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Middlebury College receives $22,500 grant for wind energy system

May 11, 2005

May 11, 2005

Middlebury College has received a $22,500 grant from the United States Department of Energy to construct a wind turbine.  The project is part of an initiative that will assist the State of Vermont as it explores the technology necessary for wind-generated electricity.  The Vermont Department of Public Service (DPS) will administer the grant.  The college will provide matching funds to complete the project, which will include collecting information on available wind resources, offering educational outreach, and assessing the value of net-metering for Vermont schools.  Net-metering is a technology that allows small energy producers to feed their unused power back to their commercial suppliers for credit on their accounts.

"This grant will help the college make progress in accomplishing its carbon reduction goals," said Bob Huth, vice president of administration and treasurer of Middlebury College. "The educational opportunities related to wind energy that the grant creates will benefit both the college and the larger Vermont community.  We're very encouraged by it."
Once the net-metering permit has been approved by the Vermont Public Service Board in June, the college will hire Vermont Green Energy Systems of East Middlebury to construct a wind turbine on the western edge of campus.  The $45,000 wind energy project is slated to begin construction in mid-June.  Upon completion in early September 2005, the turbine will be open to the public.  Area schools will be invited to tour the turbine facility, and the data it collects will be available for schools to include in curricula on renewable energy.
"The installation of this wind turbine will be part of the 40th anniversary celebration of our environmental studies program," said Middlebury College Director of Environmental Affairs Nan Jenks-Jay.  "It reflects the college's commitment not only to environmental education and research, but to its sustainable campus program as well."

Waitsfield-based Northern Power Systems, which designs, builds and installs flexible onsite and integrated power systems, assisted with the development of Middlebury College's turbine project.  To be located at the site of the campus' recycling facility, the turbine will be connected to the college grid, offsetting the college's use of electric power from Central Vermont Public Service.  The Middlebury College Recycling Center will use as much of the wind-powered electricity as it needs for operation at any given time.  Electricity not utilized by the center will be fed through the grid and used elsewhere on campus.  According to Mike Moser, assistant director of the college's facilities management department, the proposed wind turbine will produce more than 8,000 kilowatt hours per year-roughly equivalent to the annual energy consumption of a home powered entirely by electricity.

Moser links the college's wind turbine project to its carbon reduction initiative.  "Every kilowatt-hour generated by wind instead of fossil fuel prevents air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions," he said.  "We need to be exploring this technology."

Middlebury College students participating in the wind energy project will provide guided visits to the turbine for local schools, and develop a Web page where data on its wind-generated electricity will be published and regularly updated.   According to Amy Seidl, an associate in science instruction at the college, there is a growing interest among students in wind technology.

"My students have already begun to define research projects that will focus on seasonal and wind parameter differences in electricity generation, as well as service-learning investigations of the potential economic benefit for farmers in the Champlain Valley," she said.

The DPS has administered federal funds for other wind energy projects in the state, including wind mapping and measurement projects, a wind system for the state at the Alburg Welcome Center, and the Vermont Environmental Research Associates' meteorological tower on Lake Champlain.

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