|Granholm Visits Campus for Energy Talk
February 21 , 2007
A Calvin College engineering professor and six students presented a seminar on wind energy to a very special guest on February 20 at the college's Bunker Interpretive Center.
Michigan governor Jennifer Granholm, who has made alternative and renewable energy a focus for her administration, sat front and center as professor Matt Heun and his students walked Granholm through recent Calvin efforts to harness the power of the wind, including a grant from the state of Michigan to install a demonstration turbine on Calvin's campus.
"We take our mandate to be stewards of creation very seriously," said Heun to begin the approximately 20-minute presentation. The fulfillment of that mandate, he went on, involves working on sustainable technologies.
Indeed the roof above the governor's head is a vivid demonstration of that commitment to sustainability with its photovoltaic system that partially powers the Bunker Interpretive Center. And the center itself (one of very few LEED gold certified buildings on a college campus) is also an example of Calvin's recent work on sustainability.
Calvin's demonstration turbine will be put into place this spring and could generate up to two kilowatts of energy for the Bunker Center. Heun said that's a relatively small amount, but adds that the purpose of the demonstration turbine is to provide both an example, and perhaps, a little inspiration.
"Most times the turbine will produce less than two kilowatts of power," he said, "because of the wind speeds that are typical around here. But even at half that (two kilowatt) output the turbine would produce enough power to run a half dozen or so compact flourescent bulbs and all of the computers in the Bunker Center. So it will have educational benefits and make a real contribution to our power supply."
After Heun's remarks a sextet of students all sketched out a different portion of the demonstration turbine project for Granholm.
Senior Jordan Beekhuis described the history of the Wind Energy Interest Group at Calvin, a student group that was kick-started by engineering professor Paulo Ribeiro in the autumn of 2005 to study the feasibility of wind energy and to serve as a catalyst for other campus discussions on sustainable technologies.
He spoke about the Christian mandate to care for this creation, and about the obligation his generation feels to serve as leaders in finding solutions. He also noted that one of the serious challenges faced by his group was counteracting the misinformation people have heard regarding wind energy.
In response to a Granholm query about common misunderstandings, Beekhuis noted that avian fatalities because of the turbines is one common concern (such fatalities are very rare Beekhuis said), while noise pollution is another issue for people.
Beekhuis worked in Canada for two summers with a company that's planning to open a 10-megawatt wind farm in Ontario.
Senior Rob Lindquist spoke about Heun's Engineering 333 class, called "Thermal Fluid Systems Design," a class that inherited part of the wind energy mantle in the fall of 2006 when the engineering department landed a $6,000 grant from the Energy Office of the State of Michigan. The class divided into five teams to tackle the project of bringing wind energy to Calvin.
They faced a whole range of challenges. "The main one was the budget," Linquist said. "I know the feeling," Granholm quipped to audience laughter.
Another significant challenge, Lindquist said, was a setting for the project. He showed, via a map of the Calvin campus, the intended location of the demonstration turbine which will stand between the ecosystem preserve and the Gainey Athletic Facility on the east side of the college campus.
The class was excited, he said, that the wind energy interest group, which is responsible for implementing the state of Michigan grant, adopted so many of their recommendations.
Senior LeAnne Bock talked about the external relations issues presented by the project, among them neighbor concerns about noise levels and environmental effects. A 12-month zoning variance will allow the college to collect data after installation, she said. In May 2008 Calvin will return to the zoning board with information on noise levels and environmental effects.
The tendency of the wind to slow once it travels inland from the Great Lakes was a consideration in choosing the actual turbine for the demonstration project, a 1.8 kilowatt southwest windpower Skystream 3.7 from Earth Solar Group said senior Lucas DeJonge. Another advantage for purchasing the turbine from Earth Solar Group was the educational discount offered by the company.
Junior Jordan Wanner talked about the tower on which the turbine will stand. His group selected a monopole because, of the designs available, it had the smallest environmental footprint and its design was aesthetically pleasing.
Senior Dan Prince rounded out the student presentation. His role on the infrastructure team, he said, was to connect this turbine to the outside world, using a concession stand at the Gainey Athletic Fields as a connection site.
Concluding the presentation, Heun told the governor, "We're hoping that you've been able to get a sense that learning opportunities abound here. We're educating tomorrow's leaders for new technologies."
Granholm praised the enterprising nature of the wind energy demonstration project and said it lined up well with Michigan's goals to establish new technologies. "You're probably aware that this is an area as a state that we should be capitalizing on," she said. "This state can be a magnet state for both wind and solar industries."
Granholm also praised Calvin's faith-based emphasis on stewardship: "I'm so pleased to hear that undergirds what you're doing here because that is so critical." she said. "Thank you so much for your leadership on this."
~Images by freelance photographer John Corriveau; video by Calvin videographer Steve Niedzielski; words by Calvin media relations director Phil de Haan and Calvin staff writer Myrna Anderson; layout and design by Calvin web manager Luke Robinson.
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