The Taylor Wilderness Research Station may be the country’s wildest and most remote classroom. Set in the rugged terrain in the heart of the Payette Forest’s Frank Church River of No Return area, the station presents unique opportunities for research.
But it also presents unique challenges.
Every ounce of fuel used at the station has to be carried in on foot or flown into the site. Because research often requires power to conduct tests, this can present a problem. To help support the research station, a system consisting of a hydroelectric generator and a small gasoline generator was installed. But after more than a decade of service, the system is ready for an upgrade.
“They wanted us to install a more robust system so residents can be less worried about conserving every watt of power,” says Justin Schlee, a graduate student in electrical engineering. “They also want to install new equipment that uses more power, like machines used to process samples for analysis.”
So Schlee and a team of electrical engineers are installing an entirely new system consisting of new hydroelectric and solar energy sources, a new bank of large batteries, and a data acquisition unit capable of recording power, current and voltage profiles throughout the site. This commercial unit not only can switch the system between charging and dispensing energy, it can be used to track the electrical history of the site, diagnose potential problems and aid in regular maintenance.
When all is said and done, the new system will supply up to 18 kilowatts of energy, more than four times that of the original system. When fully charged, the batteries can provide enough reserve energy to meet demand for four days without falling low on reserves.
The team will fly out to the location this summer to install the new system.