As part of my Presidential Management Fellowship with the U.S. Department of Energy, I participate in site visits to national laboratories and my most recent visit was to the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL). I traveled with ORISE Fellow, Cindy Zhu, to the Portland, Oregon offices then we traveled to the Richland, Washington campus by train.
Our office’s work with PNNL is related to energy efficiency and lighting, but PNNL’s work includes nuclear energy, national security, cybersecurity, and much more. Although I cannot possibly highlight all of our site visit meetings and lab tours, I have highlighted three of them below to give you a glimpse into some of the work going on at PNNL.
Lighting Metrology Lab
PNNL maintains a nationally accredited lighting test laboratory and staff expertise to effectively evaluate advanced lighting systems and their applications. At the Lighting Metrology Laboratory, we learned about how the researchers use an “integrating sphere” to verify light output, color, and electrical input of lamps, luminaires, and other lighting products. The lab also does long-term performance testing which includes the evaluation of the change over time of the light output and color characteristics of lighting products.
Aquatic Research Laboratory
The U.S. Department of Energy’s Aquatic Research Laboratory (ARL) at PNNL enables researchers to develop innovative solutions to meet our nation’s growing need for clean, renewable energy. The ARL provides fish-rearing capacity, flexibility in research operations, and analytical capabilities that position PNNL to provide solutions to our nation’s challenging water resource management problems.
During our visit to the ARL, we learned about how PNNL is evaluating specific operational configurations at hydropower dams that optimize the survival rates of downstream migrating salmon. Projects focus on improving the design and deployment of sensors which track the impact of the hydropower dams on salmon (see the picture of sensors below).
PNNL Lab Homes
Our last stop on the site visit was to the PNNL Lab Homes, which are a matched pair of unoccupied 1,500 square-foot homes that provide a platform for research, development, and demonstration of residential technologies and practices. These side-by-side labs provide a “control” and “experiment” environment that helps eliminate uncertainty due to weather variations, variable/unknown occupant behavior, and unknown equipment installation and operation practices. Technologies tested in the PNNL Lab Homes include HVAC, lighting, shades, windows, and many others. The PNNL Lab Homes are equipped with fully automated occupant simulation, dozens of environmental sensors, and remotely accessible data through internet-connected data acquisition systems.