Snow Bowl Meteorological Study: Exploring Local Renewable Energy potential
Middlebury College is installing a meteorological tower at the college's ski area, the Snow Bowl, in Hancock to assess the potential for producing electricity from wind. It has received a minor amendment to its Act 250 permit for the Snow Bowl in order to install a meteorological (met) tower, southwest of the top of the Worth Mountain chairlift. The meteorological tower design includes several heated and unheated anemometers to generate wind direction and wind speed information on an on-going basis for three years, recording this information into a computerized data logger. In addition, the College will continue to collect data from a separate weather station attached to the ski lift shack at the top of the Worth Mountain chairlift that records temperature, relative humidity, and solar radiation information. College staff from Facilities Management and the Snow Bowl, as well as several students, will erect the tower during the summer of 2003 under the expertise of consultants from Northern Power Systems of Waitsfield, Vermont. Snow Bowl Manager Peter Mackey has been enthusiastic about the potential for development of a local renewable power source and has been a key collaborator in the construction of the wind monitoring tower.
Designed as a temporary structure to be used for academic research, the meteorological tower will enable applied research by numerous students to track a variety of weather conditions and patterns. A senior thesis undertaken by Brian Reilly '03 in the fall of 2002, advised by Physics Professor Rich Wolfson, was instrumental in initiating the project. Additional students will now have the opportunity to monitor wind data, providing a preliminary assessment of the wind production potential of the site as independent research and thesis projects.
The 100-foot (30 meter) tower includes wind directional vanes, and heated and unheated anemometers at several vertical locations on the tower. The slender tower forms an eighteen-inch equilateral triangle and is made of lattice steel. There are three sets of guy wires connecting to the tower that will anchor at three points approximately eighty feet out from the tower. Because lights on towers are sometimes a problem for birds, there will be no lights on this meteorological tower. Other students monitor bird activity in the area though improved design in towers and turbines and increased understanding in what attracts birds to these units has significantly minimized impact to avian species.
In the spring of 2002, an Environmental Studies senior seminar project (ES401) initiated a dialogue on campus about wind energy potential at the Snow Bowl ( Unplug the Snow Bowl ).
Investing in renewable energy sources such as wind would enable the College to reduce its currently heavy dependence on fossil fuel. The College feels that documenting the wind conditions at this site is a responsible next step, particularly for an academic institution, and it is endorsing the senior thesis project as a means of gathering more accurate data about the power production capacity and reliability of the wind energy at the Snow Bowl. The wind monitoring project received financial support from the Environmental Council in the form of a campus Environmental Grant, as well as funding from the Physics Department and the Office of Environmental Affairs. The tower and wind monitoring equipment cost about $10,000. The College hopes to sell the tower upon completion of the study to recap resources for additional alternative energy initiatives.
In siting the meteorological tower, the College was sensitive to the surrounding forestlands and wildlife habitat, the Long Trail section that crosses near the site, the recreational ski trails, and the scenic beauty of the area. Interested parties will be kept informed of the on-going research.