New US Rooftop Wind Turbine Lab

In partnership with the Massachusetts Renewable Energy Trust, the Boston, Massachusetts, Museum of Science, is installing a rooftop Wind Turbine Lab this summer.

The museum has already started the installation of nine wind turbines from five different manufacturers, the largest of which is 40 feet tall (13 metres) and the smallest about seven feet (2 metres) with 5- to 18-foot (1.5 – 6 metres) diameters. The first two turbines are now in place on the Cambridge side of the museum’s roof.

The machines featured are the 1.2-kW Mariah Power Windspire, a vertical-axis turbine about 10 metres high; the Southwest SkyStream 3.7 a downwind, horizontal-axis 1.9-kW machine with a 3.7-metre rotor diameter; a Cascade Engineering Swift with a 1.5-kW rated output using an upwind, horizontal-axis design with a 2.1-metre diameter; A bank of five AeroVironment AVX1000 1-kW turbines that have a directional design for building parapets to take advantage of higher speed winds rushing up and over buildings and have a 1.5-metre diameter; and, the Proven 6, a 6-kW downwind, horizontal axis machine with a 5.5-metre rotor diameter.

Designed to demonstrate turbines, the lab will generate valuable experience to help government officials and renewable energy professionals make informed decisions about projects and policy. David Rabkin, Farinon director for current science and technology at the museum explains: “No one has tested five different small turbines in a rooftop laboratory. Although there’s lots of interest in small-scale wind turbines, we found little data on their performance and impact. Despite a year of collecting data on the wind at the museum, we still don’t really know enough about the turbines to predict their performance.”

In addition to obtaining variances and permitting for both Cambridge and Boston, the three-year project involved selecting and siting the turbines to maximize wind exposure, visibility and safety in five different “microclimates.” Each turbine was its own engineering project.

Massachusetts Senator John Kerry said: “This project will give us the information we need to debate the benefits of turbines in an urban environment and move forward on the technology front.”

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