Monday, July 27, 2009

Energication To Date

If you are new to Energication, this page will allow you to easily start at the beginning and read each post in order. Since this started in the summer, many of you are just getting back to school in the fall. This will allow you to catch up easily. Another way to keep up to date is to subscribe to just posts or all comments using any of the popular readers shown to the right.

Here's a trick: many of the popular browsers (Google Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer 8) allow you to open a link in a new tabbed window simply by holding the "CTRL" key down when you click. This screen stays in your primary tabbed window and all the others open in different tabs.

  1. July 5, 2009 Welcome to Energication
  2. July 6, 2009 Bonneville Environmental Foundation
  3. July 9, 2009 Renewable Energy Curriculum
  4. July 12, 2009 Oregon's Solar Climate
  5. July 15, 2009 Portland as Region's Renewable Energy Hub
  6. July 18, 2009 Gresham Gets It
  7. July 21, 2009 Bolster Curriculum One Step at a Time
  8. July 24, 2009 Energy Corridors Still Evolving
  9. August 8, 2009 Renewable Energy In The News
  10. August 10, 2009 Curriculum: Energy Conservation
  11. August 24, 2009 Brammo Electrifies Motorcycles
  12. December 30, 2009 Changes All Around
  13. January 4, 2010 Wind Energy Training Comes in Many Forms
  14. January 8, 2010 Education Isn't Only for Students
  15. January 13, 2010 Solar Research Center to Open at OSU
  16. January 17, 2010 Gresham Grows Energy Expertise
  17. January 24, 2010 Watts On Schools
  18. February 7, 2010 Media Validates Energication Principles
  19. March 11, 2010 A Chicken in Every Pot? How About Hydrogen Fueling in Every Home?
  20. March 16, 2010 Oil Bad on Many Fronts
  21. March 21, 2010 E85-Ethanol Needs Education
  22. March 24, 2010 Renewable Energy as State Export Candidate
  23. April 10, 2010 Home Energy Use Perfect Problem to Solve for Students

Friday, July 24, 2009

Energy Corridors Still Evolving

In the early evolutionary stages of any new technology, there are usually competing standards, frequent changes of direction, and generally differing perspectives on the right application. It simply takes time for a clear direction to coalesce. Depending on your generation, consider VHS vs. BETA and Blue Ray and HD-DVD. One very important aspect of renewable energy that matches this description is the movement of energy from where it's generated to where it's needed through the use of "Energy Corridors."

Forget "Smart Grids" (more on that at another time). This is about the basic infrastructure (and the land to support it) to get power from Point A to Point B. Examples include high voltage electricity towers and lines and pipelines for products ranging from natural gas to crude oil. As more renewable energy is generated, more transmission is needed. But the key is the location of the corridors. The current energy corridors are positioned based on decades old coal, petroleum and hydro based generation systems. More and better placed corridors are the issue.

One important note: this discussion is not meant to be a commentary on the pros and cons of the Bush or Obama Administrations. It is simply meant to raise awareness of the evolution, challenges, and opportunities that we face as the production and transmission of renewable energy evolves - and the implications for education.

A lawsuit filed in a San Francisco federal court in early July alleges that the Bush Administration did not adequately analyze the sources of current and potential renewable energy locations as well as the proper federal and local land-use plans when mapping the 6,000 miles of energy-corridor rights of way. Again, not a commentary on that administration, but an example of changing times and changing perspectives. The previous (and to a large extent, current) infrastructure was coal and petroleum based. Of course in the West, that includes hydro power. New energy sources will require new transmission corridors. The Salt Lake Tribune talks more about the suit, the players, and the background.

The ability to take advantage of new renewable energy sources is challenged from the beginning. There is an inadequate and suboptimal placement of the grid infrastructure that prevents full support of the remote areas rich in wind and solar opportunities. A perfect description comes from Wouter van Kempen of Duke Energy based in Charlotte, NC in a recent interview. "We are the Saudi Arabia of wind, but how do we get the power from North Dakota to Chicago?” If you think about what it would take to implement a new, say, 600 mile high power electical tower system, it could take years or decades.

Finally, the tie to education.

In all this discussion about transmitting the power, there's been no mention of renewable energy curriculum, hands-on lab opportunities, or any sort of student involvement in building prototypes. The study of renewable energy of course covers all these, is very important, and is the basis for Energication.

