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Virginia Tech Scores Second-Place Honors At Collegiate Wind Competition
June 10, 2019

According to information provided by Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech), the Virginia Tech Wind Turbine Team took second-place honors at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Collegiate Wind Competition held in Boulder, Colorado.

The Virginia Tech Wind Turbine Team tests their small-scale wind turbine at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory during the Collegiate Wind Competition. Teams were scored on five elements, which include designing and fabricating a wind turbine and developing a wind farm siting plan.

The Collegiate Wind Competition, designed to prepare the next generation of workers for a career in the wind industry, tasked 12 university teams from across the United States to research, design, build, and test a fully functional, small-scale wind turbine. The challenges within the competition encouraged students to visualize the full cycle of wind energy production, from financial planning all the way through to construction and deployment.

At a glance, this competition appears to be solely engineering based. However, students from a variety of backgrounds are vital in the success of the team, as key components of the contest are related to finance, project development, public policy, and community outreach.

The competition, held at Colorado’s National Wind Technology Center at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, called for teams to create an effective mechanical, electrical, and aerodynamic wind turbine that can withstand sustained wind speeds up to 45 mph.

Teams were also required to develop an energy cost analysis for the siting plan on a hypothetical utility wind farm, maximizing energy production and balancing environmental and community impacts.

Finally, teams prepared a technical design report that explained how they engineered, built, and tested their wind turbine in advance of the competition.

Matthew Kuester, an assistant research professor in the Kevin T. Crofton Department of Aerospace and Ocean Engineering and the team’s faculty advisor, sees the potential of Virginia’s growing wind energy industry and cultivating the talents of undergraduates as an investment for the future.

“In addition to the Wind Turbine Team, students can learn about wind turbines and wind energy by taking classes featured in the ‘energy and the environment’ track in the aerospace and ocean engineering undergraduate curriculum,” Prof. Kuester explained. “We’re providing students the opportunity to learn about wind energy, both inside and outside of the classroom. I’m very proud of what these students accomplished this year, and I look forward to seeing what our students put together next year.”

Over the course of the four-day competition, six student team members and Prof. Kuester represented Virginia Tech for live testing in an on-site wind tunnel to prove the validity of their design and delivered presentations of their financial plan and technical design report.

Virginia Tech placed second overall, second in tunnel testing, second in technical design, and third in the siting category. The team also won the rules and regulations category for the second year in a row.

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