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On a cool, damp Monday morning, six students tromp through an open field carrying a 20-ft metal pole equipped with wind cups, a directional vane and a memory card. With one big heave, the pole is secured in the ground, and the students celebrate an accomplishment months in the making.
"This is so exciting," Emily Conrad '11 says, still clinging to the pole as her classmates fasten cables that will keep it from moving. "I've been looking forward to this all year." The six students - Conrad, sophomore Stephanie Blennerhassett and seniors Eric-Dooley-Feldman, Tyler Dunham, Michael Seager and Patrick Wallace - are completing an independent study to determine the feasibility for a potential wind turbine on campus that could plug into the College's power grid.
"The first phase of the project was to use handheld monitors to measure wind speed and direction in several locations around campus and to compare the data we recorded to the wind data from the Groton-New London airport to determine predictability," Wallace said.
Installing the 20-foot wind-monitoring towers, which record wind speed and direction, is the second step in the process, Wallace said. The first was installed in a field adjacent to the Williams School parking lot and near the College's historic steel house. The second is located next to the flag pole near the College's main entrance.
"The hope is that we could eventually have a 60-foot wind turbine on campus," said Doug Thompson, a professor of geology in the department of physics, astronomy and geophysics, who is overseeing the independent study with physics professor Michael Monce and with the help of senior lecturer Beverly Chomiak.
The students say not only would a turbine generate energy; it could inspire others to consider using wind power.
"Our idea is that with the data we are collecting, we can create a Web site about what you need to know about wind speed and direction if you are interested in using a wind turbine to power your home," Thompson said.
Watch the WTNH Channel 8 News story about the turbine study project.