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ISSUE 119 VOL 1 PUBLISHED 9/16/2005

Turbine project moves forward

By April Wright
Contributing Writer

Friday, September 16, 2005

A glance towards the wind turbines of Carleton College might prompt students to wonder if St. Olaf is falling behind on its plans to build a wind turbine of its own.

However, the College continues to make progress on its wind turbine, which will be three times as tall as Larson Hall, with blades roughly equal to the height of Larson.

St. Olaf is a perfect community to take advantage of a wind turbine according to Pete Sandberg, assistant vice president for facilities. St. Olaf’s hilltop location makes for "a very good wind resource," Sandberg said.

The wind is such a good resource that it will be able to provide one third of the campus energy with one turbine.

The wind turbine will be built in the student garden near Tostrud Center.

This is an ideal location for the turbine because wind turbines need open space (ideally 10-20 times the length of the actual turbine) around them, as obstructions can lessen the yield.

Wind energy can be hard to use, since its energy is prone to dissipating in transmission. However, because the turbine is located directly on campus, it can attain a maximum yield.

"We can plug the thing directly into us," Sandberg said. This means that because of the electrical wiring at the college, the energy created by the turbines can be used directly by the school.

Direct usage of wind energy is a luxury other campuses do not have because of the way their electrical wiring systems are formatted.

The location of the turbine is also good for wildlife. Eugene Bakko, professor of biology and curator of natural lands, said that the college is satisfied with research that shows that bird kill from wind turbines is minimal. He also says that students in certain biology classes will use the turbines to study the effect of wind turbines on birds and bats.

Most of the money for the turbine is from an Xcel Energy grant, and the remainder of the costs will be picked up by the College’s capital budget. The turbine is expected to pay for itself within two years.

Although the location and finances for the turbine are ready, there have been two major delays.

The first problem was money. There was a delay in the confirmation of the grant to the college, but the the grant eventually came through.

During the period of time that the grant was in question, another problem arose. The federal government passed a bill that offered a tax credit for renewable energy projects. This caused a rise in the popularity of wind turbines, as many people viewed them as a for-profit venture. There are only two main manufacturers making turbines right now, and the wait list for a turbine is long.

"We’re just about to finish the foundation," Sandberg said of the progress.

The next step is to construct the wiring that will connect the turbine to the college’s electrical system.

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