Northwest Renewable News

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Wind tunnel breezes onto Portland State’s campus February 15, 2010

Filed under: Oregon,University Research,Wind — nwrenewablenews @ 4:34 pm
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A new wind tunnel at Portland State University could bolster the city’s green cache by bringing top-level researchers to the city.

The custom-designed wind tunnel is being constructed in Wisconsin and will be shipped to PSU in March. It will be installed in a first-floor lab of the school’s new engineering building, 1930 S.W. Fourth Ave.

The tunnel is generating excitement in Portland design circles. Sustainability advocates expect the $500,000 tunnel to encourage high-level research into wind energy.

Having a research-grade piece of equipment in Portland will be immensely helpful to architects and engineers, said John Breshears, associate partner with Zimmer Gunsul Frasca Architects.

ZGF designed rooftop wind turbines for downtown Portland’s Twelve|West office-and-apartment project for Gerding Edlen Development Co. The four wind turbines installed in 2009 were among the first to be placed in an urban setting in the U.S.

For that project, ZGF and its partners did their research at Oregon State University’s two wind tunnels. Bringing precision research equipment to Portland will encourage similar innovation.

“I don’t know that many universities or cities that have that level of research. It will enable us to do more of the kinds of research we need to do,” said Breshears, who said the firm is interested in researching wind patterns so it can install turbines at its other projects.

ZGF also is interested in using it to study green roofs, an increasingly popular feature in sustainable design. Little is known about how they interact with the environment.

NASA and the National Science Foundation are providing the initial funding to operate the equipment and direct research, though the school is looking for additional partners and projects.

Raúl Bayoán Cal, an assistant professor in PSU’s Department of Mechanical and Materials Engineering, leads the wind-tunnel project.

The effort is getting an assist from Oregon BEST, which has pledged to match any grants he secures and is linking him with industry, said David Kenney, president and executive director. The 2007 Legislature created the Oregon Built Environment & Sustainable Technologies Center to develop and promote Oregon’s green industry cluster.

Kenney said that as the North American home to wind energy leaders such as turbine manufacture Vestas-American Wind Technology Inc. and wind power provider Iberdrola Renewables, it’s important for Portland to gird its favorite new business sector with solid research capabilities.

“It’s a great connection,” he said.

The wind tunnel channels carefully controlled wind through a five-meter chamber where researchers duplicate the conditions they’re trying to study — temperature, pressure, ground configuration and so forth.

Lasers record how the air moves through the chamber.

Doctoral candidates will use it for high-level research, but it is also a teaching and recruitment tool to attract undergraduates and high school students to the hard sciences by giving them a hands-on experience.

“There’s nothing cooler than that,” he said.

It already has helped attract talent to Portland.

Max Gibson, a Ph.D. candidate studying under Cal, came to Portland from Mississippi by way of Canada. The wind tunnel, he said, is hugely attractive to students.

“This is going to put us on the map,” he said.

Wendy Culverwell, Portland Business Journal^2877541


Montana State campuses get grant for wind turbines January 21, 2009

Filed under: Montana,University Research,Wind — nwrenewablenews @ 1:17 pm
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Montana State University-Great Falls College of Technology announced Tuesday that it has received a $2 million federal grant to implement its wind turbine program and develop wind energy programs at other campuses around the state.

“We’ve been researching wind energy technology and industrial technology for more than a year now,” said Joe Schaffer, interim dean of MSU-Great Falls. “We’ve also been kicking around the idea of a regional program.”

Though MSU-Great Falls was awarded the $1.97 million grant from the U.S. Department of Labor, they will share it with MSU-Northern in Havre, MSU-Billings College of Technology and Montana Tech in Butte.

Wind turbines will be erected at each of the campuses and curriculum will be developed for a wind energy technical program at each campus. The three-year grant will allow campuses to develop programs and collectively share resources. MSU-Great Falls applied for the grant.

“I’m still surprised it was funded,” Schaffer said. “But I believe it was funded because of the collaborative partnerships.”

MSU-Great Falls is in the process of building its own 120-foot wind turbine and has received approval from the Great Falls planning board and the Montana Board of Regents. A feasibility study conducted by Western Community Energy out of Bozeman indicated it will cost approximately $200,000 to build a turbine on the campus.

Schaffer said the 50-kilowatt turbine will power the college’s industrial trades building.

Several other partners in the project include the Wind Application Center at MSU-Bozeman; wind industry representatives; the state’s Workforce Investment Board; workforce centers in Great Falls, Havre, Shelby and Cut Bank; the Montana Electrical Joint Apprenticeship and Training Committee; Great Falls Public Schools; the Energy Systems Technology and Training Center; Centralia College in Washington; Opportunity Link and Rural Dynamics Inc.

The “Wind Montana” project will develop a one-year certificate program in general industrial trade to include general electrical and mechanical job skills. Those who choose could then continue on in a more specific wind technician program that would award an associate of applied science degree.

This was the only project in Montana to be funded under the grant program.