Wind Study Started in Sewanee

Guest Blog | April 18, 2011 | Energy Policy
Installing anemometers on a communications tower
Duck River EMC employees lifted in the air to install anemometer equipment on a communications tower. SACE photo.

Not everybody gets the opportunity to watch a crane lift people 100 feet in the air and call it work.

I recently had such an opportunity on a trip to Sewanee, Tennessee when two Duck River Electric Membership Corporation employees were hoisted 100 feet in the air to install wind measurement equipment on a communications tower.

Earlier that day, I hauled four anemometers, a wind vane, booms, sensor cables, a data logger, and a tool box over to Sewanee, home of the University of the South and, according to wind resource maps, also home to strong winds.

The process started months ago when I visted Sewanee to meet with the University’s Sustainability Director and representatives from TVA and the local power distributer, Duck River EMC. In our meeting we compared wind maps with university-owned property and picked a location with an unobstructed access to a steady wind stream from the West. Fortunately for us, when we went to look at the chosen site there was already a 110-foot-tall communications tower right there.

Once the department in charge of the communications tower gave permission for us to use the tower for the wind study, we were able to install the wind measurement equipment. Duck River EMC hired Johnson Crane Services to bring a bucket truck with a boom long enough to reach above the tower. Duck River generously agreed to perform the anemometer installation as well.

SACE is able to provide all of the wind measurement equipment on loan to the university through our Tennessee Anemometer Loan Program, a program that was made financially possible through the Department of Energy’s Wind Powering America initiative. We also collect and analyze the data free of charge.

Sewanee anemometer installation. SACE photo.

The equipment placed at the top of the tower sends information to a data logger. The data logger calculates and records the average wind speed and direction for every ten minutes. We plan to collect this data for at least one year.

Once I have the data, I’ll correlate the frequency of the wind speeds with several wind turbine manufacturers’ power curves to determine its generation output. This will show us what each wind turbine would have produced if it had been at the site. I’ll then multiply the electricity generation by TVA’s Generation Partners Program rate for purchasing wind energy generated from small systems, which is currently three cents above the retail electricity rate per kilowatt-hour. The results will help the university make an informed decision on whether wind energy is right for the location.

Snowden Hall
Solar panels on Snowden Hall. SACE photo.

This is just one project the University of the South is focusing on to reduce its carbon footprint. For example, the university has already implemented energy saving control strategies to its Building Automation System and efficient lighting retrofits like switching T12 fluorescent lighting to T8. They also had an alumnus engineer the plans for a 34kW solar panel system on Snowden Hall, installed last fall.

As they say at the University of the South, “Yea, Sewanee’s right!”

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