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'Renewable Energy' energizes new OMSI exhibit

It was more than just a matter of getting a new paint job. The Oregon Museum of Science and Industry’s (OMSI) Earth Hall – the second-floor space at the south end of the museum’s main building – has gotten a major makeover, with the addition of a new permanent exhibition.

“It’s simply called ‘Renewable Energy’,” explained OMSI Energy and Environment Coordinator Chris Stockner. “It provides guests the opportunity to explore how energy from wind, water, and the sun, can be utilized by renewable energy technology.”

by: DAVID F. ASHTON - OMSI Executive Director Nancy Stueber welcomes PGE Senior Consultant Joe Barra to the exhibition's opening. Here, they're standing in front of an exhibit called 'Powering up Portland' to which Barra contributed ideas and technical expertise.At the preview of the exhibition on January 17th, guests took control of a wind turbine, explored a solar panel, managed a pretend power grid – and even saw how ocean waves can provide electricity.

This new exhibition shares the 1,500 square-foot space with another one, opened last year, called “Clever Together: Our Everyday Choices”, which shows how personal choices can affect community sustainability, Stockner pointed out.

In addition to the demonstration of renewable energy technology, Stockner said, the new exhibition is important “because our primary goal here is science education. This is a critical area of innovation and engineering science education for the future.” Because renewable energy is a major focus for a lot of research, innovation, and industry, in Portland and through Oregon, he added, “In the end, we’re hoping to inspire children to think about science careers.”

OMSI Executive Director Nancy Stueber was also at the reception, greeting guests and thanking the many sponsors who had contributed to the new exhibition. “This piece on renewable energy is especially interesting, because we hear so much about it right now in the news.

“And, people have a lot of choices to make about energy,” Stueber told THE BEE. “Having an exhibition that helps people to understand the science behind those choices, and how to make wise decisions – we think that is really important. It’s been fulfilling to have so many partners, like Portland General Electric, involved.”

Stueber introduced PGE Senior Consultant Joe Barra, who joined the conversation. “As we move ahead into the future and try to stay in tune with our customers, it’s really important that they have a good look at the energy options that we are looking at and what is available,” Barra said. “This exhibition will help our customers get a better understanding of how our system operates, and why we’re launching some of our new programs.”

On the way out, Stockner stopped by to mention to us that all of the exhibits were designed and manufactured in OMSI’s on-campus fabrication shop. “We have had some interest from other museums and visitors centers about having similar exhibits, and to build for them.”

“Renewable Energy” is on permanent display during regular hours, at no additional charge above the museum’s entry fee, or with membership. OMSI is located at 1945 S.E. Water Avenue, on the Willamette waterfront just north of the east end of the Ross Island Bridge. Look for the red tower, and the Omnimax dome. For more information, go online to: www.omsi.edu