University Explores Wind Power Potential

Since Pennsylvania deregulated its electricity market, several wind farms have been built around the state, like the windmills in Somerset County, and more are in sight. A Slippery Rock University (SRU) graduate student is taking the green power movement one step further by investigating whether conditions are right to install wind turbines on the SRU campus.

Slippery Rock, Pennsylvania – June 22, 2003 [SolarAccess.com] Heath Gamache, of Prospect, recently installed a 100-foot meteorological tower near the university’s football stadium to measure wind velocity for a year. The tower records wind velocity and direction data with a wind vane and two anemometers (wind speed measuring devices). The data is logged onto microchips that Gamache downloads onto a laptop computer for analysis. Gamache says he is excited about the leadership potential that a wind energy project at SRU represents. No universities in Pennsylvania have a wind farm, he says, and the opportunities for research and development could be a great example for other universities around the state. His initial goal is providing wind energy for SRU’s Harmony House, located at the university’s Robert A. Macoskey Center for Sustainable Systems Education and Research. Gamache installed a similar wind tower at his self-sustaining house, Terra Dei Homestead, at Camp Lutherlyn in Prospect. If Gamache finds average wind speeds of at least 10 mph over the 12-month period, a wind turbine could be installed to produce electricity for SRU buildings. If wind speeds are in the 15 to 25 mph range, conditions could be right for a wind farm that supplies power for the whole region. According to the American Wind Energy Association in Washington, D.C. Spokeswoman Kathy Belyeu, wind energy, a clean source of electricity, is the world’s fastest growing energy source and has increased 24 percent in five years. The windmills in Somerset County – viewed from the Pennsylvania Turnpike — produce 2.4 million kWhs of electricity a year. An average home consumes 10,000 kW a year, according to Energy Information Agency 1997 statistics. Plans for three new wind farms in Pennsylvania, all with major power companies involved, have been finalized, Belyeu says. One is near Wilkes-Barre, another in the Laurel Mountains and a third in the Pocono Mountains, Belyeu says. “The wind potential in the U.S. is just enormous,” Belyeu said. “Even though Pennsylvania doesn’t make the top-20 list of windiest states, there is still a lot of potential.”
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