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Let There Be Wind

By Traci O’Dea

On a Friday afternoon in October, I traveled from my office among the green, rambling hillsides of the H. Lavity Stoutt Community College main campus over to the tradewinds-swept coast of the campus’s new Culinary Arts Centre. When I arrived at the roundabout in front of the Center, the area was abuzz—literally with the sound of a circular hand saw cutting through a striated steel wire which sent orange sparks in a plume, and figuratively with a hive of students, administrators, faculty, consultants, observers, and press who all displayed interest in the latest technology being erected on campus—a wind monitor.

“We’re installing a wind monitor to see if we have enough wind here to actually put up a wind turbine,” HLSCC student Ajahni Lockhart told me. Ajahni and others are part of the college’s new Renewable Energy Club (REC). The Club has been active on campus since June with projects such as a pilot solar project at the Centre for Applied Marine Studies which has the intent, according to the College, “to provide HLSCC with a solar power demonstration system geared towards education and training.”

New this semester is a one-credit course where students “get involved, talk about energy, oil, wind, coal, what is viable for the BVI, and what are other options,” said Jacco Bos, managing director of Alternative Energy Systems (AES), the renewable energy partners in the REC. “This is a hands-on project because everybody can do something,” he added, referring to the new wind monitor.

As HLSCC president Dr Karl Dawson helped a group of students and faculty expand the approximately 50-foot long telescoping pole that would hold the wind-speed meter, Jacco Bos explained the logistics of the device. “It’s not unlike a boat wind meter,” he said. “It measures wind direction and gauges wind speeds with meters at two different heights.” The meters then send the information to an SD card inside a solar-powered data logging device at the base of the monitor. The monitor will be up for six months to a year to record wind data at the site.

“What the students learn from this is maintenance—this will need to be maintained as do our other projects—and economics—this energy is worth x compared to the investment, and then they’ll determine the payback,” said Bos.

“It just seems like a better alternative than using petrol because our electric bills are pretty high, and this is our way to reduce them,” club member Mikey Joseph said.

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Soon the group rallied around the pole, making adjustments, attaching the steel anchor wires and wind speed meters, and tying down the data chord with zip ties. AES Director of Operations Dana Miller secured the pole in the base bolt while a group of five club members, including Dr Dawson, hoisted the pole up to its full height. HLSCC student Chris Brockbank, along with other club members, helped secure some of the anchor wires as the group adjusted the pole to ensure that it was straight, upright and centered.

The group hopes to erect a grid-tie wind turbine at the site, where the breeze seemed constant the whole time I was there, reinforced by the clanging of boat lines at the nearby hurricane hole at Paraquita Bay. The college’s press release summed up the next steps in the process, steps possibly leading toward energy independence for the BVI: “Ultimately, the data collected will be sent to wind turbine manufacturers to get estimates of energy production…club members will conduct a cost benefit analysis to include the costs to install a wind turbine at the site and payback time. The results of this study will then be passed on to the relevant stakeholders for a decision on whether to install a wind turbine.” Visitors are welcome to stop by the new Culinary Arts Centre in Paraquita Bay to check out the wind monitor.

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