March 25, 2014

FRCC, Colorado State University Collaborate on Power Plant Laboratory

Front Range Community College and Colorado State University are collaborating on a power plant laboratory that will provide training for FRCC students and research opportunities for CSU undergraduates and graduate students.

The laboratory will be housed at CSU’s Powerhouse Energy Campus at 430 N. College Ave., Fort Collins. It is expected to be operational for fall semester 2014.

FRCC is using $380,000 from a Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training (TAACCCT) grant for the equipment needed for a steam turbine power plant. Equipment includes a steam boiler and turbine-generator, condenser, and associated controls to generate power to feed into the grid. CSU will install and house the equipment. FRCC and CSU will use the equipment for classes and research.

This 20-kilowatt power plant could generate enough energy for four or five U.S. homes, said Clark Mozer, program director for FRCC’s Electro-Mechanical and Energy Technology Program.

“It’s being designed in such a way that it can fire up and turn down quickly and run at  a variety of different power setting in order to facilitate student learning,” Mozer said. “The energy generated will tie into the Powerhouse grid, which is about the smartest grid in the world. I don’t know of another lab like this.”

It also is being designed in allow the incorporation of a natural gas turbine in the future. Today’s power plants are “combined cycle” plants, which include steam power plants coupled with natural gas turbines.  This has been driven by the natural-gas boom, Mozer said.

FRCC will use the laboratory for such classes as Power Plant Operations, Steam Turbines, Power Generation, and Instrumentation and Controls.

With the utility industry predicting retirements of the bulk of its technicians over the next decade, FRCC is preparing technicians for the future, Mozer said.

CSU will use also utilize the laboratory to support engineering courses and as a platform for research projects.

“The capabilities of the laboratory open up both hands-on instruction and research opportunities in several important areas,” said Daniel Zimmerle, an Assistant Research Professor at the CSU’s Energy Institute. Zimmerle indicated the power plant system will be integrated with both engine and power system research facilities at Powerhouse.

“This is a fantastic opportunity for students,” Mozer said. “It makes a ‘one-stop shop’ for the power industry. Employers can find FRCC-trained technicians and CSU-trained engineers in the same place.”

The Powerhouse Energy Campus is located in the Old Fort Collins Power Plant (built in 1936). Renovations and installations are planned with great care and consideration for the historic nature of the building.


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About Front Range Community College

FRCC offers nearly 100 degree and certificate programs from locations in Boulder County, Larimer County, Westminster, and Brighton, and online.

FRCC is a member of the Colorado Community College System, the state’s largest system of higher education. CCCS serves more than 162,000 students annually. The system oversees career and academic programs in the 13 state community colleges and career and technical programs in more than 160 school districts and six other post-secondary institutions.

About The Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training Grant

A Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training (TAACCCT) grant for $17.3 million was awarded by the U.S. Department of Labor to the Colorado Online Energy Training Consortium (COETC). The consortium is focused on enhancing current energy-related programs with the goal of training highly qualified workers for businesses that are seeking a skilled workforce. The funds are being used for curricular redesign and the technology needed to bridge the gap between existing workforce skills and emerging energy industry needs. The project facilitates partnerships between energy-related businesses, community colleges, and local workforce centers to train unemployed and under-employed workers with skills they need for placement in some of Colorado’s highest-paying and most in-demand jobs. In addition, workers who have been out of school for a while and who require remediation to succeed in college-level work will benefit from a complete redesign of remedial education using nationally recognized best practices to help students enter and succeed in the fast-growing energy industry in Colorado. FRCC and the other colleges in the Colorado Community College System as well as Aims Community College and Colorado Mountain College are part of the consortium.

About the author:

John Feeley is director of public relations at Front Range Community College. He’s a retired soccer referee and newspaper editor whose subscription ran out.

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