But what is also does is exposes our students to contemporary and meaningful topics that may just excite them educationally in areas not immediately involved with renewable energy. For example:

- What about the student who is interested in law and focuses on the kind of case law shown above?
- What about the student who focuses on environmental issues and helps to develop optimal energy corridors?
- What about the student who has a passion for finance and helps to develop successful funding programs for renewable energy investments?

You get the picture.

Not every student has to learn how to design, build or service renewable energy equipment to gain a life-long benefit from being positively influenced by the renewable energy curriculum in our schools. Their contributions will likely be from perspectives as varied as their individual personalities.


Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Bolster Curriculum One Step at a Time

In the Sunday, July 19 Oregonian, Bill Bigelow wrote about how far behind Portland schools are in teaching accurately about global warming. As someone who knows how expensive and time consuming it is to adopt text books, I can understand how any district, in any state, could be behind the curve. I'm not here to bash anyone - the point of Energication is to advance the study of renewable energy one step at a time and not tear down those who are still behind.

The example Mr. Bigelow cites, though, has a crucial underlying element: how do our students get more accurate and timely information, delivered by trained teaching professionals, when text book adoption naturally lags behind? Energication.

OK, this blog is not the answer, but it is a forum for developing the thought-provoking discussion, sharing the informational resources necessary to start a local effort, and to engage students, teachers, administrators and the business community to allow them to see what's possible.

So how does Energication bolster the curriculum until text book adoption cycles (and budgets!) can catch up? We're starting small, with that first step, with our first grant application for our first working solar array and related curriculum. We'll know by September if the Bonneville Education Foundation is able to award us the grant. And if so, we are on our way.

But even if they can't, the Center For Advanced Learning has "energized" a large group of students, some teachers, the Center's Director, and it's Board of Education. The first step in effect has begun - the grant will actually be our second step!

To take your first step, use the materials contained in Energication to raise awareness. If you find you need to deliver a heavier punch and you are in the general Portland Metropolitan Ares, I'm happy to speak to your group to share the perspectives gained so far. After all, that's how the Center for Advanced Learning took their first steps.

Many of our schools are behind the curve with text books. Straighten that curve by taking one step at a time with the resources brought to bear with Energication.


Saturday, July 18, 2009

Gresham Gets It

In the initial posts here at Energication, I've attempted to frame the landscape for renewable energy opportunities for our students. The journey began with a look at federal efforts in the areas of curriculum, continued in an effort to assess the current solar climate in the State of Oregon, evaluating the benefits of Portland as the region's growing center of activity, and now focuses very locally on the City of Gresham.

As this post's title suggests, Gresham is likely to capitalize on renewable energy opportunities as they are presented - or as they are "created" - because we have a mayor, other leaders and a community who "get it."

The vast majority of the posts you will read in Energication are original and purely my perspectives. From time to time, the information gets served up so well in other places, there simply isn't any value in me crafting a message from scratch. This is one of those times.

The following story originally appeared in the Portland Tribune in December, 2008. With my appreciation to Mark Garber, you may read it here.


Gresham Pursues Solar Jobs
Originally posted at

Gresham officials see a sparkling future when it comes to attracting solar energy companies, but the city isn’t close to any deals yet to bring major solar manufacturers to town.

The city has worked systematically in recent months to position 220 acres of industrial land, now owned by LSI Logic, for the solar-energy industry. Oregon in general and Gresham in particular are seen as attractive destinations for solar companies, says Mayor Shane Bemis, who has helped lead the city government’s effort to recruit industries that have the potential to create hundreds, if not thousands, of jobs.

While Gresham has taken concrete steps toward making the right connections in solar-industry circles, the state of the economy is slowing down interest from some parties, Bemis says. Media reports earlier this week indicated a major European solar company has chosen Gresham as its U.S. finalist for a factory, but Bemis says the company in question isn’t proceeding in the near future.

“They are in a holding pattern right now, given the economy,” Bemis says.

Putting a green foot forward

Even though no deals are imminent, Gresham officials are highly optimistic that solar companies will locate in Gresham and they are marketing the LSI land to that end.

They have placed a trailer – acquired for $100 – on the LSI property to serve as a gathering spot for industrial scouts who come to town and want to visit the site. Bemis and other city officials also are armed with a list of reasons why solar manufacturing companies ought to land in Gresham.

