Commercialization Grant Funds Solar Powered Ventilator for Commercial, Ag Buildings

An Oregon company developing a “smart” solar powered, rooftop ventilator that can lower energy costs in industrial buildings ranging from big-box superstores to agricultural barns is using a commercialization grant from Oregon BEST (the Oregon Built Environment & Sustainable Technologies Center) to tap research expertise at Oregon Tech to generate test data that will enable the company to market its product nationally.

Northwest Renewable Energy Corporation’s product, the SunCooler™ Destratifier, has attracted interest from some national big-box stores for installation on their commercial buildings. But the companies have requested third-party test data to verify claims of the product’s potential energy savings.

“This is why we approached Oregon BEST, who quickly connected us with professor Sean Sloan at Oregon Tech,” said Jason Wright, president and CEO of Northwest Renewable Energy Corporation (NWREC). “As with all small businesses, finances are tight, so this grant provides timely, crucial support to validate, quantify and document the energy savings potential of the SunCooler and help us expand in the marketplace.”

The SunCooler is a standalone, rooftop-mounted ventilator that uses a built-in solar panel and energy storage system to achieve 24/7 operation. Designed to complement a building’s heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system, the ventilator can reduce energy loads by destratifying air in high-bay buildings, performing thermal flushing at night, and exhausting excess heat—all without using grid power.

SunCooler Thermal Mix illustrationDuring cool weather, the device reduces heating costs by “recycling” warm air that has risen to the ceiling by redistributing it toward the floor to keep workers comfortable. In warm weather, the system exhausts excess interior heat and humidity, reducing the energy load needed for cooling a building. It can also perform thermal balancing by mixing fresh and interior air using a damper system.

Onboard temperature and humidity sensors can be wirelessly set for different building applications and climatic conditions. The ventilator can be used in buildings where odors or gasses need to be vented (wineries wanting to remove C02) or fresh air circulated (poultry barns and crop or seed storage facilities). 

The company has already installed SunCooler units on a prison building, a modular classroom, and the National Guard armory in Redmond, Ore. (pictured, below).

“Standing more than five feet high, nearly four feet square and weighing between 170 and 350 pounds, these are large-scale ventilators capable of moving significant quantities of air without running any wires or using grid-supplied energy,” Wright said. “With approximately five million commercial buildings in the U.S., and HVAC systems in those buildings consuming more than 50 percent of the energy used, we see great potential for increased energy savings with our technology.”

The grant will fund testing of several SunCooler devices on Cornett Hall at Oregon Tech’s Klamath Falls campus, where Oregon BEST researcher and mechanical engineering professor Sean Sloan and three students will conduct and monitor testing that uses thermocouple arrays and a laser doppler velocimeter (to determine flow rate without disturbing the flow).

“This project will not only give engineers and building owners data needed to better quantify heat transfer effects and return on investment analysis, but it will also give our students hands-on research experience with a real-world energy conservation technology—better preparing them for work in the cleantech sector,” Sloan said. 

SunCoolers intalled on Redmond, Ore. armoryThe $20,000 grant is one of a growing number of Commercialization Grants that Oregon BEST is awarding to speed commercialization of the state’s most promising clean technologies being co-developed by university researchers and private businesses.

“Developing smart ways to reduce energy consumption is as important as developing new sources of renewable energy, so we’re pleased our Commercialization Program is helping this Oregon company help others save energy, and in the process they are creating jobs and advancing Oregon’s position as a cleantech innovator,” said David Kenney, President and Executive Director of Oregon BEST. “Our mission is to help companies like Northwest Renewable Energy Corporation move their technologies to the marketplace more quickly by collaborating with researchers like Sean Sloan at Oregon universities."

About Northwest Renewable Energy Corporation
An Oregon company founded in 2009, Northwest Renewable Energy Corp (NWREC) develops and manufactures energy efficient building products for the commercial and industrial building markets, including the SunCooler™ Destratifyer. Guided by its objective of "Reaching beyond current thinking in energy savings opportunities," NWREC sees great opportunity for the advancement of American-made energy saving technologies to enhance the economy far into the future. NWREC can reached through its website and on Facebook.

About Oregon BEST
The Oregon Built Environment & Sustainable Technologies Center (Oregon BEST) is the nexus for clean technology innovation, building capability, convening collaborations, and accelerating solutions to environmental challenges that deliver prosperity in all corners of Oregon. Oregon BEST brings together Oregon’s significant R&D strengths in clean technology to support the commercialization of new products and services. Since establishment in 2007, Oregon BEST’s 210-plus Member Faculty have generated more than $68 million in research revenue from federal, industry and foundation sources to Oregon. At its four partner universities (Oregon Institute of Technology, Oregon State University, Portland State University, and University of Oregon), Oregon BEST has established a network of seven shared-user research facilities. Oregon BEST Commercialization Grants are awarded to collaborations between entrepreneurs and Oregon BEST member faculty at partner universities. The first four Commercialization Grant awardees from 2011 have secured more than $1.5 million in follow-on funding, more than six times the total grant amount awarded.

About Oregon Tech
Founded in Klamath Falls in 1947, Oregon Institute of Technology is one of seven universities in the Oregon University System, and the only public institute of technology in the Pacific Northwest. Oregon Tech provides degree programs in engineering and health technologies, management, communications and applied sciences that prepare students to be effective participants in their professional, public and international communities through hands-on learning. Oregon Tech has a full-service, residential campus in Klamath Falls and an urban campus in Wilsonville. The university also has sites in Beaverton, Salem, La Grande, and Seattle, as well as online degree offerings.

Media Contact: Gregg Kleiner, 541-740-9654 

Sources: David Kenney, Oregon BEST, 503-725-9849; Jason Wright, CEO, NW Renewable Energy Corp., 503-515-3317; Sean Sloan, Oregon Institute of Technology, 541-885-0927