By Daniel Schemer, February 2009
As you’re reading this, the top of Hickory Hall has been taken over by a group of engineering seniors measuring wind speeds to determine the feasibility of rooftop turbines. That is what everyone wants to hear, right? It seems like the only way for something to succeed on campus is if the students take over. Actually, that’s probably how it should be since sustainability is a community-building objective.
The UMass Dartmouth community has been hearing about the possibility of wind power for the last few years, yet progress hasn’t gone smoothly. Past studies and reports indicated that there is a substantial amount of wind circulating through the campus (no kidding). We have begun the process of gathering accurate wind speed data with the recent construction of the MET tower near the library in the soccer fields.
But until the MET tower data is compiled, we have a team of four students working on their senior design project: tracking wind speed on top of Hickory Hall using an anemometer. The goal of this study is to determine whether or not wind power is viable and if it is worth it on an economic level. Since common knowledge indicates that higher altitudes produce faster winds, this project could yield the positive results we’ve all been waiting to hear. The success of this project could mean small, rooftop turbines and a crucial notch in the clean power belt for UMass Dartmouth.
“The reason why it’s different is because when wind blows on the sides of buildings it creates turbulence, and that turbulence is a whole other force, so it’s supposed to enhance the wind speed. That’s the advantage of placing it on rooftops,” said Jack Mackie, a senior in mechanical engineering who is part of the team study.
Rooftop turbines are much smaller (as little as 6ft. in length) and have less start-up speed then the giant ones that can be as tall as 250 ft. high. Depending on type and size, a single small turbine can produce up to 100 kilowatts. These are kinds that you find in residential areas or on top of small businesses. Though it is highly doubtful the entire campus can be powered by wind, utilizing small turbines can significantly decrease CO2 emissions, save on money, and provide government incentives.
“Beyond the fact there is money savings, there’s a lot of outside attention. That’s something that can draw people. Everyone’s getting into sustainability.” Mr. Mackie and his team started back in September when they were handed their year-long project for their Senior Design Class. After a whole semester of preliminary research, outlines, and design, the actual study kicked off this month. “I like the project because it’s something new. A rooftop turbine study hasn’t been done. There have been all types of wind studies but there’s never been an anemometer on a roof.”
Research on the different sizes and types of rooftop turbines has been done to establish what kind and how many can be utilized for a single residence hall. “We are trying to figure out how much it will take to power one dorm. As of now, UMass is all one grid, so they can only give you a power estimate of what the whole campus uses versus dorm to dorm.” The team will be continuing the study until they give their final presentation for class in May. Hopefully, the numbers will prove conclusively what everyone who’s walked from one point of the campus to another already knows: wind power is feasible.