Specifically, the city is burnishing its green credentials by undertaking initiatives that make Gresham stand out, even among its Oregon peers. The city’s bragging points include:

• Its new plug-in station for electric cars at City Hall – only the third city-sponsored station in Oregon.

• The city’s green development practices.

• The city’s vehicle fleet, which is powered by hybrid technology and biodiesel.

• The community’s No. 1 position as a consumer of green power from Portland General Electric.

• The use of alternative energy – methane gas and solar panels – to provide most of the power used at the city’s wastewater-treatment plant.

“The extent to which local government is hooked into the green initiative is huge to (solar companies),” Bemis notes.

LSI site has growing reputation

Beyond the city’s dedication to alternative energies are the specifics of the LSI land. On a clear day, it has impressive views of Mount Hood, “which speaks to quality of life,” Bemis says. But perhaps more significant is the “PGE reliability center” at the site, which guarantees that industries located there will have power no matter what happens.

“It’s only one of three reliability centers in the state,” Bemis says, “and it’s a huge, huge, huge selling piece to this site.”

The Gresham City Council also recently approved a Strategic Investment Zone – the first of its kind in the state – to provide property tax incentives for companies that might locate on the LSI land.

The LSI property surrounds the ON Semiconductor plant off Northeast Glisan Street. Silicon chip maker LSI Logic previously occupied that factory and it retained the surrounding property after selling the plant to ON Semiconductor.

Although Gresham has long considered the property to be valuable industrial land for future job-intensive industries, in recent months the focus has turned more exclusively to the growing solar industry.

The state of Oregon also is providing incentives to solar-component manufacturers as part of its push to attract green industries. And the state has raised the profile of the LSI site to solar companies, both nationally and internationally.

“The whole world knows about this site,” says Bemis, who has traveled to a San Diego trade show to meet with solar companies and is planning a similar trip to Germany in March.

Such outreach by the city and state brought Gresham into the sights of the unnamed European solar company that is now in a holding pattern. Before the company decided to delay its expansion plans due to the economy, it had narrowed its list to about a half a dozen in the world – with Gresham being “one of the only ones in North America,” Bemis confirms.

XsunX still planning Wood Village plant

Other economic-development experts in the state and region agree that solar is ripe for Oregon to pursue. At the Oregon Business Plan’s annual Leadership Summit in Portland on Thursday, business people discussed strategies for extending Oregon’s leadership in alternative energy. Hillsboro already is developing a strong solar cluster, having attracted two major companies along with some smaller firms.

And in East Multnomah County, XsunX Inc. is still planning to manufacture solar components in the former Merix plant in Wood Village, says East Metro Economic Alliance Executive Director Travis Stovall, who has been working with the California-based company.

XsunX has moved some equipment into the Merix facility and has more machinery on the way, Stovall says, but it has not yet finalized an agreement with the state to get the energy credits needed to make the plant pencil out financially.

“The process is moving along,” Stovall says.

Several factors are converging to put Oregon in an enviable position for solar development, Stovall says. President-elect Barack Obama is making alternative energy a priority. Oregon is offering state incentives. And solar companies already have a significant presence here.

“I think Oregon overall is going to play a major role based on the cluster we already have,” Stovall says.

East County has the available land, but its solar prospects also depend on the area’s ability to develop a labor force ready to work in solar-manufacturing plants.

“We have to be able to train these folks to have the expertise that these companies are looking for,” Stovall says.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Portland as Region's Renewable Energy Hub

Although Salem is the state's capital, much of the outward activity surrounding renewable energy in the state takes place in Portland. Is Portland the ONLY place? Absolutely not. But it is becoming the center of many of the activities and discussion supporting those notions that may begin conceptually in Salem and come to fruition in other parts of the state.

Most certainly, having a major metropolitan area like Portland be the center bodes well for the rest of the state.

In Oregon's Solar Climate, a number of solar companies were profiled as having operations in the state. Some are in the Portland area, while others are around the state. But let's not underestimate the value of a metropolitan area that has a number of things going for it to draw companies if not to the city, certainly to the state:
  • A Governor who gets it
  • A Mayor who gets it
  • A port system that excels in air, water and rail commerce
  • A university system receiving grants to further the research and innovation surrounding renewable energy
  • Substantial momentum building through the base of companies already here - and looking to expand their operations
Combine these traits with a nascent effort in Energication and you round out the offering as a region that is beginning to establish a K-12 awareness for renewable energy. The "output" (our students) will begin to feed the need - and the virtuous cycle continues.

