Washington State Magazine

Summer 2005


Summer 2005

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In This Issue...

Features

Book Season: Washington State love its literature :: In a report released last summer, the National Endowment for the Arts warned that literary reading has declined over the last 20 years. Scary stuff, huh? So we did our own informal survey of faculty, students, and alums. Their response? Read on!

Shock Physics: Power, Pressure, and People :: After the Soviet Union tested its first nuclear device, the U.S. determined that staying ahead in the arms race would require the best scientists and the best weapons. A new federal funding model emerged, channeling money into universities around the country for research and the training of the next generation of national scientists. By the late 1950s, WSU had started on shock-wave research.

Bear Bones: A Murder Mystery :: It must have been easy to drop the body into this part of Pullman, a section that sees so little traffic. The old county road was research land where hardly anyone but the groundskeepers ventured. But somebody had an ugly secret to hide.

Panoramas

{ WEB EXCLUSIVE—Story: Birth, Death & Architecture :: Architecture professor Paul Hirzel wanted to push his students out of their mindsets. So he asked them to design a single building for both the beginning and the end of life: a funeral home/birthing center. }

Departments

:: FIELD NOTES:In Search of the Wild Chickpea

:: FOOD AND FORAGE:Asparagus

{ WEB EXCLUSIVE—Story: One-on-one: A chapter from Home Stand :: A chapter from Home Stand: Growing Up in Sports, a memoir by James McKean '68, '74 about growing up in the Pacific Northwest in the late '50s and early '60s. }

Tracking

Cover: After 54 years of diligence, Nature Boy takes a break from the west face of Holland Library for some beach and reading time with Seattle's Hammering Man. Illustration by David Wheeler.

Panoramas
wind turbines

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Corbis

A Building Full of Answers

by | © Washington State University

Maybe it's their nondescript building, one of a row of identical structures just off of Plum Street on the way into Olympia. Or maybe it's their curious history, once a government entity, then oddly tossed to the budget dogs by an otherwise environmentalist governor. Maybe it's the fact that it's with Washington State University Extension, but doesn't really cost us anything. Or maybe it's all those 800 numbers connecting it to the outside world. And then again, maybe it was just me.

I've got to admit, I just didn't understand the WSU Energy Program until I stopped in for a visit late last summer. Not really familiar with the Center of Power, I was a little confused by the locked door and the intercom. But once I got inside and upstairs with all the energy experts, what a great surprise! How often is it that you find a building full of answers?

When Governor Lowry axed the Washington State Energy Office in 1996, its responsibilities were parceled out to various agencies, says Jacob Fey, who had started the state Energy Office in the early 1970s and is now director of the Energy Program. Cooperative Extension saw a unique opportunity and asked for the programmatic and information responsibilities, as well as the designation as state entity for operating federal programs.

Today the Energy Program operates with nearly 60 people and a $6 million budget. But Fey's position is the only one funded by the state. "All other positions," he says, " are based on our ability to bring in competitive dollars.

"The nature of our business is like a consulting firm. We're only here as long as we bring in dollars."

As a result, engineers with the program consult on cooling systems with the United Arab Republic and develop software for the European Union and Chile. The program has a consultant working full-time at Fort Lewis, managing its energy program. But the core of the Energy Program is in providing expertise and information in renewable energy and industrial technology. It also operates call centers and information clearinghouses.

If you call a Department of Energy 800 number with any sort of energy related question, a phone rings in the Energy Program building. A variety of information clearinghouses answer questions ranging from the very basic to the very technical-questions having to do with alternative fuels, heating and cooling, codes and standards, electric motors, and renewable energy.

During the first six months of last year, the program handled about 10,000 inquiries, says Lee Link, who manages the clearinghouses. The inquiries came from everyone from homeowners to engineers for utility companies.

A couple of years ago, the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory evaluated the outreach of these clearinghouses, addressing cost-benefit ratio. The result, says Link, was $20 in energy savings for every dollar expended on the program.

For more information, click here, or call 1-800-872-3568.

Categories: Engineering, Architecture and design | Tags: Energy

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