How do the turbines work?

By on December 8, 2010

“Why doesn’t the middle one spin?” “Do they light up the parking garage?” “Do they actually power anything?” The wind turbines on York Hill generate plenty of questions, but no one seems to have answers that go beyond rumors. To get some answers, the Chronicle sat down with Joseph Rubertone, associate vice president for facilities, and Jonathan Terry, assistant director of facilities for the York Hill campus.

There are 28 wind turbines in total, and they generate 33,000 kilowatt-hours a year. For those of you living at York Hill, you may have noticed that they were taken down for a while and repaired.

“That was because they were not working,” Rubertone said.

The turbines have a mechanism that is similar to car brakes. The brakes make sure the turbines maintain a certain speed and do not spin at the speed of the wind. However, the brakes were rendering the turbines motionless. Quinnipiac called the company who installed them, Alteris Renewables, and they quickly fixed the problem.

Now the turbines can spin faster, up to 400 revolutions per minute. The specific type of turbines at York Hill are made by Mariah Power Windspire and called vertical axis residential turbines. This is opposed to utility-grade turbines that spin horizontally. Utility turbines are typically seen in the West, where the wind speed is more consistent.

What do they power?

Nothing, directly. The turbines are not rigged to sporadic light bulbs on campus. Quinnipiac has an interconnect agreement with the United Illuminating Company; the amount of energy the wind turbines generate is interfaced with the high voltage distribution system and deducted from Quinnipiac’s electrical bill.

Prior to installation, Quinnipiac conducted a 10-month wind study and found the average wind speed over that time to be about 9.4 miles per hour. The turbines will save the university money, Rubertone said, but the payback period for the turbines will be about 10-12 years.

Other ‘green’ plans?

More than 600 photovoltaic solar panels have been installed on the roof of Crescent residential hall; an interconnect agreement is still pending. The panels will generate more than 300,000 kilowatt-hours a year, Rubertone said.

The East View residence hall that will house seniors next year will have geothermal heating and cooling. Adjacent to the building, there are 60 ground wells. Ground temperature is warmer in the winter and will heat the water, and in turn, the building. During the summer, the circulated water underground will aid in providing air conditioning.

Some students may have noticed that more than shuttle buses have been traveling up York Hill. This is due to a landscaping plan focused on restoring the trees lost during the construction of campus.

“York Hill will exhibit all three sources of renewable energy: geothermal heating and cooling, wind and solar power,” Rubertone said. “That is very exciting.”

Photo credit: Zach Abrams

Comments

About Lindsay Roberts

2 Comments

  1. annoyed

    December 12, 2010 at 12:49 pm

    Explain to me how this is considered going green if they actually don’t power anything, and are only used to take money off the electric bill? The same amount of electricity is being used, yet nothing is being powered by them.

  2. are you serious

    December 12, 2010 at 4:05 pm

    They don’t directly power anything. The power goes back into the grid.