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Indiana Tech wind generator is tip of school's energy engineering

Wednesday, July 9, 2014 - 9:15 am

Drivers on East Maumee Avenue traveling west can't help but notice the Indiana Tech wind turbine spinning away when they make the turn at Division Street. Many of them probably wonder how much electricity it generates, what is its maximum generation capacity, the length of the blades, the height of the pole, what kind is it and more.

That information and a lot more concerning wind generation technology is available to the public on the Internet. Simply typing in mybergey.aprsworld.com/a3835 – Bergey is the brand of wind generator –will direct you to the current and past turbine operating conditions being collected for John Renie, associate professor of mechanical and energy engineering, whose office is in the lower level of the Zollner Engineering Building. The curious can select a month, day or minute and determine the amount of electricity generated.

According to Renie, Bergey is the oldest and most reputable manufacturer of wind generators in the country. The wind generator, which was installed in August 2012, is part of the school's Energy Engineering Lab, which is sponsored by a $300,000 grant from Steel Dynamics, Inc.

“We went to the city to get approval to put up a 120-foot-high pole. It had to be at least 50 feet higher than Pearson Hall next door in order to get the full effect of the wind on the 14-foot blades,” Renie said.

The generator has a capacity of 10 kilowatts. That “means it can produce 240 kilowatt-hours of energy a day at its rated wind speed of 25 mph,” Renie said.

Some days are windier than others, he said. “For instance this past January it produced a total of 1,208 kilowatts of electricity for the month. Some months, however, are as low as 113 kilowatt-hours,” he added.

“Here at Indiana Tech our students get an opportunity to really dig into the operating efficiencies of wind generators,” he said. “They learn about capacity factors, wind generator design and operation, how much wind is actually needed to make the blades rotate to produce electricity, comparisons with other forms of energy, and ultimately whether or not free wind energy is worth the financial investment. We also take them to the Blue Creek Wind Farm near Antwerp, Ohio, to witness erection and maintenance of the big machines.”

Last spring Renie took 17 students to Germany and Switzerland during spring break to learn how countries dedicated to renewable energy sources are making use of hydro, wind and solar energy both on a large and small scale. Tech students also visit Taylor University at Upland to learn its experiences with their two wind turbines and to former Fort Benjamin Harrison in Indianapolis to study the solar collectors on the roof of the Major General Emmett J. Bean Federal Center.

Tech's energy program, which began six years ago, also gives students an opportunity to study other forms of energy, as well. The program has also received a $300,000 grant from American Electric Power to help support its energy program. They have plans to install small tracking solar array. The dozen 3-by-5-foot panels will pick up the sun in the east and follow it throughout the day. It will have a 3-kilowatt generation capacity. All electricity generated by the solar array (and the wind generator) will be/is fed into the school's three-phase grid and used within the school.

Another avenue of energy study at Indiana Tech is the ground-coupled heat pumps that draw heating and cooling from 40 wells under the parking lot in front of the Cunningham Business Center and 10 more under the grassy knoll by the new Utengsu administration building. They supply heating and cooling for both the administration and engineering buildings.

“Energy engineering is a hot field now,” Renie said. “Graduates from our unique energy program with a bachelor of science degree in energy engineering are qualified to do more than are technicians and installers. They have the theories behind a variety of energy forms and can step into the engineering departments of companies anywhere.”