a spring renewal of sorts, as the Island University constructs three 20-kilowatt
vertical axis wind turbines which help make up the largest installation of this
kind in the United States.
In all, three Texas A&M-Corpus Christi locations will
showcase a total of 11 wind turbines.
“The wind turbine project
is an exciting opportunity to show how the University is emerging as a leader
in renewable energy,” says University President Flavius Killebrew. “This initiative
will not only provide students and faculty with excellent learning and research
opportunities, but will open doors for future generations who want to pursue
this green technology.”
According to Dr. L.D. Chen, associate dean of Engineering
and Computing Sciences, the installed vertical axis wind turbines will enrich
students’ learning experiences and encourage innovation in engineering
education and research.
“This will provide hands-on opportunities on energy
conversion and utilization, data for validation of predictive models, and will
stimulate innovations toward optimal wind turbine performance,” Chen says.
Chen adds that Texas A&M-Corpus Christi’s wind
conditions make the campus an ideal location for such a project.
“Typically, we have high-speed winds in the afternoon, so
the wind is in sync with the high power demand the campus experiences during
the daytime,” he explains. “At many other locations across the country, the
needed high-speed winds occur at night outside of the peak-power demand
Dr. Petru Aurelian Simionescu, assistant professor of
Mechanical Engineering, is one of several faculty members providing technical
expertise on the project. He says that
when the project is completed, the University will have the biggest power
generation capacity produced with vertical axis wind turbines of any U.S.
“Corpus Christi is one of the few cities in the nation to
pass an ordinance that allows businesses and
private citizens to install wind turbines on their properties, and the
University is taking the lead on this,” he says.
As part of the installation, a small 4-kilowatt campus wind
turbine, which is mounted on a tilt-up tower, can be lowered horizontally and
opened for inspection and service.
“We can demonstrate its components more closely for
students,” says Simionescu. “They can also conduct measurements of power
output, performance, and rotational speeds.”
The power output and wind conditions
will be monitored throughout the day. The data will be
posted on a website and available to students or others interested in the
“We’re testing new ideas to establish a presence in
renewable energy, especially wind power,” he says. “Plans are in the works to demonstrate
to our students and do research on a variety of sources from wind and solar to
geothermal and ocean wave energy.”
As part of this undertaking, Simionescu is leading students
in the design of a 7-foot diameter horizontal axis dual rotor wind turbine. The group is waiting for interested companies to
license their invention.
Research assistant Adam Ersepke, a mechanical engineering
major, is involved with the project. After serving in the U.S. Marines Corps, he enrolled at Texas
A&M-Corpus Christi in fall 2009.
“I was attracted to the location of the school on the coast,
and the new Mechanical Engineering Program,” he says.
Ersepke says that the new vertical axis wind turbines will
enhance the Mechanical Engineering program,
and help him personally gain knowledge in renewable energy and offshore
technology, which interests him.
“It’s usually windy here in
Corpus Christi,” he says. “And vertical axis wind turbines are more urban
friendly because of their pleasant appearance and less sensitivity to turbulent
wind caused by surrounding buildings.”
In addition to an
array of educational benefits, the wind turbine project will set a shining
example of sustainability for the campus and the Coastal Bend region. The
harvesting of wind energy for power generation will significantly increase the
University’s installed capacity of renewable energy, and greatly reduce its
carbon footprint, saving an estimated $18,000 to $25,000 a year in utility costs. The wind turbines will produce an
estimated 217,946 kilowatt hours of electricity generated from renewable
vertical axis wind turbines that will be installed on campus are the largest of
their kind in the continental United States,” says 3eWerks CEO Byron Loftin.
“The combined total capacity of 92 kilowatts (of all 11 wind turbines) makes
this the largest vertical axis wind turbine installation in the nation.”
The initiative was funded by a $955,000 Distributed
Renewable Energy Technology Stimulus Grant from the State Energy Conservation
Office with the University matching $265,000 in funds, for a total of $1.2
million for the project.
The wind turbines are distributed by 3eWerks, a green
company at the Coastal Bend Business Innovation Center, and manufactured by
Urban Green Energy, the world’s leading manufacturer of vertical axis wind