On behalf of the department of Physics and Engineering, I am happy to announce the start of an exciting project at FSU. Maryland Energy Administration (MEA) is funding a research project to study the feasibility and efficiency of small scale generation units to produce electricity from wind and solar energy at residential level. The main purpose of the project is to develop interdisciplinary curriculum and outreach programs to inform the community about the possibility of harvesting wind and solar energy in Western Maryland.
The external funding provided by MEA will enable us to build a demonstration system of about 4-kW power to supply a small building on FSU campus from a wind turbine and solar panels. This generation unit will be tied to the 120V grid through a two-way energy meter so that any excess energy could be sold back to the electric utility. This system will constitute an example for residents of Western Maryland who would like to build similar generation systems in their homes or farms. We will also develop first-hand experience on technical, economic, environmental, and administrative issues residents might face through the construction and operation of such systems. An interdisciplinary group of faculty and students with diverse background will be involved in various parts of this project.
We have such a great science program at FSU, and I like to see this diversity of research, especially since it gives students hands-on experience and potentially opens the door to graduate/lifetime work.
The chair is talking about solar and wind power on a smaller scale, much like the personal wind turbines and solar panels now being distributed by UK company B & Q.
We've had the big guns for a while now in this area, wind towers reaching over 375 ft. in height with blades close to 100 ft. long. They're a problem for residents who don't want to look at them and conservationists concerned about collisions with fliers like birds and bats. We had (have?) a grad student working on bat mortality/conservation in the face of the huge wind towers dotting mountain ridges in the area.
I wrote an article about the pros and cons of US Wind Force's plan to build hundreds of towers in Western Maryland a few years back:
US Wind Force will construct 25 wind towers on 1,000 acres of Savage Mt, land that has been strip-mined and leased out by local coal companies. The towers will be able to generate enough electricity for over 16,000 homes in the area.
"We're taking useless, resource depleted land and making it productive again," said Joe Trainor, Vice President of US Wind Force.
Trainor expressed that he wanted Western MD to become a hub of manufacture and construction for US Wind Force. That was two years ago, and I haven't seen much work done lately.
Hopefully this research will provide some new opportunities for the area. I e-mailed the chair about doing an article last night; hopefully I have it out by next week.