Energy Savings Are in the Air
Until a number of key technological and economic challenges are solved, the promise of fuel cells will remain largely in the future. Other alternate forms of energy, most notably wind power, are making significant inroads today. According to the American Wind Energy Association, wind generating capacity in the United States increased 27 percent in 2006, to 11,603 megawatts (enough to serve nearly 3 million homes), and should grow by a similar percentage in 2007.
A team of WPI undergraduates recently helped a local school take a major step toward installing what may be the first power-generating wind turbine in Worcester. An Interactive Qualifying Project, completed by, from left, Hans Jensen, Tyler Forbes, Adam Young, and Brian Foley (all members of the Class of 2007) and advised by Alex Emanuel, professor of electrical and computer engineering, helped Holy Name Central Catholic Junior/Senior High School on Vernon Hill in Worcester determine that it could save millions in annual energy costs by installing a 600-kilowatt wind turbine. The project was recently co-winner of first prize in the annual President's IQP Awards.
The students went beyond proving the feasibility of the wind turbine. Over the course of two years, they attended regional conferences on alternative energy to network with experts and learn more about the topic, and they worked to obtain necessary city permits, state grants, and federal aviation approval with the assistance of Holy Name administrators and politicians, including U.S. Congressman James McGovern. In the end, their research helped the school secure a $575,000 grant last fall from the Massachusetts Renewable Energy Trust, managed by the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative.
"We couldn't have done this without the WPI students," says Holy Name headmaster Mary Riordan. "WPI should be so proud of those students. They did such an outstanding job, and they are as committed as I am to this alternative form of energy."
Notes Professor Emanuel, "I have been at WPI since 1978, and this was the most rewarding and best academic project I have been involved with. This project could be a bonanza for the city of Worcester."