Penn State is one of 10 universities granted the opportunity to compete in the U.S. Department of Energy's Collegiate Wind Competition this year. The team of students is challenged to build the next generation wind turbine, specifically a portable turbine that can be used to power small electronic devices.
The fact that Penn State was chosen shouldn't be much of a surprise. Pennsylvania is active in developing renewable resources and has significant potential with wind energy. The Natural Resources Defense Council reports Pennsylvania has an estimated 3,307 megawatts of wind energy as a resource. So far the state has only developed 750 megawatts through several wind farms. With expansive room to grow its wind production, it's no wonder the DOE is taking an active role.
Penn State could very well be at the forefront of a renewable energy future. The university offers several wind energy courses and is in the process of developing graduate level certification in wind energy engineering. The school also operates a small field test facility for wind turbine research with plans to install a larger system.
As far as the competition goes, students must create a lightweight, transportable turbine prototype, which will be tested in a wind tunnel. It will be judged based on performance, reliability, durability and operational safety.
In addition, each team must create a business plan that represents the prototype, consisting of information on its cost and market deployment viability. The DOE will also make its judgment based on creativity.
The final step of the competition is a head-to-head debate. Topics will cover current wind energy issues and market conditions, and teams will be evaluated based on their knowledge of the industry and their communication ability.
Each team has a year to plan, construct and test their prototype before the competition in the spring of 2014. When it's all said and done, the team with the highest overall score will have its turbine featured at the Department of Energy in Washington, D.C.