By Daniel Schemer, November 2010
University and public residents got an earful of good news on November 17 when UMass Dartmouth hosted a public meeting in the Library Browsing Area concerning the long-anticipated building of a wind turbine on campus. The $1+ million dollar installation of the wind turbine could begin as early as next spring and hopefully be online for fall 2011.
Strong estimates conclude the university will save $125,855 a year in energy costs, equivalent to $5,000 annual scholarships for more than 25 students or the full cost of several athletics teams. More importantly, the turbine is estimated to produce 730 Megawatt Hours of electricity every year, helping decrease the university’s carbon footprint by an estimated 292 tons of CO2 every year.
The proposed 600 kilowatt, 220+ft. tall turbine will be located in the open field vista across from Ring Road and near the entrance of Cedar Dell. The site was chosen based on calculations of wind speeds and patterns from the Meteorological Tower installed earlier this year, and because the vista’s visibility will make the turbine an iconic campus feature.
Guests for the forum included representatives from the state’s Division of Capital Asset Management, who will oversee its installation, and Weston & Sampson, an Environmental/infrastructure consultant group, based in Peabody, MA, who screened the turbine’s chosen site and provided attendees with technical information regarding the actual turbine. Staff from the Department for Administration and Finance for UMass Dartmouth and the Office of Campus and Community Sustainability also attended to provide context on the turbine’s financial, environmental, and academic benefits.
A great deal of lobbying, planning and research has gone on the last couple of years in order to determine the feasibility of wind power on campus; this includes mapping wind patterns, velocity measuring, land surveying, economic analyses, and evaluating governmental, building code and legal requirements, such as abiding by FAA regulations since the university is in the flight path of New Bedford Airport. After determining the technical viability, next came calculating whether the installation’s cost would eventually be returned, both economically and environmentally.
The wind turbine is an extension of the campus’s ongoing energy savings campaign, which reduced energy costs last year by $650,000, as well as the university’s $35 million dollar strategic plan for sustainable building and retrofit practices; this includes all the ongoing LEED construction for the library, installation of solar panels for the Tripp Athletic Center and several dorms, and a cogeneration gas turbine for the university’s steam plant. It also coincides with the University’s Climate Action Plan set to reduce campus CO2 emissions 43% by 2030.
The wind turbine has garnered massive amounts of state, regional, and public approval, but the project is not without its share of debate. While supportive of renewable energy on campus, talks got heated over the chosen spot for the turbine with opponents arguing the fenced-in site would obstruct the view of the Cedar Dell vista and pond, especially from the center of campus.
Opponents also believe the wind turbine doesn’t aesthetically fit with the university’s overall ambience, and is not part of late architect Paul Rudolph’s design plan he laid out for the campus. Several experts and members of the Administration pointed out that Paul Rudolph anticipated and welcomed new designs and buildings, even beyond Ring Road, and because of the ground’s shift in elevation, the pond is actually below the line of sight from the center of campus.
Continuing debates and finalizing all planning and procedures will continue well into next year. For the technical specifications on the Turbowind 600 model turbine chosen, check out Elecon Engineering Company’s Alternate Energy Division, http://www.elecon.com/aed/wind-turbine-50hz.php.