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WWU Students Winners In National EPA Competition

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In: Western Washington University Alumni Association exit EPA
April 27, 2007

Students from Western Washington University's Hybrid Vehicle Team on April 25 accepted an award as a winner of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's People, Prosperity and the Planet (P3) national competition.

The Western team was one of six from across the country to win the EPA award, which encourages college students to create sustainable solutions to environmental problems through technology innovation. The EPA awards of up to $75,000 give winning students in the competition the opportunity to further develop their designs and move them to the marketplace.

Working with their advisor, Vehicle Research Institute Director Eric Leonhardt, the students developed a system to refine biomethane from dairy farm waste to power a hybrid vehicle, Viking 32, with the refined biomethane.  The Viking 32 parallel hybrid vehicle obtains up to 50 miles per gallon and can travel up to 400 miles from around 17 cows per day.

Western's team includes students from the Engineering Technology Department's Vehicle Research Institute and Huxley College of the Environment.

U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen attended the award ceremony at the National Academy of Sciences and praised efforts of the Western students.

"In the long-term, creative approaches like this one will help make our country energy independent and protect our environment for future generations," Larsen said. "These students are leaders in clean energy innovation. We need to follow their lead in Congress."

For the last two years, Western students have been working on a process that cleans raw biogas from the Vander Haak dairy farm's anaerobic digester in Lynden, Wash. They have designed two different small-scale gas scrubbers, which filter out hydrogen sulfide and remove excess carbon dioxide, allowing it to be used for transportation in compressed natural gas vehicles, such as the Viking 32.

To fulfill the second phase of the award, students and faculty from Western will work with community leaders to develop a pilot transportation system that uses the gas from the Vander Haak dairy farm to power buses.  If such a system were to collect biomethane from all of the dairy farms in Whatcom County, it could power more than 30,000 vehicles per year.

Western students competed with teams from 42 other colleges and universities. In addition to Western, other winners of the P3 awards this year were: Appalachian State University, Lehigh University; Northwestern University; the University of Illinois at Urbana, and the University of Virginia.

The WWU award was based on collaboration with Washington State University Extension with support from BP, the EPA and private donors.

The P3 Award competition was held at EPA's 3rd National Sustainable Design Expo on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., on April 24 and 25. The Expo showcases innovative, cutting-edge technologies designed by the P3 teams along with sustainable policies and technologies developed and implemented by government and state agencies and nonprofit organizations. For more information, see http://yosemite.epa.gov.

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