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The countdown to Chicago continues. Twelve teams representing universities across the country are preparing to participate in the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Collegiate Wind Competition (CWC) 2018, which will be held May 8–10 at American Wind Energy Association’s WINDPOWER Conference in Chicago, Illinois. As the clock ticks down, students are implementing lessons learned from industry partnerships to elevate the design of their turbines and hone the technical skills required to become the 2018 CWC champion.

At Virginia Tech University, experienced engineers at GE Renewable Energy are reviewing the team’s conceptual design and providing feedback about their turbine. According to Virginia Tech senior Matt Dudon, a mechanical engineering student and the team’s project manager, the interactions with GE have been instrumental in developing this year’s project. “It helped us have confidence in our design and to move forward with some of our decisions this year,” Dudon said.

Additionally, the team was able to establish a connection with Invenergy’s Beech Ridge Wind Farm in nearby West Virginia. Students toured the facility and discussed technology, siting, and operations with the wind farm’s manager and technicians. Since Virginia has no existing utility-scale wind farms, the out-of-state relationship allowed students to experience a wind project in person prior to the competition. “For the competition, we’re required to take into account transportation, transmission lines, and where we’re going to place the wind turbines, so the visit was very beneficial for us just to see the physical layout of the wind farm and get some of our questions answered, but also for our market research,” Dudon said. “We were also able to ask the technicians about the typical problems that they have on a daily basis and how we can solve those issues.”

DOE’s CWC challenges undergraduate students to design and build a model wind turbine based on market research and siting considerations, develop a business plan to market the products, and test the turbines against a set of rigorous performance criteria judged by a panel of wind industry leaders.