John Hofman, 35, a STEM student majoring in engineering and an intern at Centralia City Light, has been instrumental in coordinating a clean energy working lab that will be installed in and provide electricity for the Kiser Natural Outdoor Learning Lab (KNOLL).
“There are only two solar houses in Centralia,” John stated. “With this lab, we’ll learn how clean energy generation will work in our area.”
As the KNOLL energy project manager, John has researched and acquired all of the material and labor needed to complete the lab, which will open at the corner of Washington Ave. and Centralia College Blvd. in June.
“This project has been waiting for someone with driving enthusiasm to take it and go,” Barbara Hins-Turner, executive director of the Pacific Northwest Center of Excellence for Clean Energy (PNCECE), at Centralia College, said. “This has been a great partnership.”
The lab will feature a state-of-the-art wind turbine called The Energy Ball. It measures 6-1/2 feet in diameter, will sit upon a 45-foot pole and will produce up to 2,500 watts of energy in ideal conditions. Designed for minimal sound and vibration, the Energy Ball will produce power at wind speeds more than 6.7 mph. The turbine will be working alongside 175-watt solar panels.
Funds for the energy ball project were donated by Mark Johnson, a former college staff member who headed the Center of Excellence for Energy Technology when it first came to the campus. The unit is expected to be operational by June 8, when the college will dedicate the KNOLL in honor of long-time physical science instructor Rufus Kiser. The power that will be produced here will be sent back into the local power grid to be used by those closest to the system, which happens to be the college.
Centralia College energy technology students will measure the power production over time and will report on the potential for solar and wind power generation in Lewis County. They will review effects of extended overcast days, windless days, dirt, and angle of the solar panels—which at certain times of the year may or may not reach maximum production. The college will receive rebates from the state based upon actual production of this combined generation system.
Hofman will graduate from Centralia College with an Associate in Science–Electrical Engineering degree this spring. His classes include physics, differential equations, electrical circuits and calculus 4. He works 69 hours each month as the Centralia City Light intern (coordinating more exciting projects such as a vehicle re-charging system next to Wendy’s restaurant). He is the father of four home schooled children, ranging in ages 2 through 9; and a project coordinator for the free Health and Hope Medical Outreach clinic.
“I like to be involved with local projects because of my beliefs,” John said. He has always been involved with church and his community. John became interested in energy through a volunteer project, which introduced him to Ed Williams, general manager of Centralia City Light.
John found the biggest challenge of the energy lab was working with policies and learning the state’s purchasing system. His second challenge: balancing school, work, family and volunteering. “I’ve gained experience, training and self-confidence at Centralia College,” he stated.
Hofman, originally from Minnesota, was home schooled his last year of high school. “I came back to college after 15 years,” he said. Hofman is the first in his immediate family to become a college graduate.
Originally a Civil Engineering Technology major, his instructors recognized that John was good with numbers and encouraged him to continue school to earn his bachelor’s in engineering. His pre-calculus teacher encouraged Hofman to apply for the STEM scholarship. He won the tuition/books award which pays for two years of college. “If it wasn’t for the STEM scholarship, I wouldn’t be able to finish my degree,” Hofman said. “I changed my focus, so I ended up staying at Centralia College an extra year.”
He’s recently been accepted to attend WSU/Vancouver to earn a bachelor’s in electrical engineering. Classes will begin in August and he hopes to finish in two years.
“I owned and operated my own construction company for years,” he said. “My new degree and experience, that began at Centralia College, will guarantee my employment wherever I go.”