Engineering students at Washington State University (WSU) will soon study cutting-edge technologies for harnessing the power of the wind, sun, biomass, fuel cells and more thanks to a $150,000 gift provided by Puget Sound Energy. The class, to be part of WSU's School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, will be the first college-level engineering course in Washington dedicated to renewable energy systems.
"The renewable energy field is developing rapidly, and this course will enable our state's top engineering students to stay current with the latest advances in clean power technologies," said Paul Wiegand, vice president, Power Generation for PSE. "Renewable energy offers tremendous benefits for the environment and the economy, but only if we have people ready to contribute to this growing and valuable industry."
The renewable energy class will debut in the fall of 2009, with PSE providing an initial $50,000 gift in 2008 to assist with course development efforts, and the remaining balance of $100,000 over the next five years. The gift from PSE will go towards laboratory supplies and equipment, as well as student travel expenses for class tours of renewable energy facilities such as PSE's Hopkins Ridge Wind Facility near Dayton.
The coursework, currently in development, geared for senior-level majors in Engineering, Electrical Engineering and the sciences, will range from studies in the design and construction of wind turbines, solar photovoltaic arrays, biomass generation and hydrogen fuel cells, to the public policy and ecological impact of conventional and alternative sources of energy.
"Wind power, solar power and biomass are all growing, both in terms of the energy they produce and in their importance in combating climate change," said Wiegand. "By supporting the studies and research being done at WSU, PSE is able to help ensure that our state has the skills and knowledge to be at the forefront of this fast-paced technology."
As the largest utility-owner of renewable energy sources in the Northwest, PSE is a leader in the move toward clean-power technologies. In 2003, the utility set a goal of having 10 percent of its generation resources be wind, solar or biomass–three years before renewable energy standards became Washington state law.
Today, the utility's two wind energy facilities, Wild Horse in Kittitas County and Hopkins Ridge in Columbia County, have the capacity to produce as much as 386 megawatts (MW) of electricity, or about the equivalent of the energy needed to serve 100,000 homes.
In addition to wind energy, Wild Horse also includes the region's largest utility-owned solar array, a 500 kilowatt (kW) demonstration project. PSE residential and business customers have also worked with the utility on small-scale solar projects, with some 300 customers now generating at least part of their electric needs through solar arrays.