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The UMD Small Wind Turbine Research Project launched on Earth Day, 2015
A multidisciplinary group of faculty, staff, and students from sustainability, biology, geography, and engineering departments are working together on a project to install a small 5-kilowatt wind turbine in the center of the working UMD Farm along Riley Road. The project will provide research and learning opportunities for students and faculty, model a sustainable farm, and produce additional renewable energy for the UMD campus.
The goals of the project include:
- demonstrate a new wind technology that allows for a zero-contact turbine
- increase small wind turbine efficiency through partnered research with the turbine developer,
- educate the campus and community on a renewable energy technology, and
- reduce the campus carbon footprint.
Learn more: this poster summarizes the high-level goals of the project.
Involving students from early on in this project has provided opportunities for them to study, work on, and brainstorm around the project, from many disciplines. From planning and feasibility steps to project implementation and energy conversion research, UMD students will be involved. So far, UMD students involvement includes the following:
- An Advanced Writing student group researched and wrote a UMD Wind Turbine Recommendation Report
- A biology undergraduate is counting birds to study Migratory Patterns of Raptors at the UMD Farm both before and after wind turbine installation, including researching bird impacts. (NOTE: these are preliminary data only, final data will be published here after the undergraduate research project is completed)
- A GIS in Regional Sustainability Applications student group proposed initial wind turbine siting recommendations and map
- A Civil Engineering student is using the structure/base design as part of their Masters project
Construction drawings were finalized in spring 2014. The project was slated for construction in summer of 2014, however a delay regarding tower availability forced the foundation work to be moved in fall of 2014. The foundation was poured in late October and early November of 2014. Tower was installed in March 2015.
The original wind turbine project was completed in April 2015, with a grand opening event happening on Earth Day 2015. Commissioning of the turbine took place throughout Summer of 2015.
From the first year’s data, it was clear that the wind conditions on this site were a challenge; winds gusted up an down in speed quite rapidly. To better handle the stormy conditions, the original horizontal-axis turbine was replaced with a verticle-axis turbine in Spring 2016. This upgrade also increased the capacity of the turbine from 5 kW to 8 kW.
See a video of the original horizontal-axis turbine spinning here.
Funding and Resources
Thanks to the following people for funding, expertise, and support of the project:
- Northeast Minnesota Regional Sustainable Development Partnership
- Northeast Minnesota Clean Energy Resource Team
- UMD Facilities Management
- UMD Swenson College of Science and Engineering
- UMD Mechanical and Industrial Engineering
- UMD Civil Engineering
- UMD Strategic Plan Grant
- UMD Green Revolving Fund
- Student research donation from WindTech Inc.