Students at Peninsula College designed and built this solar-powered shed. Jesse Major/for Peninsula Daily News

PC students test alternative energy

PORT ANGELES — Student carpenters in the Green Building Program at Peninsula College have designed and built a 96-square-foot shed that uses solar and wind power.

They plan to put the shed on display soon, said instructor Patrick Nickerson, adding that no date has been set.

The shed will be used to demonstrate to students in other disciplines what can be done with alternative energy.

Next school year, carpenters also plan to take the shed to other schools to teach younger students on the North Olympic Peninsula.

The 15 to 20 students who built the shed refer to it as the “test lab,” said Mitch Breece, who helps with the program.

Funded with donations from Waypoint Electronics and Solar Motive, the special shed teaches students an understanding of the equipment for alternative energy and how it works in various locations in Clallam County, Breece said.

It has two solar cells, a passive solar heater and a wind generator for power and heat.

Students can gauge the amount of heat that comes from the passive solar heater as well as the electrical input from the two solar panels and wind generator, Breece said.

It also allows for a cost analysis of alternative energy throughout Clallam County.

Students test different areas. Some places get more sunlight while others get more wind.

This shows whether alternative energy is viable in different locations, Breece said.

Although Breece couldn’t give specific figures on how much money is saved when using alternative energy, he and Nickerson agree that the return on the dollar is remarkable.

Breece has talked to people who live off the grid –– not on an public electrical system –– and said that they manage to survive pretty well.

The shed is built to be as energy-efficient as possible.

The carpenters caulked all the seams in the shed, which made it airtight.

In indirect light, the solar cells put out 80 percent of the power that they do in direct light.

Nickerson said this is impressive.

While working on building a mini-home, the students used the power from the shed to make coffee and muffins in the morning.

Inside the shed is a charger that can monitor the energy produced by the solar cells and wind generator for up to 200 days.

The power produced is sent to four batteries that make up a 12-volt system.

The electricity is then converted from direct current — DC — to alternating current — AC — so that household items can be plugged in and used.

The passive solar heater that the students made is made of aluminum downspouts and is framed with insulation.

All of that is in a box that lets in sunlight on the outside of the shed.

Inside the shed, the heater has an inlet that is next to the floor and the outlet is roughly three feet from the floor.

It is one of five solar heaters that the students built, but is the most functional.

It gets “super hot,” said student Erik Fullingim, so hot that it can boil water.

It can take in air that is 40 degrees and put out air that is more than 210 degrees, said Fullingim.

They have not installed anything that controls the temperature yet, but are considering installing an electric thermostat or manual control for it next year.

The student of the Green Building Program plan on using the technology that is used in the shed in future projects that they do.

The welding department at PC also helped with the shed.

They contributed brackets, a trailer for the shed, and other things as well.

Nickerson said that adding the trailer will make it easier to use the shed for education –– when taking it to the schools.

The trailer will make it easier for travel.

“It’s our baby,” Nickerson said.

Jesse Major, a recent graduate of Peninsula College and Port Angeles High School, is an intern with the Peninsula Daily News. To reach him, phone 360-452-2345, ext. 5056.

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