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Researchers from Old Dominion University's Frank Batten College of Engineering and Technology will participate in a Texas-based project designed to increase the use of wind turbines for the production of electricity in the United States.

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced Monday, June 25, that it was granting $4 million for the development of wind turbine testing facilities in Texas and Massachusetts.

The $2 million that goes to Lone Star Wind Alliance in Texas will help build a facility near Corpus Christi. Oktay Baysal, the dean of the Batten college and professor of aerospace engineering, will direct ODU's participation. The lead member of the alliance is the University of Houston. Seven other universities are involved, most of which are in Texas, as well as several government agencies and energy companies.

DOE also awarded $2 million for development of a similar facility at Boston harbor.

The goal of the facilities is to advance wind turbine technologies for the production of renewable energy. President George W. Bush has announced that he believes wind energy can produce as much as 20 percent of the electricity consumed in the United States. Currently, wind generates less than 1 percent of the nation's electricity. New turbines, utilizing giant blades longer than a football field, could help make a production leap possible, but there are no facilities in the country large enough to test such blades.

Baysal predicted that ODU's involvement in the project could be a boon to the state's renewable energy initiative. One of the missions of the new Virginia Coastal Energy Research Consortium (VCERC), which is headquartered at ODU, is to explore the harnessing of wind energy.

ODU engineers can assist the Texas project in several ways, Baysal said. The school's Langley Full Scale Wind Tunnel, the largest university-operated facility of its kind in the country, has provided ODU engineers with expertise that can be tapped for design and operational tasks. Another asset is the university's Virginia Modeling, Analysis and Simulation Center (VMASC). Baysal said he and other ODU engineers can build computational models of wind turbine prototypes and run virtual tests of them before they are built. Finally, the dean noted his college's overall competencies in aerospace, civil, electrical and mechanical engineering, and the history of cooperation between ODU researchers and NASA.

Baysal also pointed out that Hampton Roads, with its shipbuilding infrastructure and its experience with ship and barge transportation of very large structures and instruments, is a region that could readily adapt to the construction, installation and maintenance of huge offshore turbine towers. He said ODU's strengths in oceanography and physics also would be beneficial to any wind farm that government and industry decide to place along the Virginia coastline.

Both the Texas and Massachusetts facilities are scheduled to open in 2009 and to cost about $20 million apiece. Other development money is coming from governments in Texas and Massachusetts and private industry.

This article was posted on: June 27, 2007

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