Daily Iowan: Wind Turbine Installed on UI Campus Follows National Trend

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

By Kristin Callahan
Daily Iowan

Workers installed a 2.4-kilowatt wind turbine on the University of Iowa campus Tuesday, part of a national trend of using the devices as educational tools.

The UI’s 37-foot structure, similar to those built at other universities, will provide training for students in an experimental engineering class.

The installation of the white wind turbine on south end of Madison Street took under two hours to complete, and the turbine is officially up and running.

James Johansen, a former teaching assistant for the experimental engineering class, said students should enjoy working with the turbine.

“It is rare that you get hands-on experience — they will actually get to play with it,” he said.

This unique training has been serving as an educational benefit for other universities as well.
Montana State University installed a 2.4-kilowatt wind turbine in November 2008.

“It is a baby, but with all of the same characteristics as a commercial size turbine and is more manageable,” said Rob Larson, an assistant professor of mechanical and industrial engineering at the school.

Similar to the UI’s, the turbine is used primarily as an educational tool, especially in Manufacturing Engineering Technology courses for seniors in the wind-application center, he said.

The course is developed to monitor the software and other research on weather and the turbine.
“It happens right next door, so it seems more pertinent than studying it somewhere else — it gets students’ feet in the door as far as talking about something that is real,” Larson said.

In addition to adapting the turbine, a consecutive project is also in the making.

“The Wind Montana project is a program that is developing alternative-energy-technician courses,” Larson said, and five other campuses in Montana have such programs.

And the trend has grown nationwide.

More than 60 American colleges and universities have wind turbines of varying sizes, according to the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education website — from Aurora College’s 0.85-kilowatt system to the University of Oklahoma’s 10.1-kilowatt turbine.

“We have seen an increase in institutions installing [wind turbines] — they have been ramping up over the last three years,” said Paul Rowland, the director executive of the association.

He believes universities are seeing the dramatic difference wind turbines are making on their campuses.

Those from the UI hope this is the case.

“Hopefully, seeing the turbine on campus will get other people involved — the more people hear about it the better,” said Sarah Horgen, the education coordinator of the UI Museum of Natural History, who attended the installation.

And the wind turbine offers more than educational benefits.

“I think everybody is happy to see some movement toward expanding renewable use and education,” Larson said. “And students are the ones who will deal with this in the upcoming years and don’t want to see oily beaches.”

DI reporter Lisa Brahm contributed to this report.