A Windy Way to Renewable Energy – Hobart and William Smith Colleges \
The HWS Update

A Windy Way to Renewable Energy

The forecast is that wind turbines will be storming their way through the HWS campus. John Catillaz, a senior majoring in environmental studies and political science, with a minor in economics, is doing his Senior Integrative Experience (SIE) on the economic and environmental feasibility of using wind turbines to create energy on campus. This is part of the Colleges’ participation in the American College & University Presidents Climate Commitment in which the Colleges agreed to produce at least 15 percent of their electricity from renewable sources.

Catillaz has been working with his adviser for the project, Tom Drennen, associate professor of economics and chair of the environmental studies department.

Drennen explained that, at this very moment, HWS are buying electricity from clean wind sources through an outside energy supplier. “However, producing our own energy would leave the campus more money to be spent on such things as academics, scholarships, student’s activities, and building projects, to name a few,” Drennen says.

At present, the project is in the data-collecting stage, with no actual wind turbines installed. An anemometer, which measures wind speed, sits atop the Winn-Seeley gym roof, next to the WEOS radio tower. Catillaz goes up almost every day, depending on the weather conditions, to measure both the wind speed and velocity.

He explains velocity as similar to a string, “Think of the wind as one long string; we are just measuring how long it is, how much of it has gone by. We are trying to find a place that gets the longest ‘string,’ the most wind.” Much of the equipment was supplied, and most of the set-up done, by Assistant Professor of Geoscience David Kendrick.

They have also been testing different kinds of wind turbines. Because of the amount of wind the campus gets, particularly up on the Hill, a rooftop wind turbine was deemed best. However, testing is still being done on several models of rooftop turbines, in order to find the one that is most efficient and financially feasible.

But why wind, and why on the Winn-Seeley roof? At the moment solar technology is very expensive and in this region loses efficiency through snow cover (it won’t produce energy if it’s covered). The Finger Lakes area receives strong enough wind to produce energy on a regular basis and the wind has tested greatest up on the Hill.

Right now, it is too soon to say effectively if and when turbines will be going up on campus. This project will take a year to fully complete and Catillaz says he is only the beginning, “It doesn’t end when I walk across the stage at Commencement.”