USAO News Bureau

Open House Scheduled for USAO Energy Lab

Monday, November 9, 2009

It may be the only lab of its kind in the state. It focuses on the potential of 'green' energy and will be a hands-on learning tool for USAO faculty and students. USAO is showing off the DroverGen Energy Research Laboratory with an open house Nov. 12.


The open house is scheduled from 3-6 p.m. at the lab on the south end of Austin Hall off of Grand Avenue. USAO students, faculty, staff and the public are invited to the event.

The lab is the creation of Dr. Darryel Reigh, professor of chemistry, and faculty members from the Division of Science and Physical Education.

"We envision this laboratory as a teaching tool for faculty across the disciplines," Reigh said. "In classic USAO style, we imagine various applications for students and faculty in both natural and social sciences."

Reigh led the team of staff and faculty who built the outdoor research lab. “So many faculty and staff participated in the development of this project. We can’t say ‘thank you’ enough to them all.  And thank you to the Regents who provided the funding.”

Reigh designed the project on a modest $35,000 budget. Its purpose is to give students hands-on experience with alternative energy sources. Mostly outdoors, the lab will demonstrate the production of and uses for alternative energy sources including wind, solar heat, solar electricity, bioethanol, biodiesel and biogas, said Reigh, who has taught at USAO for 30 years.

The lab features an array of alternative and 'green' energy options. It features a scale size demonstration house powered by photovoltaic solar and wind-generated electricity. The house is heated by passive and active solar panels.

The electrical systems in the house include battery-stored emergency power and a grid-tied system that sells excess electricity to the utility supplier.

The lab also is equipped to produce fuel alcohol, biodiesel, and biogas (methane made from manure). Waste cooking oil from USAO Food Services is used for the production of biodiesel. 

"A greenhouse will provide opportunities for experiments with algae as a source of oils for biodiesel production and for the testing of phyto-remediation techniques to purify polluted water.  The greenhouse also will serve the botany laboratories," Reigh said.

"We expect to serve a wide range of students from many academic disciplines consistent with USAO’s interdisciplinary approach to education.  Team projects involving science, economics and communication majors are envisioned.  Experiments will also be integrated into the Foundation of Science laboratories."

The site will help the community understand energy technologies -- particularly on a scale accessible to individual homeowners.  "We already have field trips of public school students and teachers scheduled," Reigh said. Individuals or groups wishing to tour the lab may contact Reigh by e-mail at dreigh@usao.edu or by calling 405-574-1313.