Wind Energy REU students visit Cape Cod

Date Posted: 
Friday, August 5, 2016

This year’s wind energy REU program started off in June with a 3-day fieldtrip to Cape Cod. 12 students attended along with IGERT faculty member Curt Griffin and IGERT project coordinator Jody Lally.  First stop on Monday, June 8th was at the Aeronautica Windpower turbine manufacturing facility in Bristol, RI.  Host Brian Kuhn, Aeronautica Wind Founder and Director of Development, gave the students a tour of the facility as well as an introductory talk about wind energy and offshore wind development.

That afternoon we met with Harbormaster Ed Washburn at the New Bedford Harbor Development Commission for a talk followed by a boat trip to view the offshore wind marine commerce terminal.

Thursday was devoted to a trip to the Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge to learn about shorebird monitoring and habitat preservation.

Friday’s schedule included a visit to Joint Base Cape Cod with a tour of wind turbines and the groundwater treatment plant, hosted by Doug Karson, Community Involvement Lead, Joint Base Cape Cod Air Force Civil Engineer Center.

We also visited the Falmouth Wind Turbines to learn about siting and public support issues and public with Megan Amsler, Director Cape & Islands Self-Reliance Corp. and founder of the Falmouth Energy Committee.

The fieldtrip concluded with a visit to the Mass Maritime Academy in Buzzard's Bay to learn about their sustainable campus, including a wind turbine. Host was Kathy Driscoll, Environmental Health and Safety Officer.

Here are two of the students’ impressions of the fieldtrip:

“It was truly amazing to be able to see wind energy really come alive after studying it so intensely for the past year. It was really eye-opening to not only understand the engineering behind turbines, but to also see first-hand the social, political, and economic issues that surround the implementation of wind energy. The trip really made me see wind energy in a multi-dimensional and complex way and only increased my interest in studying it more.”  Jeanie Aird

“The field trip certainly enhanced the overall REU experience I am fortunate enough to partake of this summer. It is one thing to learn about wind turbines in the classroom or conduct experimental research on certain aspects of a turbine, but to see them up close, and even go inside them (as we were able to do at Joint Base Cape Cod and Mass Maritime Academy) gives you a different perspective. They are massive structures, yet in their natural surroundings they evoke a sense of tranquility and beauty. Although I am currently in school studying mechanical engineering, the most interesting part of the trip for me was discussing the issues stemming from NIMBY and how small special interest groups can have such a large impact on the success of a project. Research is being performed to improve each aspect of the structure of a wind turbine, but it is just as important that we learn, through social science research, how best to involve the community to ensure that projects are successfully implemented. Otherwise, as we saw within the town of Falmouth, misinformation can spread, chaos ensues, and a town is left to pay installments on a turbine that is blocked from being put in use”.   Bridget Benner