Spaulding, Malcolm [faculty advisoe, Department of Ocean Engineering]




wind power; University of Rhode Island Bay Campus; turbines; environment


Governor Carcieri and the Rhode Island Office of Energy Resources (OER) set a goal for Rhode Island to be powered by 15% renewable energy resources. It was determined that wind power was the only utility scale means of renewable energy production abundant enough to satisfy this initiative. In January of 2006 the RI WINDS program was established and Applied Technology Management (ATM) was contracted to perform a preliminary assessment of potential areas, including RI coastal waters, where wind power could be developed. This assessment indicated that “there are significant wind resources in the State of Rhode Island both onshore and offshore”, however “95 percent of wind energy opportunity in Rhode Island is offshore (ATM 2006)”. The goal of the RI WINDS initiative will be achieved by building offshore wind farms; however the results from the RI WINDS report about onshore wind resources should be explored further.

A wind farm must be comprised of several wind turbines to achieve economies of scale and sell to the grid at a wholesale price, as a power company. A single wind turbine project requires that the electricity from the turbine be used by the Industrial/Institutional facility or Community that owns it. Although these project scopes were considered in the RIWINDS report, they are not well described. This type of project is made possible by the Rhode Island Net Metering laws. Net Metering allows the customer to run the meter backwards, sending electricity into the grid when there is a surplus being made by the turbine in exchange for credit. The customer can also draw from the grid when there is insufficient electricity being generated. The credit earned when the meter is run backwards carries forward on the customer’s account for 12 months. The credit given by the power company when the turbine is producing electricity for the grid is only slightly less than retail cost of electricity.

The University of Rhode Island Bay Campus is a potentially viable site for a net metered wind power production project. The wind resources on the site are very reasonable (ATM 2007) and the wind turbine could be placed atop a ridge on the campus with a greater elevation than much of the surrounding area. A circular area with a radius equal to the height of the turbine tower and blade, known as the fall radius, is required surrounding the location of any wind turbine. The Bay Campus has ample space for this area that is required to build a wind turbine. Little opposition is expected to such a project because the community on the Bay Campus, consisting of the Graduate School of Oceanography and the Ocean Engineering department, is environmentally conscious and would likely support this kind of endeavor.

This project contains an assessment of the power production potential of a 1.5 MW wind turbine with a primary and secondary location on the URI Bay Campus. A characterization of the electricity demand on the campus has been included with a brief discussion about the latest RI Net-Metering laws. When all these factors are considered, a reasonable assessment of the feasibility of wind power production at this site can be made.

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