Let the competition begin. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) recently released the 10 schools that will compete in the inaugural National Collegiate Wind Competition (NCWC).
NCWC is unlike many other energy innovation challenges we’ve seen in the past, which tend to focus on technology design and development – this competition is asking students to go beyond that. NCWC not only asks each school to develop a low-cost, transportable turbine to power small electronics, it requires a full business and marketing plan and will have each team debate the barriers to wind energy development in the current market. According to NREL, the most successful team will exceed in three areas: innovation in a new or modified wind turbine design, knowledge of market barriers and creative methods to overcome them, and the development of a practical, flexible business plan.
Each team’s turbine will be tested in either a 3’x3’ or 4’x4’ wind tunnel, and must not be larger than 45 cm x 45 cm (if the actual product exceeds the testing specifications, the team is required to bring a full-scale model in addition to the model for testing). Business plans must include a clear description of the product, its value for the general market and its technical and financial feasibility. NREL will weigh each plan against specific criteria, including:
- Market deployment feasibility and risk reduction
- Safety, durability, reliability
- Innovation, creativity, originality
- Performance (as measured by energy generation in Wh over a period of time at pre-determined ?wind speeds and cut-in wind speed in m/s at a minimum voltage through wind tunnel testing)
- Concept cost ($/Wh)
The final phase of the competition is the debate. Each team will have to brush up on the current wind market and identify its barriers and market drivers.
“This is a great opportunity for students, universities and the wind industry,” said Ian Baring-Gould, the national technical director of the Wind Powering America initiative in a release. “The Department of Energy’s Solar Decathlon has clearly engaged students and the public in the renewable energy field. Our hope is that this new wind focused competition will have a similar outcome.”
Each team will develop its plan throughout the next year, and officially compete in the spring of 2014. The 10 participating school are as follows:
- Boise State University
- California Maritime Academy
- Colorado School of Mines
- James Madison University (VA)
- Kansas State University
- Northern Arizona University
- Pennsylvania State University
- University of Alaska – Fairbanks
- University of Kansas
- University of Massachusetts – Lowell
We wish the best of luck to all teams and look forward to seeing the results next year.
Lead image: Starting line via Shutterstock