Iowa State once again part of wind energy movement with turbine

The new wind turbine on the northeast side of campus had to be placed in an area with nothing within 160 feet of it. This requirement is set so the turbine will not damage property if it falls over at the base.

Frances Myers

People entering campus from the northeast may have noticed a new structure which was not in place when school let out for winter break in December.

Over break, Iowa State installed a 160-foot wind turbine in another eco-friendly effort to do its part in using renewable energy.

David Miller, associate vice president of facilities planning and management, said he had wanted to participate in bringing wind energy to Iowa State for the past couple of years.

“It was a matter of pulling together the resources to be able to do it,” Miller said. “We finally took some year-end money, so we pulled together some money from a variety of sources and actually partnered our utilities system with our facilities people to share in the funding to put the wind turbine in.”

Miller said that a typical wind turbine would have cost the university approximately $530,000. However, after some investigation, they managed to find a deal which would cut these costs significantly.

“We are providing a small amount of money to the contractor up front, and then we agreed to buy all the wind power from them,” Miller said. “So that brought the price down. So we actually invested only $250,000; and then we’re paying them for the power we’re going to get off the unit, and that’s a better economical deal for everybody.”

Randolph Larabee, assistant director of utilities, was the project manager. He said the project was set in motion last June with the university taking bids from companies in July.

The contracts were signed at the beginning of October 2012, with construction beginning immediately after Thanksgiving.

The turbine was officially installed Dec. 17-19, 2012. Miller said due to the possibility of federal wind energy credits not being renewed, the supplier wanted to get the turbine installed and operational before Dec. 31, 2012.

“If they had not done that, they would have lost a lot of tax credits, which would have changed the finances significantly,” Miller said. 

“As it is, the units showed up with the trucks and the cranes on the 17th of December, and by the end of the working day on Wednesday the 19th, it was operational, which was just before the big snow storm.”

Larabee said a number of varying factors went into choosing the location for the turbine. 

“Mostly, there are a combination of things that you have to deal with in choosing the site for a wind turbine,” Larabee said. “You have to have a place where you can connect it electrically into the grid; you have to put it in a location where there’s no buildings around it.”

The turbine is 160 feet tall, so it must be in a location where no other permanent structures, such as buildings, are within 160 feet of it. This way, if it were ever to fall over at the base, there would be no other permanent structures for it to fall on and damage.

This is not Iowa State’s first endeavor to embrace renewable energy in the form of wind energy.

“[This project] was done more as a demonstration project, and also to show that Iowa State is interested in wind energy,” Larabee said. 

“Most people don’t know that we do buy some of our electricity off of a wind farm that’s out here in northeast Story County. So this just gave us a wind turbine that was also on campus. So we wanted to put it on campus in a visible location.”

Iowa State also was approved for a new wind energy Master’s program in Sept. 2012, by the Board of Regents. Miller said he has already received a couple of requests from the program to gather information from the turbine.

The university is currently working on creating a website designed to allow people who are interested to view electricity being produced, in addition to other information relevant to the wind turbine. Miller said the university will notify the public when the website is up and running.