Last week at the National Wind Technology Center (NWTC) near Boulder, Colorado, teams from 10 of the 12 universities that participated in the U.S Department of Energy Collegiate Wind Competition 2016 reconvened for a shot at taking home the top prize at the Collegiate Wind Competition 2017 Technical Challenge. The following teams participated in this year’s competition:
- Boise State University
- California State University–Maritime Academy
- California State University, Chico
- Kansas State University
- Northern Arizona University
- The Pennsylvania State University (Penn State)
- University of Alaska Fairbanks
- University of Massachusetts Amherst
- University of Maryland
- University of Wisconsin–Madison
Penn State earned the top spot—its third Collegiate Wind Competition victory—in the collegiate competition involving university students designing and testing their small-scale models in a wind tunnel, as well as presenting their designs to industry professionals. Second place went to Kansas State University and the University of Alaska Fairbanks took third place. The University of Maryland won the technical design contest and the University of Wisconsin–Madison won the siting challenge, which came down to a one-point differential between first and second place. Northern Arizona University earned honorable mention for their technical design presentation.
The Collegiate Wind Competition encompasses more than wind turbine testing. Students toured a wide variety of wind-related sites in the area, including the Vestas nacelle assembly facility, the main National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) campus, and the facilities of the NWTC. They were also offered the opportunity to attend an educational series that covered the history of wind turbines, grid systems integration, wind plant siting, and career opportunities in the wind industry.
The technical challenge event differs from the Collegiate Wind Competition main event or primary/full competition that occurs every other year by focusing on technical design and turbine performance in NREL's wind tunnel. In addition to these two facets, an additional siting challenge required students to balance competing objectives of maximizing power production, minimizing costs, and minimizing environmental and community impact.
In addition to the Collegiate Wind Competition, elementary and middle school students also gathered at the NWTC to participate in the Colorado KidWind Challenge. The winners of the challenge, STEM Launchers from Adams School District just north of Denver, will go on to attend the national challenge being held in Anaheim, California during the American Wind Energy Association's WINDPOWER conference.
As career opportunities in the wind industry continue to increase—according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, wind turbine technician is the fastest-growing American job—events such as the Collegiate Wind Competition and KidWind help grow the future wind energy workforce in the United States.
Congratulations to all teams who participated! We are looking forward to Collegiate Wind Competition 2018 at AWEA WINDPOWER in Chicago, Illinois. Check out photos from the Collegiate Wind Competition and KidWind on the NREL Flickr site.