Campus Takes Alternate Power Lead

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Sen. Wyden Hails OSU-Cascades energy management engineering role

Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) stopped by Bend recently to laud Oregon State University-Cascades’ Energy Management Engineering Program, which has put the institution at the cutting edge of student training and collaboration with employers to stimulate job creation in the growing sustainability field.

Students in the program learn about a range of alternative energy sources, including wind turbine farms, hydro-electric systems, fuel cell technology and solar power installations, and Wyden – who sits on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Commission – met with faculty and industry leaders who helped design the curriculum to show support for the education innovation.

Wyden said the move fitted well with OSU-Cascades aspirations to become a fully-fledged four-year branch campus, with the first freshman class touted to start in 2015, and offered congratulations over the state Board of Higher Education’s recent unanimous endorsement of such an expansion.

He added: “It makes sense to me, especially with your vision of creating a campus that leverages sustainable energy practices as much as possible and with what you are doing to match students with careers that offer good chances of future employment.

“OSU-Cascades is already on the leading edge of training students in traditional and alternative energy systems, all of which are the careers of the future as the U.S. seeks to move away from reliance on fossil fuels.

“I am concerned that funding for new low-impact hydroelectric technologies that can be used at existing dams and in irrigation systems here in Oregon has been cut and one of my highest priorities when I become the senior Democratic member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee is to ensure that the U.S. has a broad-based energy research portfolio.

“OSU-Cascades is in a great position to help lead that research and development effort, and one of the reasons I wanted to have this session is to get input on what that Federal energy R&D scope should include.”

Wyden also said a tight federal budget should not be an excuse for the U.S to give up its lead in these emerging fields “the way it did with wind energy by walking away from a technology just as it was being commercialized”, adding that the country needed to develop a broad portfolio of energy technologies not just for its own use, but to compete in the world market.

He said it would be a “colossal mistake” to put all our energy eggs in just a couple of technology baskets both for our own energy use and to sell energy technology internationally, adding: “There is clearly a world market for emerging technologies that the U.S. needs to compete within and can if it commits to maintaining its leadership.”

As an illustration, he hailed the importance of such work being done right at OSU-Cascades by Professor Chris Hagan in improving the design of the natural gas vehicle fuel system. By making it quicker and easier to refuel a natural gas vehicle, Prof. Hagan’s lead could help lower the cost of transitioning from gasoline and diesel fuel powered automobiles.

Wyden said: “I am also committed to making sure our country has the trained engineers and scientists that it needs to both solve the energy and environmental problems here at home and to compete in global markets.

“OSU-Cascades is the perfect example of what needs to be done to expand the opportunities for education in these important disciplines.

“We know that science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) studies are a ticket to success. I believe we should be doing more to encourage students to explore these fields by providing them with valuable information about their expected outcomes.”

Following his meeting at OSU-Cascades, Sen. Wyden also spoke at conventions of the Oregon Trucking Association and Oregon State Building Trades being held in the region.

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