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A lot of wind, but no spin
For years, the purpose and function of the York Hill wind turbines has been both questioned and doubted by the Quinnipiac community. This has been investigated many times before, but no direct answers have been given until now.
“They don’t work. When you go up there do you see them turning?” Vice President of Facilities and Capital Planning Sal Filardi asked.
Students alike are aware of the less-than-functional turbines.
“They’re supposed to generate electricity but they don’t actually work,” junior mechanical engineering major Giuseppe Ciaccio said. “I’m almost 100 percent sure they don’t work.”
Shortly after the wind turbines were added to the York Hill campus in 2008, the windmills began to fail. After the technology failed, the Department of Facilities contacted the manufacturers of the turbines. The reason the wind turbines have been almost entirely non-functional since they began to fail is because the manufacturer, Windspire, went bankrupt.
As an engineering student, Ciaccio had an idea about how facilities could go about repairing the broken turbines.
“Depending on what’s actually wrong with them, they could possibly pay engineering students to repair them as a research opportunity,” Ciaccio said.
Unfortunately, the fix is not so easy. The repair is looking more like a replacement for the wind turbines.
“There is no way to fix what we have.” Filardi said. “ So, we are currently looking at replacement technology.”
The company’s technology had reportedly failed in other locations outside of Quinnipiac, according to Filardi.
“(The wind turbines) started to fail relatively early and we were able to get replacement parts for a little while. We fixed a few and then more and more broke and the company went bankrupt,” Filardi said.
More specifically, it was the rotational structure of the turbines that failed. While most of the 28 wind turbines have been locked down, a few still spin, according to Filardi. Even still, the spinning turbines do not produce any power.
“They’re not hooked up (to be) generating any power,” Filardi said.
However, this was not supposed to be the case. The turbines were designed by Centerbrook Architects and Planners, who have designed many other buildings on campus such as the Bobcat Den, Rocky Top Student Center and the Commons Residence Hall.
“The wind turbines are designed to generate 33,000 kilowatt-hours of energy a year,” Associate Vice President for Facilities Operations Keith Woodward said via email. “This is roughly three times the consumption annually for a United States residential utility customer.”
The turbines got back burnered because fixing the windmills was not a crucial repair. Rather than redesigning the windmills, the turbines simply need to be remanufactured and reinstalled, Filardi said.
While other forms of renewable energy, such as photovoltaic panels and fuel cells, have been recommended, facilities continues to push for different methods of renewable energy.
“We’re looking for a wind solution,” Filardi said. “We recently got some new technology that looks kind of promising.”
The new technology will maintain the wind garden’s aesthetically pleasing look, but also come equipped with longevity as there have been advancements made to wind turbine technology. The new technology should ideally last up to five years, rather than failing so quickly as the current design did, Filardi said.
“The fact that the wind turbines currently aren’t working isn’t driving any negative program, ” Filardi said. “It’s not a critical repair.”
Filardi said facilities is still searching for another manufacturer to produce an updated and functional design for the York Hill wind garden.