The Wind Energy Research Center (WERC) at the University of Wyoming finally has a wind turbine of its own.
Erected in the final months of 2012 by a group of UW professors and students, WERC’s research tower stands tall in a field off Highway 230 west of Laramie, a few miles down the road from the Cliff and Martha Hansen livestock Teaching Arena. The small-scale machine, dwarfed by the massive commercial turbines that freckle the high plains of Wyoming, will be used to enhance a pair of research projects aimed at improving UW’s future contributions to an industry in its infancy.
But the tower wouldn’t be upright without Melinda Kolm, a first-year civil engineering master’s student from Berthoud, Colo., who worked with her UW professors on the structural design of the foundation. “There’s a lot of steel in that hole,” Kolm says as she shows a picture of the foundation site that she snapped with her cell phone. The shallow foundation was reinforced with steel and then solidified with concrete to ensure the tower remains in its upright position.
“We made it pretty robust,” she adds.
So it won’t topple on itself?
“Don’t say that!” says Kolm, breaking into a nervous laugh. “I’ve had nightmares about that!”
WERC researchers will use the turbine to test bend-twist coupled blades that are being designed and built on the Laramie campus and to study tower deflections during use with hopes of improving performance and lowering operation costs.
Learn more about UW’s Wind Energy Research Center.