Mechanical engineering student Sam Walker and his solar trailer.
As a mechanical engineering student committed to energy efficiency, Sam Walker designed and built a solar trailer with two other OSU engineering students.

When Sam Walker wanted to build a solar trailer for his senior design project, his professors balked. Most projects were either industry sponsored or based on faculty research, not on the design whims of a student.

But Walker stuck with his vision to build a mobile station that could supply power using solar energy — and luckily so. After writing a formal proposal and raising thousands of dollars, his professors agreed to let him design, build, and present the trailer at the annual Engineering Expo. That was in 2007. Walker has since finished his mechanical engineering degree and launched a successful career in energy consulting, but the solar trailer is still used at Expo and many other Oregon State events. “The mechanical engineering department now points to it as an example of engineering ingenuity,” said Walker.

The take-away lesson? Don’t give up, said Walker. “If you’re really passionate about something, then stick with it.”

That advice has served him well. Walker is now a senior associate at Triple Point Energy, a leader in developing and delivering industrial Strategic Energy Management (SEM) energy efficiency programs for clients such as Bonneville Power Administration and the Energy Trust of Oregon.

Walker began his career at a progressive energy consulting firm called Interface Engineering. He was fortunate to have a standout resume with experience serving on the board of the Student Sustainability Initiative and performing energy assessments for the Industrial Assessment Center within the Energy Efficiency Center at Oregon State.

“I think I interviewed for about half a dozen jobs and had offers from all of them,” he said.

But the company he really wanted to work for—Clark Utilities—didn’t call him back. Following his own wisdom to never give up, Walker first built up his skill set with Interface Engineering and then re-applied for a position at Clark Utilities. This time, he got the job. Walker spent the next six years managing all commercial and industrial energy efficiency projects in addition to their renewable energy program.

“When I first started there, I was doing some of the analysis, such as walk-through audits of commercial and industrial facilities,” said Walker “But then pretty quickly they realized my time was better spent at a higher level, so I began to manage and hire third parties to perform the analysis.”

Besides a hardy show of determination, Walker said that getting involved in extracurricular activities was key to his success. “Get into the job force prior to graduation,” he said.

He is proud to be able to work in a thriving industry and help companies save money and reduce their environmental impact.

“Energy efficiency isn’t going away. It’s a booming industry, and it’s going to continue to grow,” he said. “You get to go into these facilities and help people save money. You help them stay profitable, more competitive, and better positioned to retain staff. It feels really good.”

–Abby P. Metzger

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