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Extension > Regional Sustainable Development Partnerships > RSDP Newsletter > RSDP Happenings - Focus: New Wind Tech at UMD

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RSDP Happenings - Focus: New Wind Tech at UMD

June 2015

By Isaac Mielke and Ronnie Schwenn

The new wind turbine at UMD farm. (photo: Mindy Granley)

On Earth Day in April, University of Minnesota Duluth held a grand opening for its new wind turbine, located at the UMD sustainable agriculture farm. Now active, the turbine is both producing energy and serving as an educational tool for the whole UMD community.

The 65 foot, 5-kilowatt Wind Tech, Inc. turbine operates with very little friction thanks to internal magnetic gears. These magnets transfer force between the input and output shafts without touching, allowing for nearly 98 percent efficiency. The design eliminates wear and the need for lubricating oil, reduces maintenance, and is thought to be well-suited for sites with intermittent winds. This novel, made-in-Minnesota technology came to UMD courtesy of funding and resources from nine different groups, including seed grants from Northeast Minnesota RSDP and Northeast Clean Energy Resource Team.

Plans for the wind turbine began over two years ago, according to Northeast RSDP Executive Director Okey Ukaga. RSDP has been working with UMD on the wind turbine project since the beginning by providing funding and working with UMD representatives to choose the best vendors, and funding the construction of a small building near the turbine to house its electrical components. The foundation was poured in October 2014 and the tower was installed in March 2015.

"Right now we are sending power to the power grid, and we eventually plan to use that energy to help power the farm. By sending the energy out to the grid, we can make a little dent in the amount that UMD pulls from it every day," said Ukaga. "When the wind is good we will be able to pull less energy from the grid."

Many students worked on the project from its inception. An Advanced Writing group checked the feasibility and then wrote a recommendation. Then a GIS in Regional Sustainability Applications student group proposed the location and created a map. A Civil Engineering graduate student will use the structure for his Master's thesis, and a Biology major has identified and tracked birds to study migratory patterns of raptors at the UMD farm.

UMD Mechanical Engineering Professor Alison Hoxie will be using the turbine in an upcoming graduate class on sustainable engineering. "Students will be monitoring and testing the system to track the turbine's performance, and it will model a sustainable agriculture setting within the university," said Hoxie. Right now, Ukaga says of the turbine that "It's working well and generating the energy we had hoped for." The turbine is successfully helping UMD reduce its energy footprint, and fueling more research and interest in sustainable energy as it does so.

Learn more about the wind turbine project here.

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