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LTU students study energy efficiency at Upland Hills

Lawrence Tech senior Steve Gillette traveled about 60 feet into the air Saturday to install a windometer just below the wind turbine at Upland Hills Ecological Awareness Center in Addison Twp. Photo by C.J. Carnacchio. (click for larger version)
February 10, 2010 - Students from Lawrence Technological University visited the Upland Hills Ecological Awareness Center in Addison Township Saturday to begin studying how well alternative energy sources, working in conjunction with unique architectural features, power and heat the building constructed in the 1970s.

"We're trying to analyze the efficiency of efficient buildings," said LTU senior Steve Gillette, who's majoring in engineering technology. "We're trying to see how it all works and really get into the systems."

The students spent a good portion of the day installing measuring devices and data-gathering instruments to analyze the center's solar and wind-based energy systems over the next year.

"We want to measure and quantify how much energy output is actually being put into the building," Gillette said. "With these sensors installed, we can actually determine at what (wind) speed are we producing this (electrical) current; how much sunlight produces this much current."

They will also be able to measure how much energy the building's actually consuming and how much is being put back into the grid.

Given the building, located at 2375 Indian Lake Road, is more than 30 years old, Gillette said its systems are somewhat "dated," so this study will help determine "what's not working right, what isn't working to spec."

"Things are getting old," he said. "They need to be replaced and upgraded. Hopefully, we can quantify that."

Troy Farwell, executive director of Upland Hills EAC, was very excited about the project.

"It's going to benefit us a ton because we're going to be able to take a look at what we need to improve," he said. "Thirty years ago this was the most efficient, coolest building in Michigan when it comes to green technology and green building. We've just got to update it a little bit."

"Hopefully, they can use our research and our data to acquire more funding for themselves," Gillette noted.

At some point over the next year, LTU students are hoping to make an addition to the center's website a live, 24/7 data feed of the measurements their devices are obtaining.

This way visitors "can see how much (electricity) the turbine's putting out" and view temperatures throughout the building to see how well the solar heating system and earth-based insulation are working, according to Gillette.

The LTU project is being funded by a $5,000 grant sponsored by the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers. It's also part of a new class called High Performance Building Evaluations, which is a continuation of a class from last semester called High Performance Building Investigations. The professor is Janice Means.

"It's an architecture class with engineering components," Gillette explained. "It's something that hasn't been done before."

"We come from a school environment where it's all theory-based. Now, we want to get into the practice-based," he added.

Farwell is hoping this is the beginning of a new era of closer cooperation between Upland Hills and LTU.

"We're going to start forging a really strong relationship with Lawrence Tech," he said. "That's one of the things we really haven't done very well in the past. I think we've just gotten a little lackadaisical about making those connections."

Pointing to the students, Farwell said, "The future of this whole industry is right in front of us."

For more information about Upland Hills EAC, please visit www.uheac.org or call (248) 693-1021.

CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.
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