Class Studies Wind Power Feasibility
Northern’s introduction to alternative energies class worked with the Superior Watershed Partnership and Marquette Board of Light and Power to determine the feasibility of installing wind power at a preliminary site in Marquette Township. Students recently presented the results to representatives of both entities and information they generated will be included in a report submitted to the state.
Mike Martin’s (Engineering Technology) class is pictured during an October visit to the site. He said students analyzed wind availability based on data from the National Weather Service in Negaunee and found it to be marginal—enough to support a turbine, but not ideal. They completed detailed mapping of the site’s elevation, vegetation, access road placement and potential wind turbine locations. The class also studied ground/soil issues to determine what type of foundation would most effectively support a turbine.
“Other aspects they investigated were social impacts such as noise or visual pollution and zoning issues,” Martin said. “In August, Marquette Township passed a wind turbine ordinance that is quite restrictive for large commercial turbines that BLP is considering. It states that it has to be located at least 3,300 feet from residences and a significant distance from above-ground utility lines. The students discovered that there are homes within that range, so the project would require a variance. Information the class provided indicates issues at this site, but will aid the BLP in evaluating other potential sites.”
Martin heard the Superior Watershed Partnership obtained a grant to study wind power feasibility in the Upper Peninsula and approached its executive director, Carl Lindquist, about the possibility of NMU involvement.
“I was an engineer for 15 years, so I realize anything we can do to get students involved in real-world industry applications will have a huge benefit,” said Martin. “They were asked to complete a report for outside customers and I think that provided more incentive and they took it more seriously. Carl was excited about the results, which might lead to other projects we can help with down the road. And Eric Booth from the BLP was interested in getting video of the presentation to show to his board of directors. The bottom line is that both customers were happy with the students’ report.”
Students in the class represent a variety of majors including construction management, climate control technology, environmental conservation, geographic information services and industrial maintenance.