What do control room operations, cybersecurity and machinery have in common? Well, according to Carl La Peter, plant manager at SDG&E's Palomar Energy Center, they are all topics Cal State San Marcos physics students asked about during a recent site tour.
After hosting hundreds of visits since the natural gas-powered electric generation facility went online in 2006, La Peter and Kevin Counts, operations manager, are well-versed in explaining these topics – and many others – in a way that resonates with students who are new to the world of energy generation.
Contributing to Students' Education
“It’s satisfying to be in a position to contribute to students’ education by helping them understand where their electricity comes from – and allowing them to observe a practical, real-world application of the scientific theory they’re learning about in the classroom,” La Peter said.
The state-of-the-art facility serves as a tangible application of thermodynamics, or the transfer of energy from one place to another. The focus of the tour was dedicated to helping students understand the science behind how the power plant converts and transfers energy, from clean natural gas, to produce electricity for about 420,000 homes.
A Unique Dimension Outside the Classroom
“Field trips aren't common at the university level, so this was an unusual experience for these students that brings unique dimension to their studies,” said Kathleen Scott, adjunct professor at California State University San Marcos. “Seeing thermodynamics in action solidifies the theory they learn in class and gives them perspective regarding possible employment opportunities to pursue when they graduate, and what they might do with their degree.”
This transfer of knowledge – from Palomar Energy Center to Cal State San Marcos – was such a success, it’s planned to be an annual tradition.
“We are happy to do this, not only to support the education of the next generation of energy engineers, but also to support positive community relations overall,” said La Peter.