Formby grant gives wings to wind energy project

January 13, 2011

PLAINVIEW – The Wayland Baptist University School of Math and Sciences will soon delve into a new area of teaching thanks to a $20,000 grant from the Formby Foundation. The grant will fund the purchase of two wind turbines and data-logging computer equipment that the school will use as a teaching focal point for environmental sciences, geology, physics and engineering, as well as other science and math applications.

              Dr. Randy Craig, who teaches biology at Wayland, has been working with wind turbines and wind energy for years. Along with Dr. Herbert Grover, Dean of the School of Math and Sciences, Craig developed a proposal for using the turbines as teaching tools for students who will find the wind energy marketplace as a viable job option upon graduation.

              “We felt that these are ideally suited for educational purposes,” Grover said. “Students will conduct research projects to study everything from design parameters to efficiency and yield.”

              Craig said the turbines are small residential designs that will be about 10 feet in diameter and sit on towers approximately 16 feet above the highest point of the Moody Science Building. Engineers are currently looking at the building and the tower designs to determine the safest way to anchor the turbines to the building. Craig said the lattice-work towers provide little resistance and the weight for the towers and turbines is about 200 pounds. He also said the towers are designed to be lowered easily so students can work on one turbine while the other is running.

              Students will conduct research by changing the parameters, blade designs and other components, then collect data on the turbine’s output. Craig said the turbines will also be plugged into the power grid and while they are not powerful enough to make a significant difference in the school’s energy usage, they will use wind energy to power the greenhouse.

              “Since we have a new environmental sciences degree, we decided to incorporate renewable energy into those courses,” Craig said. “When students leave here they will have a general knowledge of wind generation systems.”

              Craig, who constructs the generators by adapting a proven Scottish design and updating it with American parts, has three such generators powering his home. He tries to keep two of them running at all times and said two-thirds of his total power usage comes from wind energy.

              Craig and Grover will construct the intricate parts of the turbines, but the students will be responsible for assembling the systems. Work will begin this semester and Grover hopes the turbines will be fully operations by next fall.