Where in the world are our graduate students?
The halls of Corvallis-based Columbia Power Technologies, a global leader in developing direct-drive wave energy systems, are jammed with former NNMREC students, all of whom excelled in their respective graduate programs and are now contributing to cutting-edge technology development at Columbia Power. Just four miles from the OSU campus (they also have a location in Charlottesville, VA), Columbia Power doesn’t have to look far for well-trained, enthusiastic students with plenty of experience in wave energy development.
Kelley Ruehl was a member of NNMREC at Oregon State University during 2009-2011, where she studied Mechanical Engineering with a minor in Ocean Engineering. Advised by Dr. Robert Paasch and Dr. Ted Brekken, her research focused on the development of a wave energy converter (WEC) “wave-to-wire” numerical model, a type of numerical model used to evaluate the amount of electrical power generated by a given WEC from given wave conditions. Her model can be used to study device dynamics, model power take-off (PTO; the method for taking power from a power source and transmitting it to a machine or other device) and mooring systems, and develop advanced controls models. While at OSU, Kelley organized NNMREC seminars, contributed to the wave mural in her basement office, and got involved in the wave energy community in a variety of other ways.
While presenting her research at an IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) conference, Kelley met with contacts at Sandia National Laboratories (SNL), where she went for a three-month internship during the winter of her last year in graduate school. This internship turned into a full-time job upon graduation from OSU. Kelley has now been at SNL for 2.5 years, leading projects on wave energy and floating offshore wind power. She currently works on development of open source numerical models for WEC devices (WEC-Sim), and wave farms (SNL-SWAN). “These codes will be publicly released in the next six months, and will be freely available to the wave energy community,” Kelley says.
Kelley’s background in wave structure dynamics transferred nicely to offshore wind. She co-leads a project with the University of Minnesota on high resolution modeling of wind turbines and farms. This project has involved the design of a floating platform for a 13.2 MW reference turbine, scaled combined wind-wave testing of the turbine, and numerical model development. “I look forward to seeing friendly OSU faces in the wave energy community as NNMREC projects produce more graduates,” she says.
On May 9, 2014, she and two colleagues presented an overview of their wave energy research at NNMREC's weekly Marine Forum. Watch the video here.
As a Masters student in Mechanical Engineering at the University of Washington, Sam worked with NNMREC researchers Brian Polagye and Jim Thompson developing an approach to characterizing potential sites for deploying tidal energy devices. He tested these methodologies at sites in Puget Sound by examining metrics measuring maximum and mean velocity, eddy intensity, rate of turbulent kinetic energy dissipation, vertical shear, directionality, ebb and flood asymmetry, vertical profile and other aspects of the flow regime. He completed his thesis, Siting Methodologies for Tidal In-Stream Energy Conversion (TISEC) Systems, in 2009.
After completing his degree, Sam went to work for Sound and Sea Technology, a Navy Contractor, as an engineer and project manager on projects related to early stage renewable energy technologies. “I decided I wanted to focus more on utility-scale renewables,” he explains, so he left Sound and Sea and took a position as a mechanical loads test engineer for DNV-GL, a large global firm that conducts research and consulting for the maritime and energy industries. “I tested turbines for a lot of the major manufacturers, including two offshore turbines in Korea,” he says.
Sam left DNV-GL in mid-2013 to attend Harvard Business School to get his MBA. “My goal is to stay in clean tech - more specifically, either energy efficiency software or manufacturing,” Sam says.