The Wind Energy Research Program (WERP): Design and Construction of a Wind Turbine to Facilitate Education and Research in Sustainable Technologies

EPA Grant Number: SU831890
Title: The Wind Energy Research Program (WERP): Design and Construction of a Wind Turbine to Facilitate Education and Research in Sustainable Technologies
Investigators: Pardyjak, Eric , Klewicki, Joe , Meek, Sanford
Current Investigators: Pardyjak, Eric , Banks, Joshua , Binger, Chris , Gamer, Steven , Gleason, Stuart , Homel, Mike , Jones, Ben , Klewicki, Joe , Meek, Sanford , Nelson, Jared , Petrogeorge, Manouso David , Pratt, Casey , Scott, Kevin , Stout, Jeremy , Whitaker, Sam , Whitney, Nick
Institution: University of Utah
EPA Project Officer: Nolt-Helms, Cynthia
Phase: I
Project Period: September 30, 2004 through May 30, 2005
Project Amount: $10,000
RFA: P3 Awards: A National Student Design Competition for Sustainability Focusing on People, Prosperity and the Planet (2004) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: P3 Challenge Area - Energy , Pollution Prevention/Sustainable Development , P3 Awards , Sustainability


The United States currently generates a majority of its electrical power from finite natural resources: an unsustainable practice. The Wind Energy Research Program (WERP) seeks to expand knowledge and awareness of wind power while further decreasing the cost of implementation.


The WERP is working to implement a wind research program at the University of Utah using a modular wind turbine test bed. Individual components including blades, pitch control hub, gearbox, and generator may be replaced with experimental elements without altering the remainder of the turbine. This unique feature permits a direct comparison of technologies and enables exploration of the following innovative research components: (1) a passive, continuously variable transmission that accommodates the changing rotor speeds generated in variable winds while maintaining a constant generator frequency for utility grid connection; (2) a variable inertia flywheel, designed to store excess wind energy in unstable conditions, offers extremely low start-up inertia for use in low and inconsistent wind conditions; and (3) a streamlined tower cowling stabilizes aerodynamic loads, prolonging turbine life. In addition, a turbine site selection study will explore and model local wind conditions to optimize energy production potential.

These novel developments increase the viability of wind energy for developing nations by simplifying turbine design, removing reliance on a central power grid, and expanding the range of wind speeds in which the turbine operates. Communities in industrialized nations also benefit from a wider deployment of inexpensive wind turbines in regions with marginal wind resources. The proposed wind turbine research increases prosperity by enabling power generation in locations with previously insufficient wind resources, assists the people in isolated and disadvantaged communities, and benefits the planet by relying on a sustainable energy source rather than an extraction based system.

Results are easily quantified in comparative experiments. With the modular wind turbine test bed, the relative energy production of a traditional system and an experimental assembly can be tested without altering any other components. Implementation will follow publication of successful results. The Wind Energy Research Program showcases the P3 concepts throughout the education process by exposing students to sustainable technologies, and by increasing public consciousness of renewable energy sources. The modular wind turbine test bed serves as a model in fluid mechanics and alternative energy classes offered within the engineering department as well as across campus. As research on innovative components continues through future departmental and independent foundation funding, the wind program will highlight sustainable, socially and ecologically conscious development and design for future engineers.

Supplemental Keywords:

air, balance, clean, cost benefit, decision-making, earth, energy, engineering, environment, friendly, future, green, hope, innovative technology, political balance, protection, public-policy, renewable, science, southwest, sustainable development, technologies, technology., RFA, Scientific Discipline, INTERNATIONAL COOPERATION, Sustainable Industry/Business, POLLUTION PREVENTION, cleaner production/pollution prevention, Sustainable Environment, Energy, Technology for Sustainable Environment, Ecology and Ecosystems, Environmental Engineering, energy conservation, cleaner production, sustainable development, energy efficiency, energy technology, wind mapping, wind energy, wind turbine

Relevant Websites:

WERP website Exit
Project Description

Progress and Final Reports:

  • Final Report