Pacific Biodiesel tour on Saturday April 27th

We will be touring Pacific Biodiesel‘s production facility in Salem, OR on Saturday April 27th. This is an opportunity to see how biodiesel is produced on a commercial scale, right here in Oregon.

We are departing from the parking lot between Gilbert and Winegar hall at 10:00am sharp on Saturday morning. Please arrive by 9:50 at the latest.

To reserve a spot, bring $10 to the main office in Gleeson Hall. We are limited to 20 spots, so get in there before we run out of spaces! Reservations are first-come, first-serve.


SWITCH Event Recap


The Sustainable Energy Initiative presented a screening of “Switch” in the LaSells Stewart Center on January 29, 2013. Switch is a documentary presented by Dr. Scott Tinker that explores the realities and prospects of renewable energy all around the planet. SEI also presented a sustainability expo and a Q&A discussion panel with energy experts. Keep reading for a summary of the event, pictures, and (soon) a video of the discussion panel.

Prior to the film screening, SEI hosted the OSU Sustainability Expo. University sustainability organizations informed and engaged students and community members about what OSU is doing to promote sustainability and ways to get involved.

Afterward, attendees sat down to watch the “Switch” film. Documentary stereotypes are thrown aside by pleasing camerawork and narration as Tinker guides viewers through a journey in search of the answer to a very important modern question – What will it take to transform our energy infrastructure into something we can sustain responsibly?  He visits locales ranging from Iceland to the plains of Texas to urban India, exploring both renewable and nonrenewable energy sources. While he examines many promising possibilities, Tinker also concludes with a hard truth – No single panacea exists for Earth’s energy problem. The physical, economical, and political hurdles Tinker uncovers lead him to predict it will  take small steps and many different energy sources to power the future.

SEI concluded the event with a panel of six sustainable energy experts from a variety of fields. Audience members had the opportunity to ask the panel questions about the film and sustainable energy. A video recording of the panel discussion will be uploaded in the next few days. The experts panel included:

Thanks to everyone who attended and the panelists for helping make this event a success! Check our website regularly for news about future events, such as the upcoming Vestas tour. Also, sign up for our mailing list to receive regular news and updates! See you at the next event.

Pictures: (More here)










































Winter term events


Upcoming events:

Vestas field trip

Vestas is the largest wind turbine manufacturer in the world, and their US headquarters is right nearby in Portland, OR! We will be touring their regional training facility, which includes a presentation about wind technology and the wind industry, and going inside the nacelle of a real turbine. Spots are limited, so sign up today!

NNMREC presentation and  tour

Engineers from the Northwest National Marine Renewable Energy Center will give us an overview of the current state of ocean energy technology, and give us a look at the exciting developments in ocean energy on the Oregon coast. We will then head over to the electrical engineering wave energy simulation lab in Dearborn Hall. This event will be on Thursday, Feb 28th, starting at 6pm. Location TBA.

Welcome Meeting Minutes 10/9/12

SEI meetings summarized for your list fix and/or educational disclosure. Tuesday’s meeting was an introductory meeting for new and existing members. Get involved by coming to all our meetings and events this year!

What do members want to learn this year through SEI, and how? See below:


Topic* Speaker(s) Trips
Wind 5 1
Biofuel 11 4
Geothermal 10 4
Solar 3 1
Bio Remediation 3 0
Fusion 1 0
Transportation 5 1
Wave 12 9
Energy Policy/Economics 5 1


*Interest was also expressed in touring OSU’s on-campus nuclear fission facility.
Upcoming Events include:

  • Week 5 will possibly feature a speaker from the Department of Energy.
  • Week 7 or 8 we will join with the CBEE club and invite students who participated in energy-related internships to share their knowledge.
  • Spring term we will have a meeting for all of those who would like to learn how to operate the biodiesel cart at events.


Thanks to everyone who came! Your feedback is invaluable, and remember if you have other ideas please don’t hesitate to shoot us an email!


Order SEI t-shirts with a NEW design!

It’s been a while since we made new t-shirts, so we’re proud to announce the new SEI t-shirt design! You can pre-order t-shirts online until 11:59 PM on Sunday, July 8th. They will be available for pickup at the Da Vinci Days festival (July 20th-22nd), and at the beginning of fall term. If you didn’t get one of our old t-shirts, you can get one at a discounted price for just $3 extra.

Pre-orders are available in almost any size and color, and are $12. We are only printing the design in white though, so make sure to choose a dark enough background for it to show up well.

Pre-order your t-shirts online now! 

Pre-orders have ended. If you want a shirt, you can purchase one for $15 at Da Vinci days or at an SEI meeting once school has started. Contact us via email if you’d like to reserve a particular size from the remaining stock.

If you have any questions about colors, sizes, pricing, etc. please let us know.

Meeting Minutes 5/30/12

SEI meetings summarized for your list fix and/or educational disclosure.


