Harnessing the wind
Students learn about wind energy by monitoring on-campus wind turbine
This year, University of Iowa engineering students got a unique hands-on experience in the field of wind energy, and they didn’t even have to leave campus.
Instead, they enrolled in a senior-level engineering course, Experimental Engineering, where they monitored a wind turbine that was installed on campus in July thanks to a grant from the Iowa Alliance for Wind Innovation and Novel Development (IAWIND).
The course is taught by Pablo Carrica, an associate professor of mechanical and industrial engineering and a research engineer at IIHR-Hydroscience and Engineering in the UI College of Engineering.
“The whole state of Iowa has a big incentive to educate students in the field of wind energy. It is a growing industry in the state,” Carrica says. “We have at least six wind energy companies in Iowa and two in the Iowa City area. The University of Iowa wants students to have the knowledge base and skills to find jobs. We’re educating students for the jobs that are out there.”
Students in Carrica’s class monitor the turbine, which is about 37 feet tall and has three fiberglass blades measuring about six feet in length. The students measure wind speed, power, and rotation of the blades.
Unlike other wind turbines, this turbine was designed to be raised and lowered so that equipment for experiments and data acquisition can be added and changed periodically. Data from the turbine is fed to a computer lab and will soon be accessible on a web site. Carrica hopes to expand the use of the turbine and its data to more students and courses in coming semesters.
Michael Carbone, a senior mechanical engineering student from Lemont, Ill., began helping Carrica with the wind turbine project over the summer as an undergraduate research and teaching assistant. He says the hands-on experience has been helpful as he thinks about his future.
“The University does a great job of educating us about careers in sustainability,” Carbone says. “Wind energy is an exciting field to be studying because it’s expanding so quickly.”
The turbine ties into the University’s overall sustainability goals—although it is designed to generate only enough energy to power a single-family home, it is connected to and contributes to the University’s power grid—and it is part of the University’s evolving green energy discovery district in the southeast corner of campus.