Another innovative initiative is underway to give a boost to the wind energy workforce and keep moving the industry’s technology forward. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and its National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) last Thursday announced the teams selected to take part in the inaugural DOE Collegiate Wind Competition.
The Collegiate Wind Competition is a forum for undergraduate college students of multiple disciplines to investigate innovative wind energy concepts and gain experience designing, building, and testing a wind turbine to perform according to a customized market-data-derived business plan. NREL is facilitating the inaugural competition, which will take place in spring 2014.
In one respect, the competition highlights the continued evolution of wind energy education and workforce development. Interestingly, the competition is an outgrowth of the Wind for Schools program, as six of the 10 selected universities have Wind for Schools Wind Application Centers.
Wind for Schools is DOE’s highly successful initiative under which K-12 schools install distributed wind turbines with the support of university students working through the Wind Application Centers. The turbines provide a virtually endless flow of learning opportunities for the K-12 students (from the science elements of installation to math problems using streaming turbine performance data) as well as for the university students applying their expertise in a real-world setting.
Here are the 10 institutions represented in the inaugural Collegiate Wind Competition; schools that host a Wind Application Center are noted with an asterisk (*):
Boise State University*
California Maritime Academy
Colorado School of Mines
James Madison University (Va.)*
Kansas State University*
Northern Arizona University*
Pennsylvania State University*
University of Alaska – Fairbanks*
University of Kansas
University of Massachusetts – Lowell
Student teams from those universities were selected through a competitive process to compete in the inaugural competition. All the selected institutions committed to formulating an interdisciplinary team and integrating the three principal contests within the competition into students' coursework and senior design projects. The contests are designed to reach students from various engineering and business programs to provide them with engaging, real-world project experience as they prepare to enter the workforce. The selected programs garnered organizational support from their institutions as well as private-sector and community support.
"Wind energy is one of the fastest-growing electrical energy options in the United States, and the industry requires a skilled workforce with talented people from engineering, business, and communications backgrounds. This competition will help attract students from a wide range of disciplines into this exciting industry," DOE Wind Powering America initiative National Director Jonathan Bartlett said.
The theme of the inaugural competition is to design and construct a lightweight, transportable wind turbine that can be used to power small electronic devices. A principal event in the competition involves testing each team's prototype wind turbine in a wind tunnel under specific conditions. Each team's business plan and turbine will also be evaluated against other pre-weighted criteria. The third event of the competition will be a team-to-team debate relating to current wind market drivers and issues.
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