Wind powered University

By Alyssa Etier

The University’s Facilities and Services filed a $2 million grant for three wind turbine generators for the south farms in July.

If received, the turbines will use wind, a renewable energy resource, to generate electricity on campus. Facilities and Services Committee on Sustainable Campus Environment expects to receive a response from the Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation “any day now,” according to David Schejbal, co-chair of the committee.

“It is one step for the campus to start to produce its own power in a clean and efficient way,” Schejbal said. “It’s also a demonstrative tool for students and faculty to see how wind can be produced and a way for the community to embrace wind power.”

The wind turbine generators will sit on towers approximately 300 feet tall. The turbines have three blades that move at a steady rate to create electrical energy through wind. Harnessing wind to generate electricity is an old technology, but significant improvements have been made in the technology to efficiently generate electricity. At the same time, wind turbines promote sustainability by not contributing to the greenhouse effect.

“The University of Illinois wants to find new ways to supply energy it produces, and wind is a very clean way to produce energy,” Schejbal said.

If the University receives the grant for all three wind turbines, they will produce 2.7 percent of the electricity consumed by the campus and reduce the release of carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide and nitrous oxide, according to the letter of intent submitted by the University’s Facilities and Services.

The south farms are an area of approximately 4,000 acres, partly owned by the University and bounded north-south by Old Church and Windsor roads, and east-west by First Street and Philo Road. The Department of Crop Sciences has been researching renewable energy through Miscanthus, a hybrid grass that can grow to 13 feet tall, and through carbon dioxide and ozone emission on the south farms.

“Adding wind turbines would just make sense,” said Ralf Moller, associate director for operations in the college of ACES. “The whole theme would fit.”

The college of ACES has three years of wind direction and speed data that has been analyzed for the energy production of wind turbines. Last year, the college proposed the use of wind turbines to John Dempsey, director of Facilities and Services, to pursue a college-supported grant. The Committee on Sustainable Campus Environment worked on the project because of its goal to reduce the effects campus has on the environment.

If the grant is received for three wind turbines, the University will find other funding sources or finance the remaining cost of $1.4 million, according to the letter of intent.

Four locations have been proposed as possible sites for the wind turbines. The present location was chosen because of its higher ground level, but other factors, such as the electrical grid, may change this choice, Moller said. Exact timing for the generators is still uncertain. The committee will have to develop proposals, prepare the sites and have the towers built. The generators probably will not be finished until 2008, Schejbal said.