NNMREC Graduates Flock to Columbia Power Technologies

6/18/2015 | By Nancy Steinberg

The halls of Corvallis-based Columbia Power Technologies, a global leader in developing direct-drive wave energy systems, are jammed with NNMREC graduates, 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 employees with plenty of experience in wave energy development.

Pictured (left to right) in front are Pukha Lenee-Bluhm, Sydne Wasson, and Zhe Zhang; middle are Joe Prudell, Al Schacher, Ty Toney; and back are Erik Hammagren, Reenst Lesemann, and Ken Rhinefrank. Not pictured: Brad Lamb.

Joseph Prudell received both his B.S. (2005) and M.S. (2007) in electrical engineering at OSU. His master’s thesis, conducted at the the Wallace Energy Systems & Renewables Facility (WESRF) under Dr. Alan Wallace himself and Dr. Annette von Jouanne, was entitled “Novel Design and Implementation of a Permanent Magnet Linear Tubular Generator for Ocean Wave Energy Conversion.” Joe served as the WESRF lab manager while a master’s student. His research led to the design and construction of the generator used in the SeaBeav I and L10 wave energy converter prototypes. Prudell has also developed electrical systems designs for CH2M Hill and control designs for NACCO Materials Handling Group. He has also worked for PGE Marking as a transmission engineer performing extensive studies on HV and HV DC transmission lines throughout the Pacific Northwest.  Currently he is a senior research and development engineer at Columbia Power. 

Ean Amon received his B.S (2004), M.S. (2007), and Ph.D. (2010) at Oregon State University as part of the Energy Systems group and served as lab manager of WESRF while working towards his Ph.D. His graduate research involved the development of a Power Analysis and Data Acquisition system used for testing prototype ocean wave energy converters (WECs), including the L10 (pictured here), and research into maximum power point tracking control for WECs. Upon receiving his Ph.D., Ean served as Test Engineer for NNMREC at OSU from 2010 through 2015. With NNMREC, Ean assisted in developing their ocean testing capabilities, including the Ocean Sentinel instrumentation buoy for non-grid-connected open-ocean testing of WECs, as well as supporting small-scale WEC prototype testing at the O.H. Hinsdale Wave Research Lab (HWRL). Ean earned his Professional Engineering (PE) certification in 2014, and this spring he transitioned to Columbia Power Technologies, where he will immerse himself in finding practical applications and innovative engineering solutions to demanding challenges.

Pukha Lenee-Bluhm earned his M.S. in mechanical engineering from OSU in 2010. While on campus he conducted research for NNMREC, culminating in a characterization of the wave resource in the Pacific Northwest considering performance, reliability and survivability of wave energy converters (WECs). Pukha is now a senior research and design engineer at Columbia Power Technologies where his research focuses on wave energy conversion, wave energy resource assessment, marine hydrodynamics, data analysis and numerical modeling.

Zhe Zhang received his B.S. and M.S. degrees in electrical engineering from Oregon State University in 2009 and 2011, respectively. As a NNMREC-funded student and member of the WESRF team, he studied power systems with a focus on renewable power generation; he is now a research and design engineer at Columbia Power Technologies. His research has focused on the area of control, power electronics, numerical modeling of hydrodynamics and power take-off system; specifically advanced generator control techniques for various renewable energy conversion applications such as wave power generation.

Erik Hammagren, a mechanical research and design engineer at Columbia Power Technologies, is currently working on the design and optimization of the wave energy converters via structure, shape, ballast control, and generator, bearing and seal selection. He earned his B.S. degree in mechanical engineering from Oregon State University in 2010 where he studied 3D modeling, strength of materials, mechanics, and wire rope transmission systems. His past work with Boeing included creating 3D models and computer generated numerical control (CNC) of aircraft components. His current work at Columbia Power Technologies includes modeling and designing mechanical devices for ocean wave energy. He was responsible for all engineering drawings, three models, and manufacturing orders for six scaled prototype projects.

Columbia Power Technologies Vice President of Research and Development Ken Rhinefrank has been with the organization from its first days. Rhinefrank studied electrical engineering at Oregon State University, where he worked on the development of magnetic direct-drive mechanisms and ocean test site selection and permitting under co-advisors Annette von Jouanne and Alexandre Yokochi. He also had primary project management responsibilities for the design and installation of the advanced linear test bed. He received his PhD in 2015. Prior to his graduate work, Mr. Rhinefrank spent 15 years in the design, installation, and repair of automated industrial controls systems with Hewlett-Packard and Applied Theory. Prior to that he served for eight years in the Navy, where he served on two nuclear powered submarines and worked as Engineering Watch Supervisor on the reactor controls instrumentation.

At Columbia Power Technologies, these NNMREC graduates are thriving, and helping advance development and marketing of Columbia Power’s next-generation wave energy devices. After only recently lighting up the OSU campus, they are on their way to lighting up the world.

For more about Columbia Power Technologies, see their web site at columbiapwr.com.