University of Iowa and Kirkwood team up for wind measurement project

Data sets would allow researchers to assess how well the design of the turbine works

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The University of Iowa is partnering with Kirkwood Community College in Cedar Rapids for a research project that aims to gather wind data for research and teaching purposes at both colleges.

A three-man crew of licensed professionals spent most of Friday scaling up a 350 foot guyed tower on the Kirkwood Community College Campus, near the intersection of Kirkwood Boulevard and Tower Road, to install seven sensors to collect the data.

The wireless, solar-powered sensors, which were being attached to the tower are designed to measure wind speed, wind direction, temperature and pressure. That data then feeds back into a computer stored on-site, which will be made available to the public on a website.

The guyed tower -- which is typically used to support antennas for broadcast and telecommunications --  is located about 300 meters away from a wind turbine on Kirkwood's campus, which has its own internal data collection system.

"If the wind direction is correct, the wind going through the tower will hit the turbine, or the wake of the turbine will hit the tower," said Pablo Carrica, associate professor of mechanical and industrial engineering and associate faculty research engineer at IIHR, who was on site overseeing the installation on Friday.

Though the tower is owned and operated by Kirkwood, the UI is renting space on it to use the monitoring equipment. The sensors will remain on the tower for up to four years.

The data being collected is unique because those involved will have access to both data collected by the sensors on the tower, as well as data collected within the wind turbine itself -- which is typically kept private.

The combination of those two data sets would allow researchers to assess how well the design of the turbine works, and whether it has been placed in an appropriate site. The data will be available to both undergraduate students -- who will use it for projects and assignments in classes -- and the public.

The project is part of Iowa EPSCoR --  the Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research -- which is designed to improve the research capacity of eligible states or regions to make them nationally competitive for future grants.

Iowa received a $20 million, five-year grant from the National Science Foundation in 2011. The money is intended to help build Iowa's research capacity in the areas of renewable energy and energy efficiency. The research program focuses on the four platforms of wind energy, bio-energy, energy utilization and energy policy.

The wind monitoring project is part of the wind energy platform, which will conduct research with the goal of improving the reliability of wind turbines.

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