Program tests wind power potential

ARKANSAS - A new program to test the potential of various sites around Arkansas for their use as wind power generating stations will be carried out as a partnership between a university and the state.

The Arkansas Economic Development Commission and John Brown University in Siloam Springs are teaming up for the project. Landowners will be able to borrow test equipment to see if their property has enough breeze to make it worth putting up wind turbines.

The energy office of the Economic Development Commission, paid $47,000 for four anemometers, covered in party by a $25,000 grant from the U.

S. Energy Department. Anemometers measure wind speed, direction and duration.

Renewable energy students at John Brown University will begin loaning out the 111-feet-tall anemometers in August.

Students will track the instruments' readings for a year, determining whether the wind is strong enough to propel turbines to power nearby buildings.

"A good turbine that you can be confident will work in the long-term can cost tens of thousands of dollars," said Jenny Ahlen, renewable energy programs coordinator for the Arkansas Energy Office. "It makes sense that people want to collect all of the data they can before they make an investment like that."

Similar programs have been developed in 23 states.

Calvin Piston, chairman of John Brown's natural sciences division, said the partnership will provide students a practical way to study their subject matter. The school is launching a major in renewable energy, and 15 students are to enroll in the course of study for the fall. They are to learn about wind, solar and biomass applications.

"It's something people are thinking about now," Piston said. "Still, right now in Arkansas electricity's pretty cheap. How long it will remain cheap is another question."


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