KCRG-TV and Cedar Rapids Gazette: UI Installs Small Wind Turbine on Campus

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

IOWA CITY - A small wind turbine will teach University of Iowa engineering students about the booming green energy and generate a small amount of power for campus.

Workers installed the 2.4 kilowatt wind turbine at the southeast end of the UI campus, in front of the Madison Street Services Building, Tuesday morning.

“There aren’t that many universities with a turbine,” Pablo Carrica, associate professor in mechanical and industrial engineering, said. “A lot of students are interested in wind energy. There are a lot of jobs.”

The turbine, about 37 feet tall, has three fiberglass blades, each about five feet long with curved ends. The small turbine is the type designed for use by farmers, to provide enough energy for a single-family house, Carrica said.

The UI won’t use this turbine mainly for energy production, though the power generated will be distributed on campus. Rather, its main job is as a teaching tool.

UI engineering students, primarily in a senior-level mechanical engineering class on experimental engineering, will monitor the efficiency of the blades and how much energy is generated. The turbine can be raised and lowered so experiments and data acquisition equipment can be added and changed, Carrica said. The data from the turbine will be fed to a computer lab a few blocks away.

“Wind energy is the up-and-coming green energy, especially in Iowa,” Mike Carvone, 21, a UI senior in mechanical engineering from Lemont, Ill., said as he watched the installation. “It’s something nice that as students we get our hands into before we get to the field.”

The turbine, the equipment to be used for experiments and the system to raise and lower the turbine had a total cost of about $60,000. Of that, $39,778 was covered by a grant to Carrica from the Iowa Alliance for Wind Innovation and Novel Development. The rest came from the College of Engineering.

The new turbine anchors the UI’s green energy district, Liz Christiansen, director of the Office of Sustainability, said. The district includes solar film on the Cambus building extension, a solar car charging station and expanding use of biomass at the power plant, she said.

“This is a practical teaching tool on campus,” she said.

UI leaders are investigating installing larger wind turbines for campus energy production, Christiansen said. Those likely would not be on campus, but at a site elsewhere, she said.