Thursday October 4, 2012 1 comments
It's amazing when you think about it.
Once the source of electricity for the town of Fort Collins, the old brick-and-stone building on North College Avenue was shuttered when it could no longer keep up with a growing population's rapidly increasing energy needs.
The old power plant basically sat unused until 1992, when Dr. Bryan Willson, a professor in Colorado State University's Mechanical Engineering Department, saw a new possibility for the 1936-built structure that few others could divine.
Willson envisioned a new use for the ruggedly-built, high-ceilinged facility - a place where research on huge industrial engines could take place. And with a nod from the city, CSU took over the old power plant and breathed new life into it.
Fast forward 20 years, and what has been known as the CSU Engines and Energy Conversion Laboratory - which has gained a far-reaching reputation for its industrial engine studies and spinoff companies looking to help solve global energy problems - is poised to morph into the Powerhouse Energy Institute.
The PEI was unveiled on Oct. 1 - an $18.5 million, 65,000-square-foot expansion of the EECL that will add a wide range of energy studies to its steadily-growing portfolio of research activities.
"With this dramatic expansion, we're morphing into a university-level institute to build a more coherent framework for energy in the community," said Willson.
Under the roof of what will ultimately be a 100,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art research facility will be housed laboratories filled with students charting new paths in energy development, work spaces for energy industry partners and the CSU Center for the New Energy Economy, which aims to promote alternative energies that move us away from fossil fuels.
Last year, the EECL was named one of Popular Science magazine's "25 Most Awesome Colleges Labs for 2011."
We can't wait to see how that assessment will be described when the sleek new Powerhouse Energy Institute is complete in late 2013 or early 2014.
What's truly remarkable in all this is the central component of energy that's infused the power plant since its construction and right up to the present moment.
Society and progress demands energy to move forward, and - through the vision of Dr. Willson and others -- the iconic structure on North College is continuing to serve as a platform where new dimensions in energy development will unfold.