Wind energy important to campuses going green


The University is one of the nation's leaders in promoting "green" behavior on campus. Current campus initiatives include participation — and excellence — in the nationwide RecycleMania contest, investment in the College Avenue greening project and innovative "green" business strategies used by the Rutgers Green Purchasing Department. Through all of these initiatives, the University strives to become a sustainable university that can continue to stand proud on the Raritan's banks as it has for 243 years. The next step toward sustainability at the University should involve harnessing the winds of change — quite literally.

Wind energy is an underexploited resource in almost every part of the nation and the world. A simple phenomenon created by temperature gradients in the air, wind represents kinetic energy that can be converted, via a wind turbine, into electrical energy for powering homes, businesses, classrooms and anything else that uses electricity. In New Brunswick, wind speeds typically range from 9 to 12 miles per hour annually, according to the profile for the city. In turn, like most of New Jersey, New Brunswick has a Class 2 wind power rating on a scale of 1 to 7, with 1 being low wind and 7 being high wind, according to the American Wind Energy Association. Though this classification seems discouraging, the concept behind the sustainability movement is that a lot of little changes can make a big difference. In other words, some renewable energy is better than none.

So how can the developed University campuses tap into wind energy without a lot of free space for turbine installation? There are actually two ways. The first option is the strategic placement of pole-mounted small wind turbines around campuses. Though they do require space for tethering the poles, these turbines do not require the large amount of free space required for an offshore utility grade wind turbine. Companies like Abundant Renewable Energy, Aerostar and Bergey Windpower Company produce models ranging 2.5 to 10 kilowatt rated capacity, capable of producing up to 19 megawatt hours annually, which is almost enough to power two typical American households.

The second option is the use of building-mounted wind turbines, such as the SWIFT model by Cascade Engineering or the AVX1000 model by AeroVironment, Inc. Though these turbines have a lower rated capacity, 1 kW, they are less expensive per unit, allowing an interested party to purchase a row of turbines that can not only generate energy but also serve to decorate a building and proclaim, "This building is part of an institution that believes in sustainable living!" These turbines are designed to produce 1000-2000 kWh annually, so a panel of 10 turbines could produce as much as a 10 kW small wind turbine.

In addition to the energy benefits they provide, wind turbines are also an upfront display of sustainability for visitors to the University. So where might it benefit the most from this combination of energy and publicity? In other words, where do we get the most visitors on a regular basis? The football stadium! Freshly revamped, the newest section of the stadium has plenty of clearance over the low-lying Johnson Park. With daily River Road traffic, increased on six or seven days a year by the football traffic, the wind potential from the river and the road is higher than many places in the University. Furthermore, can anyone say nationally televised alternative energy? It could only be an asset to the University to have its sustainability policy broadcast nationwide. The Green Purchasing department deserves kudos for its innovative business deals, and what a way to give it to them!

So where would the electricity go from this latest construction endeavor at the stadium? It should be well understood that these turbines, unlike offshore turbines, are not meant for large-scale energy production. But how about powering the scoreboard? Or the stadium lights? This seems like a reasonable task.

Still, how would this project get around the negativity that has surrounded construction on the stadium for years? The answer is to "play ball" with the wind turbine company, exchanging a discount on the turbine for some great publicity during football season. Even a 15 second clip during the commercial breaks would be much more TV time than most wind turbine companies have ever seen. New Jersey also offers rebates on wind turbines based on their kilowatts per hour rating. In the end, the turbine will cost quite a bit less than it seems.

Thus, the University has a chance to join the ranks of 42 other universities and colleges nationwide in generating energy from local wind. The Universities of Montana and Vermont are two other state universities that have invested in small wind power, each with its own 10 kW turbine on campus. With the University joining this group of wind-equipped universities, hopefully other large universities might pick up on the benefits — on national TV no less! — and start to tap into the wind as well. In short, wind energy at Rutgers Stadium is a "wind-win" situation!

Nicholas Sawyer is a Cook College senior majoring in biochemistry. 


Nicholas Sawyer

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