By Abbie Leland
The OSU Energy Center, located at the corner of SW 35th Street and SW Jefferson Way, serves an important role on the Corvallis campus as a cogeneration energy facility that combines heating and electricity generation. The facility uses a natural gas-fired turbine and heat recovery steam generator to produce electricity, a more sustainable method of generating electricity. OSU is able to generate nearly half of its electrical needs on-site and produces almost all of the steam used on the Corvallis campus.
The facility became fully operational in June 2010, when it replaced the original 95-year-old heat plant on campus. The Energy Center was the first power facility in the nation to receive Platinum LEED Certification. Several efficient features of the facility include radiant heating and hot water generated by heat recovery from the steam system.
Supervisor of Energy Operations Les Walton has worked at the original heat plant and the newer facility throughout the years, as part of OSU’s Facilities Services.
“I’ve been here about 26 years now,” he said. “I have fun and the crew is fantastic.”
Walton took a job with OSU after serving as a boiler repairman with the U.S. Navy.
“I worked at the heat plant then moved over here [to the Energy Center],” he said.
During a recent afternoon tour of the Energy Center, Walton stopped and pointed to a large, shiny piece of machinery on the floor of the facility. He explained that the bright blue Davey brand air compressor serves as a backup air compressor for the Energy Center. It was moved to the facility from the original heat plant.
“That’s one of the first things I worked on when I started here 26 years ago on the graveyard shift,” he said.
The Energy Center has a dedicated seven-member crew that operates the plant year-round, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Walton could spend hours explaining the ins and outs of OSU’s campus Energy Operations.
One of the original goals for the Energy Center was that it could act as a learning lab for OSU students. Walton has led tours of the cogeneration facility for thousands of OSU faculty and staff members, students studying in the areas of engineering, sustainability and renewable energy, and a variety of engineering groups and companies outside of the university.
“The students sometimes get really engaged during tours, and that’s the cool part – when they are interested and ask questions,” Walton said.