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Upgrade Of A Successful Undergraduate Energy Project In A Remote Wilderness Location

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2010 Annual Conference & Exposition


Louisville, Kentucky

Publication Date

June 20, 2010

Start Date

June 20, 2010

End Date

June 23, 2010



Conference Session

Learning about Power Systems and Power Consumption

Tagged Division

Energy Conversion and Conservation

Page Count


Page Numbers

15.1302.1 - 15.1302.14



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Paper Authors


Herbert Hess University of Idaho

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Herb Hess received the PhD degree from the University of Wisconsin - Madison in 1993. He then joined the University of Idaho where he is Professor of Electrical Engineering. His work is in power electronic converters, great and small, alternative energy systems, power quality, energy storage electronics, and on-chip designs of energy management systems. In ASEE, he is currently Chair of the ECE Division and is past chair of the ECCD Division.

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Upgrade of a Successful Undergraduate Energy Project in a Remote Wilderness Area

Abstract In 1998, senior undergraduates designed and installed a hydroelectric generating system to support a remote natural resources research facility in the mountains of Idaho. Performance of that system is described, including its role in saving the facility from a massive forest fire and its eventual aging and decline. In 2009, through a senior undergraduate design project, students designed a replacement for the aging system. Students wrote the proposal to the National Science Foundation and won the competition for funding. Students developed specifications for a replacement system as an integrated whole. Their system design is presented, this one based on integrated renewable resources including hydroelectric, solar, and propane (convertible to biofuel) generation. Student-developed description of the design issues, construction, and initial testing is presented with initial hardware results and photographs. Student-supervised installation is scheduled for summer 2010.

Introduction Taylor Wilderness Research Station is a unique field research and teaching facility for scientific investigations of natural resources phenomena within this university’s College of Forestry, Wildlife, and Range Sciences (CFWRS). It is in the Frank Church Wilderness of Central Idaho, 400km southeast of the university’s main campus. The only access to the site is by small plane or by a 60km-long pack mule trail. About a decade ago, the University increased its research capacity at the site. A microhydroelectric generation system, designed and installed by senior electrical engineering undergraduates, made the expansion possible. For the past eleven years, this system has supported a growing and highly successful research effort.

After describing the student-designed incumbent system’s successes and eventual aging and decline, this paper presents the design and preliminary performance results of a replacement system, again designed by a team of talented senior undergraduates. Supported by $160K from a National Science Foundation (NSF) grant, a grant won through a student-written proposal, this new system promises to support a greatly expanded effort in natural resource research and management plus a teaching and research effort in renewable energy.

Incumbent system The site’s first electrical energy system, installed in the 1970s, was a 200-Watt solar panel. It powered a short wave radio and a handful of light bulbs, not all at the same time. In 1998, a team of senior three senior undergraduates determined that about 1kW of hydroelectric generation original system would be feasible. They then created and installed the system as diagrammed in Figure 1. This power system provided about 800 Watts continuously and had a four kilowatt peak production. Its storage capacity is three kilowatthours, enough for an evening of typical load at the time. A complete discussion of the students’ design and the Figure 1. Incumbent system diagram

Hess, H. (2010, June), Upgrade Of A Successful Undergraduate Energy Project In A Remote Wilderness Location Paper presented at 2010 Annual Conference & Exposition, Louisville, Kentucky. 10.18260/1-2--16994

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