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University of Minnesota Boosts Studies with Wind Power

October 27, 2011 - 10:53am


Time-lapse of the University of Minnesota's wind turbine construction, from September 6 – 23, 2011. | Courtesy of the University of Minnesota College of Science and Engineering

President Obama’s goal to generate 80 percent of our nation’s electricity through clean energy sources by 2035 is ambitious, but achievable. Wind power can play an important role in reaching that goal, but it’s important that we continue to advance wind technologies and train a new generation of wind technicians. Both of these obstacles are being addressed by this week’s commissioning of a new 2.5-megawatt wind turbine at the Eolos Wind Energy Research Station at the University of Minnesota Outreach, Research and Education Park.

The American-made Clipper Liberty wind turbine and a 426-foot tall meteorological tower will allow researchers to work on improving wind turbine efficiency and will help train a new generation of engineers and technicians for careers in the wind industry. This project can help strengthen our nation’s competitiveness in the global clean energy economy. It’s also an impressive-looking structure since its only 129 feet shorter than the Washington Monument and just 74 feet shorter than Mt. Rushmore.

Representatives from the Energy Department, industry partners, wind energy researchers, public leaders, university administrators and hundreds of local school children took part in a ceremonial “flip of the switch” to start up the turbine this week. The University of Minnesota was one of only three recipients awarded the Energy Department's wind research grants in 2009. In addition to the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, the Illinois Institute of Technology and the University of Maine in Orono were selected in October 2009 to each receive $7.9 million of Recovery Act funds to develop university-led consortia for wind energy research.

“Broadly deploying wind power and developing a skilled workforce to design, install, and service these high-tech turbines will help us lead by example to diversify our energy portfolio, reduce carbon pollution, and create thousands of jobs over the next decade,” said Energy Secretary Steven Chu.  “Projects like the research station at the University of Minnesota provide hands-on training for talented students who will go on to advance the technologies necessary to achieve the Administration’s goal of generating 80 percent of our nation’s electricity from clean energy resources by 2035.”

Objectives for the new turbine include identifying methods to harvest more energy from a wind turbine; improving wind farm design; minimizing a turbine’s impact on radar; reducing turbine noise; preventing icy build-up on blades; developing new approaches to monitoring turbine performance and improving turbine blade structure. The consortium is also developing new wind energy curricula to train power-industry professionals, as well as students across the country.

Along with the benefit of research and training for future wind power engineers and technicians, the turbine will be connected to the local grid and is expected to add some green energy to the surrounding area's electricity usage.