What other examples have you seen locally? How do they apply in fostering renewable energy education for our students? What more do we need to do? What's your own first move?


Sunday, July 12, 2009

Oregon's Solar Climate

In Renewable Energy Curriculum, Energication began to set the scene on renewable energy, first focusing on the federal government. At the risk of getting too off-topic, it is astounding just how much of a difference a fresh perspective from a new administration can make. Not a political commentary, just a voice of relief that the early momentum being made in a lot of areas now has support in Washington, D.C.

Next in this series is a look at what's taking place in Oregon. True, this is where our efforts began, so it makes sense to weight the material more heavily to Oregon. However, it is recognized that the principles and strategies evaluated here can have application in every state, of course with local lenses and influences applied. I'm pleased to announce we've had our first "out of state" visitor, with one hit to the blog originating in Illinois. Welcome!

Now, back to taking a look at the current state in our state.

One could argue that in Oregon, "The Sky's the Limit!" With the help of Governor Ted Kulongoski (remember the governmental "perspectives" observation above), Oregon intends to become a renewable energy leader, with solar playing a major role. The hard work is paying off, with the state making strides to accomplish that title.

The State of Oregon's attitude and actions has been successful in luring a number of solar manufacturers and related installation and equipments companies to the state. Companies like:
Chris Robertson, vice president of public affairs for Peak Sun Silicon, a start-up that plans to invest $700 million over the next five years in a Millersburg plant making electronic-grade silicon for the solar industry says, "The state of Oregon is going to be the center for solar manufacturing in the U.S."

The United States is the fourth-leading nation in annual installation of photovoltaic systems, behind Germany, Spain and Japan. But the U.S. market has been growing by about 40 percent over the past six years, providing the potential to be the world's largest photovoltaic market in the next few years.

Energication plans to help our students become a part of that future.

But why Oregon? Gray, drab, rainy, Oregon? Back to the Oregon Solar Electric Guide that started this post.

According to the guide, the Willamette Valley is on a par with the U.S. average for solar generation capability. Makes sense. Being astride the 45th Parallel, we're half-way between the Equator and the North Pole. That's about average. But it gets better.

In Eastern and Southern Oregon, that capacity is 20-30% higher, more aligned with the likes of Florida. A decent ante to play.

In 1999, House Bill 3219 was passed that established Oregon as a “Net Metering” state. As one of 42 states and the District of Columbia, Net Metering allows the meter to "run backwards." How? When qualified electrical generation systems that are tied to the grid generate more electricity than they consume, the meter runs in the reverse direction. Throughout the billing cycle, the "net" of usage and generation becomes the monthly bill. Just one incentive for small scale generation projects.

A perfect example of a State putting their taxpayers "money where their mouths are" is the Oregon Department of Transportation's "Solar Highway." Completed in December of 2008, this 104 kilowatt photovoltaic solar array at the confluence of Interstates 5 and 205 south of Portland, provides approximately 33% of the required power for areas lights at the interchange. It is the country's first.

The longer term vision is to completely build out enough solar to fully support the State's transportation system of signals, illumination, buildings, ramp metering, etc. "Longer" is the key word here since that is estimated to require 47,000 MEGAWATTS - a far cry from about 100 kilowatts.

Is that bad? Not at all.

The fact that the State of Oregon has a very long term view of its need for, and application of, solar technology, I see our students (at all ages) poised to benefit immediately, comprehensively, and LOCALLY, from the work we do to foster renewable energy curriculum in our schools.

This is just a small sample of what's going on in the state. What else have you seen that has positive implications for our students?


Thursday, July 9, 2009

Renewable Energy Curriculum

In addition to the benefits students derive from hands-on experience with renewable energy it is the curriculum that is the fundamental reason for what we - and they - do. As you read in the post introducing the Bonneville Environmental Foundation, curriculum is often the central focus of, or comes with, grants related to renewable energy in educational settings.

