Daily Iowan: UI to Install New Wind Turbine Today

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

By Kristin Callahan
Daily Iowan

The University of Iowa plans to install a 2.4-kilowatt wind turbine today at the south end of Madison Street that will serve as an educational tool for engineering students.

Reaching nearly 37 feet into the air, the turbine will be connected to the existing power panel in Madison Street Services Building, and the power will be used on campus.

The green-energy project is bringing more than alternative energy to campus.

“Several of these projects are the outcome of collaborative efforts between Facilities Management and the College of Engineering — we are coming together to create a green-energy district,” said Liz Christiansen, the director of the UI Office of Sustainability.

The turbine is funded from a $39,778 grant from the Iowa Alliance for Wind Innovation and Novel Development. Officials are set to begin the two-hour installation at 10 a.m., weather permitting.

While almost as tall as four stacked basketball hoops, the device will be much smaller than most wind turbines installed specifically for energy purposes.

The small turbine, providing enough energy to power only one house, is being installed mainly for educational purposes.

“Our goal is to have a wind turbine to use for students,” said Pablo Carrica, a UI associate professor of engineering who received the grant.

The wind turbine will be used as a teaching tool for a senior-level class starting this fall.

In the class, students will learn how to perform experiments in relations to the pressure, velocity, and power being generated by the turbine, as well as the rotational force the blades exert.

Students will then use the wind turbine for their final project in the class, Carrica said. The three-week assignment could ask students to measure the torque on the shaft of the turbine to see the strain on the blades, for example.

This type of information relating to the turbine will soon be accessible to anyone from any computer when its website launches.

Operational conditions are going to be available on a website officials are in the process of creating. Come September, anyone will be able to access data being collected from the turbine — the speed and direction of the wind, the rotational of the speed of the blades, and the power in kilowatts, among other information.

“This is a unique project because it is going to provide information that basically can be used by others, not just the school,” said Barry Butler, the principal investigator of the Iowa Alliance for Wind Innovation and Novel Development.

The alliance — which is designed to fund proposals people submit to help educational activities and projects about wind energy — awarded a grant to Carrica to purchase the turbine and instrumentation.

Butler said the alliance has funded about six or seven projects so far.

Even with similar projects completed, he said, he thinks this one will “stand out.”

“The wind-turbine project serves as a centralized location for the monitoring, analysis, and forecasting of energy supply and consumption across campus,” Christiansen said.