Regional organizations leading this effort include: Oregon Tech/Oregon Renewable Energy Center (OREC), Lake County Resources Initiative (LCRI), Sustainable Northwest (SNW), Klamath Watershed Partnership (KWP) and Wy’East RC&D (Wy’East). It will combine the respected engineering expertise of Wy’East, project administration of OREC, program management of SNW, as well as the previous relative experience and network of contacts each organization has developed, to provide energy audits that spur action across the region. “The audits will increase the energy awareness of Oregon and California’s rural communities and provide opportunities for improvements in efficiency and renewable energy generation,” said Dr. Terry. If you are a rural small business or agricultural producer interested in energy audits leading to energy efficiency or renewable energy solutions for your farm or business. For questions or more information, contact Dr. Mason Terry (mason.terry@oit.edu) or Jennifer Berdyugin (jennifer.berdyugin@oit.edu).

Bio-Gas Generator Research Project

OREC Bio-Gas Generator

The BioGas project consists of the design and build of a system that turns bio-waste (i.e. food waste, dairy waste, cow manure, or grass clipping) into electrical power. In most homes, the natural gas used was created from organic matter (plants or other) becoming trapped under water and soils over long periods of time. Anaerobic bacteria breaks the matter down producing a gaseous by-product: methane rich natural gas. A similar process happens in a cows stomach, where the by-product is also a methane rich gas. In this project we are simulating the process that occurs in the cows stomach, and ultimately to generate a gas similar to natural gas. The project is currently being built in the OREC (Oregon Renewable Energy Center) lab by students: Toby Farkas(BSEE/MSE), Jonathan Ruark (BSEE/BSREE),Keaton Bradley (BSEE), Ian Riley (BSREE/BSEE), Jennifer Berdyugin (MSREE), and Juan Villarreal (BSREE/MSREE).

The build has been broken into 5 phases. The first phase of this project is the design and build of an anaerobic digester to produce bio-gas consisting of CH4 (methane), H2S (hydrogen sulfide), CO2 (carbon dioxide), and H2O (water). The second phase is the design and build of a system for removing as much of the H2S, CO2, and H2O as possible, leaving a high concentration of energy dense CH4. The third phase is to modify a gasoline combustion engine to run on the upgraded bio-gas. The combustion engine will turn an electrical generator. Phase four is the production and storage of electric energy. The final phase of the project is data acquisition.

The long term goals of this project are to bring attention to the idea of bio-gas being a worthy alternative to fossil fuels, as well as researching the ability to produce bio-gas from a variety of substrates. We hope that our project and research will help to relieve our dependence on fossil fuels as an energy source, bridge the gap between wind and solar energy production, and allow energy independence for small farms and residences.

Wind Turbine Modeling

Wind Energy

Following years of research, the wind energy industry has taken off in Oregon and throughout the nation — supplying clean, renewable power to Oregonians and others. Researchers at Oregon universities have always been on the cutting edge of wind energy development, and they still are.

Hugh Currin and Jim Long, professors at Oregon Tech, used Oregon BEST research funding to develop an innovative way to model a turbine’s wake aerodynamics — research that could lead to better turbine designs.

“A free wake model is a new approach to the wake aerodynamics of a wind turbine,” Currin says. “It models the turbine’s wake by tracking individual vortices that form the wake, resulting in better wake predictions than currently used models. Accurate wake modeling allows better representation of the flow at the blades and therefore leads to improved turbine and blade designs.”

Although similar wake models have been developed and used in research, Currin and Long integrated their new model into the widely accepted AeroDyn computer code, which is supported by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Colorado.

“Integrating a free wake model into AeroDyn has never been done,” Long says. “Doing so will give turbine designers easy access to the new modeling capabilities. And it will also be linked to a dynamic structural code, allowing consideration of dynamic events such as wind gusts and changes in wind direction.”

Free wake models tend to be computationally intensive but lend themselves to parallel processing. The Oregon BEST research team took advantage of this and the new multi-core processors to decrease the run time of the new model. This advance should bring run times in line with the needs of engineers and designers. The parallelization of the code base was aided by a grant from Intel, and the researchers used donated Intel hardware and software tools to do the code studies.

“Continued development of wind energy research here in Oregon will bring our state national and international prominence,” Currin says. “That’s good for Oregon, and good for the world.”

Hybrid Vehicle Controls

Green Lite Motors of Portland, Ore. has developed a two-seat, hybrid gas-electric, three-wheeled vehicle that is designed for ultra-high efficiency (attaining 100 miles-per-gallon) but offers the safety features and comfort of a standard passenger car. Green Lite Motors was selected as one of the three most promising clean-tech start-ups in the Pacific Northwest through the Oregon BEST's Clean Tech Open competition in 2009.

The company worked with Professors James Long, Hugh Currin, and James Zipay at Oregon Tech to research and develop the electronics, software and hardware that enable the vehicle’s existing electric motor and gas engine to work in combination off a single throttle to optimize efficiency and performance. This is the last critical element in creating a fully functional prototype.