While there are many, many sources of educational materials, Energication has just scratched the surface in compiling a starting list. It would be appropriate to initially share the primary source of curriculum materials that drove the Energication concept and pledge to continue researching and sharing more in the future.

The federal government was the primary source of information for assembling the Energication concept. The graphic at the top of this post comes from the U.S. Department of Energy's "Energy Education" web site. There, they share a wealth of teaching materials in their "Get Smart About Energy" program which includes over 350 lesson plans and activities for grades K-12, sectioned by K-4, 5-8, and 9-12.

While some areas are well developed, others are merely starting points. However, included there are guides for curriculum integration, timelines, teaching materials, national standards, and much more.

Renewable energy subjects include the following:

  • Energy Basics
  • Environment
  • Energy Efficiency and Conservation
  • Solar Energy
  • Wind Energy
  • Biomass Energy
  • Transportation Fuels
  • Hydrogen and Fuel Cells

These make up the major technological areas of renewable energy and it is around these areas that Energication is organized. A collective adoption of these technologies is what will not only shake us from our dependence on foreign oil, but will sustainably improve the entire environmental and ecological systems with the avoidance of every barrel of oil consumed.

This is a long term vision. Education is a long term investment. Personally, I an excited about that connection. This work is important. No, it's critical - and Energication is proud to be a part of it.


Monday, July 6, 2009

Bonneville Environmental Foundation

Learn more about the Bonneville Environmental Foundation:

After the "Welcome Post," the first decision was to choose the initial post topic. What better starting point than with the organization that is not only doing great work in their own right, but may be a significant player in getting Renewable Energy Education off the ground in the Gresham-Barlow School District. This post will showcase the Bonneville Environmental Foundation and the important work they do.

By now, you may have enjoyed the "Learn More About" video above and the others available there as well, so you have a basic understanding of what BEF does. The Center for Advanced Learning, in Gresham, Oregon submitted a grant application for a working solar system with supporting curriculum through BEF's "Solar 4R Schools" program. Here's another video:

Through awarding schools with grants to fund working solar systems, monitoring equipment and the curriculum to tie it all together, BEF is promoting the adoption of solar installations with the next generation of energy users - our students. The video is quite accurate when it says,

"The Solar School Program exposes our children to the energy issues they'll face in the future and inspires them with hands-on experiences of tangible results. Most importantly, it gets them excited about making a difference by creating a sense of responsibility an engagement in the environment."

We have not even heard if we are getting the grant and already the students with whom I've interacted are thrilled with the possibilities.

Regardless of how we do with the grant award, BEF has already been the catalyst for creating excitement about renewable energy curriculum at The Center for Advanced Learning - and we've only started!


Sunday, July 5, 2009

Welcome to "Energication"

"Energication" was born from a notion that renewable energy education should become a priority in our schools. That notion manifested itself in an effort to bring a small, working solar system with related curriculum to the Center for Advanced Learning in Gresham, Oregon. That effort was focused around a grant opportunity with the Bonneville Environmental Foundation.

Although my two terms as a member of the Gresham-Barlow School Board have expired, this began when I was still the Board Chair. After sharing the vision with the Superintendent, The Center for Advanced Learning's Director, and two classes of Juniors, there was plenty of "energy" to advance the cause. At that point, the grant application was drafted, edited, finalized and submitted. We will hear the Bonneville Environmental Foundation's decision in September.

While the initial vision was mostly focused on solar, the excitement grew to expand the collective vision to a full renewable energy curriculum. An early working name of "Solar Students" quickly gave way to a limitless moniker. "Energication" will focus on these renewable energy topics:
  • Solar
  • Wind
  • Geothermal
  • Biopower (Wood and Agricultural Sources)
  • Advanced Water Power (Wave/Tidal Energy)
  • Hydrogen
  • Renewable Fuels (Ethanol/Biodiesel)
Regardless of the disposition of the grant application, there is much work ahead to foster "Energy Education" not only in the Gresham-Barlow School District, but with any district who will listen. There is already good work being done in education, so I simply hope to add to it.

The purpose of "Energication" is to provide students, teachers, administrators and school district leaders with a destination for a number of things like:
  • Curriculum resources
  • Best practice sharing
  • Industry directions to align educational directions
  • Commentary, perspectives and reactions
  • Unwavering support
Thank you for visiting and please come back often to learn, teach, share, and contribute to the important work of "Energication!"


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