  • Food
  • Cart upgrades
  • Big events
  • Club participation in other events
  • Getting out there

Areas to Improve:

  • Low membership
  • Partnerships
  • Guest speakers – number and spacing
  • Advertising:
    • Emails
    • Posters
    • Dr. Skip
    • OSU Calendar
    • Daily Barometer
    • In high schools
  • Inconsistent/split meeting times
  • Balance of effort between large and small projects
  • Availability and advertisement of SEI to community and OSU during outreach events

Ideas for next year:

  • Tour SolarWorld AND Agilex in Fall- plan ASAP
  • Pacific Biodiesel in Spring
  • Large, high-profile-speaker event and/or organize our own “energy fair” – Winter term, annual, not in LaSells
  • Projects:
    • Modular projects (mini solar panel, mini windmill, etc.)
    • Posters (remake biodiesel poster, summer project)
    • Cart improvements as needed
    • More educational content on website, eg. energy quiz and interactive modules


Engineering EXPO Recap

On Friday, May 18th SEI exhibited at the OSU Engineering Expo. We had the biodiesel demonstration cart, energy quiz, and biodiesel take-home demonstration kits out all day, and were visited by everyone from the Crescent Valley robotics team to Benny Beaver himself. SEI’s next outreach event will be at Da Vinci Days this summer. More details will be published online before the event.

Benny Beaver

Benny Beaver learns about biofuels from SEI Vice President Larkin Loewenherz

Check out pictures from the expo!

2012-2013 Officer Elections

Tonight candidates for 2012-2013 officer positions presented short speeches regarding their qualifications for the position. The candidates are as follows:

  • President: Nathan Hinkle
  • Vice President: Larkin Loewenherz
  • Secretary: Alyson Lovett
  • Treasurer: Audrey Oldenkamp
  • Public Relations Manager: Nick Silva

Voting will take place online until Tuesday May 22nd at 11:59pm. To vote in the election you must be an SEI member and an OSU student or faculty. Vote using this online form.

If you missed the presentations, you can view the candidates’ slides online.

Meeting Minutes 4/18/12: Hydrogen as Fuel

  • The big picture:
    • Hydrogen is the most abundant element in the universe.
    • It is the 8th most abundant element on Earth.
      • Earth has insufficient gravity to maintain free hydrogen.
  • Chemical Reactions:
    • Combustion
    • Electrolysis
    • Steam Methane Reforming
    • Hydrocracking (uses H2 to break carbon chains)
    • Haber process (uses H2 to produce ammonia)
  • Hydrogen as fuel:
    • Hydrogen can be burned just like natural gas
    • Fuel cells
      • Produce electricity at a 40-50% efficiency.
      • Have a combined heat & power 70-95% efficiency.
      • Protons are separated from electrons by a membrane which creates a potential.
      • Use a 0.7 V/cell.
      • Made of stacks of cells
      • Catalysts
        • Platinum-based is the traditional
        • carbon- or nickel-based
  • Hydrogen Stroage
    • The good news: Hydorgen has more energy per gram capacity than traditional fuels
    • The bad news: Its density is much less than traditional fuels, so it is less useful in that respect
    • Current Technologies
      • liquid hydrogen
        • energy cost 30%
        • expensive
        • boil-off losses ~ 50% in 10 days
      • compressed hydrogen
        • energy cost 15-20%
        • low energy density
        • heavy
        • potentially dangerous due to high pressures (~700bar)
      • metal hydrides
        • minimal energy cost, dense hydrogen packing
        • very heavy
        • expensive (because of the use of rare metals)
        • useful for small scale, not large scale
      • chemical conversion
        • using water or ammonia
    • When volume is not an issue, hydrogen storage is very useful
      • however, we still need a breakthrough
  • Prodction
    • Steam methane reforming
      • 95% of H2 supply
      • efficiency ~70%
      • releases CO2
    • Electrolysis
      • fuel cell rxn in reverse
      • efficiency 60-8-%
      • can pressurize within electrolyzer
    • Anaerobic digestion (@ OSU)
      • consumes organic waste
    • Biomass gasification
      • produces H2 and CO2
    • Photobiological hydrogen (@ OSU)
      • algae and cyanobacteria
      • photosynthesis splits water
      • light provides energy input
      • hydrogenase catalyst
    • Artificial Photolysis
      • using light energy to split water
      • Micro scale PV electrolysis
    • Thermochemical Cycles (@ OSU with Dr. Yokochi)
      • coupled rxn loop
      • heat input from concentrated solar
  • Safety with hydrogen
    • Nearly invisible flame in daylight
    • Hydrogen embrittlement of metals
    • 5-75% flammable mixture in air
    • Low activation energy
    • Lighter than air, so dissipates rapidly in the atmosphere
    • Overall, no more dangerous than gasoline or natural gas if handled properly.
  • Hydrogen’s role in the Future
    • Abundant Carbon-free Energy?
      • Universal energy currency
      • Fuel cell cars
      • Hydrogen homes
      • Drinkable exhaust
    • Or Oil-company Conspiracy?
      • Technology will never be ready
      • Inferior to EV’s from green perspective
      • Favored by policy
      • Produced from fossil fuel
  • Greatest demand right now is energy storage.
    • Hydrogen, pumped hydroelectric, compressed air energy storage (CAES)
    • Pumped hydro: best option but site-limited
    • CAES has slightly higher round-trip efficiency
  • Vestenskov, Denmark is the world’s first hydrogen-powered community
    • surplus wind electricity is stored as hydrogen and distributed
  • Energy density is currently the #1 challenge
    • But the future is wide open
    • It will be a race between electric and hydrogen vehicles
  • The OSU Hydrogen Trailer
    • This spring, they will acquire an electrolyzer
    • Hydrogen Club meetings are Mondays 4-6, people are welcome!
  • DOE project @ OSU
    • Brian Paul MechE
    • Goran Jovanic ChemE