Energy Island Commissioning Celebration Held

The progress to date of the Energy Island Project was recognized recently during a “Commissioning Celebration” with trustees, alumni, staff, students, and visitors in the Power Plant’s Turbine Hall.

More pictures of this event can be found on the Williamson Facebook page.

After an invocation by Rev. Mark Specht 7W7, chaplain, President Michael Rounds welcomed the crowd and said they were celebrating the major milestone in the Energy Island Project of three major components having being completed— the upgrading of the boilers, installation and commissioning of the steam turbine, and the construction of the new control room.

He said that $1.5 million budgeted dollars of the project was completed with about $1 million and about 75 percent of the electrical generation and mechanical improvements were completed for about 50 percent of the budgeted costs. Much of the savings was due to student and alumni involvement and equipment donations.

He said everyone present was either a major contributor or a critical supporter of the project. “There are many people to thank, but I especially want to thank The Connelly Foundation, The George Alden Trust, and the Dominion Foundation for their financial support.

“We also owe a debt of gratitude to Wayne Watson, our board chairman who has supported this project since the beginning, and our board members on the Energy Island Committee, Richard Storm, Nicholas Davey, and John Barnes.”

He also praised project manager Tom Ott and his son Brian Ott who have contributed time and expertise to the project since the beginning, and Rich Daubenspeck 9W1, of Deval Equipment Corp., who has worked long hard hours as a volunteer, often working alongside students, giving them valuable experience.

Rounds said the project had not only upgraded the equipment in the power plant, but had given students from all of Williamson’s shops the opportunity to contribute to the project, especially the power plant technology students who worked side by side with energy professionals.

Trustee Richard Storm 6W2 spoke of the history of Williamson’s power plant, from the many years in which it had an Energy Island, producing all of its energy, to the days where the school only produced part of its own energy. He said he is thrilled the Energy Island Project is now well underway.

He pointed out that the number of people in America who are trained to produce energy and electricity is very small. “Williamson is one school that has produced hundreds of highly trained, capable, reliable men of both energy skills and character.”

He also told the crowd that later this spring when the CAT engine/generator is installed, Williamson will have enough generation capacity, along with the steam turbine/generator, to cost effectively generate most of the core campus electricity and utilize the exhaust steam for campus heating in the winter.

“Williamson is truly a College of the Trades and the Energy Island has become a student participation project that provides hands-on learning opportunities in the construction, setting up, testing, and operation of modern equipment.”

Still to come in the project, he said, are a “Micro Grid,” with several forms of electricity generation that will include the steam turbine, reciprocating natural gas engines that utilize Pennsylvania shale gas, a Solar Array, small gas turbine generators called Micro-Turbines, and a fuel cell. Heat recovery and combined heat and power will be utilized to update this 125-year-old “Living Laboratory” for electric power generation.”

Tom Ott, project manager, said the project was launched with faith and courage. “Among the challenges have been working in a 125-year-old building and working with students who are available only part-time.”

He said after some research he was able to find a slightly used CAT engine/generator for about 45 percent less cost than a new unit. “This SEG is capable of carrying the entire campus load and is very environmentally friendly.”

Present funds were used to purchase the generator and switchgear. $150,000 is still needed to complete the installation.

He said the savings have been dramatic on each phase of the project as we try to emulate Isaiah Williamson’s philosophy of frugality.

He concluded his remarks by holding up a paper listing the items still waiting to be purchased to complete the project, including a micro turbine generator, 150 kW gas engine generator with heat recovery, solar energy installation, a wind turbine, water fuels laboratory, and building upgrades.

John Beaudry, director of power plant technology, said “Today we celebrate not only great, modern efficient equipment, but the story of an amazing team that has come together to create a new reality.” He included in this statement donors, alumni, Wayne Watson 4W8, board chairman, the administration, shop instructors and their students, and the power plant instructors and power plant technology students.

“This celebration is not the end, but just the beginning. There is much work left to do to be a world class energy micro grid. Still to come are a natural gas generator, a solar electric field, a gas turbine, and fuel cells.

“The sweetest words I ever hear, that keep me going, are from the alumni who visit and say ‘I wish we had this when I was here.’ By the grace of God, we have been given much and to whom is given much, much is required. That is our charge. We, the stakeholders, friends, board members, and students carry that charge deep in our hearts.”

Joe Portz, a power plant technology senior, said, “I have been involved with the Energy Island Project my entire three years at Williamson and it has been a pleasure to be involved in such a large-scale project. I have had the privilege of working alongside professionals from the energy field. It has been a very educational experience. This project has given us much hands-on experience. The power plant technology students of the future are also going to gain much experience as a result of this project.”

The celebration concluded with John Beaudry starting up the steam turbine for all to hear.

If you are interested in supporting the Energy Island Project, please contact Pete D’Orazio,, or 610-566-1776.

More pictures of this event can be found on the Williamson Facebook page.

2016-11-14T15:21:35+00:00 March 30th, 2015|