wind power; renewable energy; student leadership; alternative forms of energy; university of rhode island
In the Fall of 2003, an initiative to develop and install a wind turbine on the University of Rhode Islands Kingston Campus was proposed by an undergraduate student, Courtney Blodgett. To spearhead this initiative, the Renewable Energy Club (REC) was created and recognized by the Student Senate, and support was received by the URI Offices of the President and Provost. The University recognized the benefits of investing in a wind turbine both in terms of money spent on energy costs, and in promoting research in renewable energy. Turbines are at the cutting edge of technology. This is the first such project for a state university on the East Coast and one of the first projects in the country completely run by a group of undergraduate students. In Fall, 2004, the Master Plan Review Team, comprised of faculty members from different disciplines at the University, was presented with photo simulations of 7 potential locations suitable on the Kingston Campus. One specific location was chosen based on the fact that there are no future building plans from the site, its accessibility to the main grid, and its distance from interfering buildings and trees. In the Spring of 2005, NORESCO, the company hired by URI to perform an energy audit of the university, collaborated with the students from the REC, to determine the monetary feasibility of the turbine project. They discussed with the students the necessity of installing an anemometer near the proposed turbine location in order to assure that the site is suitable for a wind turbine. Funding and equipment have been received from the Rhode Island Renewable Energy Fund (RIREF) and through an equipment loan program with RWU. The anemometer was installed in January 2006 we are collecting data once every month for a minimum of 4 months. The most important data we are looking for is wind speed. Wind direction is not as important since the turbine rotates to face the wind. Data from the anemometer will demonstrate whether the site chosen has enough wind power to produce enough energy by the turbine if it is installed. If there is not enough wind at the site, the wind turbine will require more energy than it is actually producing. The data will be analyzed by members of the Renewable Energy Club, NORESCO, and Roger Williams University. During this four month period, we will continue discussions with NORESCO on financing and outreach. NORESCO would like the Renewable Energy Club to help with the initial cost of the turbine, and so I have been looking into grants and funding. I have applied for the STAR grant provided by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Based on the anemometer data, NORESCO will officially decide if the project is feasible. There are many different companies that could provide us with an excellent wind turbine, including GE, Vestas, and Fuhrlander.