S.J. Wind Farm?

Wind turbines could one day spin on the West campus.

You can't see it, can't always hear it, but winds sweeping across the rolling fields of Rowan's West campus may one day be caught by towering turbines and harnessed to run buildings and machinery.

While the placement of one or more turbines out near the South Jersey Technology Park is anything but certain, a wind gauge hoisted on a 30-meter tower there December 4 is measuring every breeze, gust and gale and, if it registers enough, one or more windmills could be constructed.

Jess Everett, a Rowan professor of Environmental Engineering, said the wind gauge, or anemometer, will remain atop the tower for about a year, measuring and recording wind velocity.

Dr. Everett said a similar device placed by Rowan students and faculty at the Jersey Shore town of Sea Girt until recently recorded good, consistent wind patterns, possibly enough to justify a multi-million dollar turbine.

"We crunched the data and it is feasible," Dr. Everett said of the Sea Girt site.

He said wind data collected from that site has been turned over to a company that specializes in wind farm development and officials from it will further analyze the results.

A scheme to go green

Rowan Engineering faculty have long embraced the development of Earth-friendly technologies that produce energy without exacerbating climate change.

For example, Rowan faculty and students designed and built a photovoltaic energy source for the roof of the Samuel H. Jones Innovation Center at the Tech Park. Rowan faculty and students also helped produce a preliminary design and feasibility assessment for a solar field that the Mount Laurel Municipal Utilities Authority built this year. And, in 2009, Dr. Beena Sukumaran, an associate professor of civil and environmental engineering, and her students helped design a bicycle-powered grain crusher to improve the lives of people in developing nations.

In addition to Dr. Everett, Engineering professors William Riddell, Peter Jansson, and Krishan Bhatia are also involved in the anemometer study at the tech park.

The study, which forms the basis for an engineering clinic, involves five Rowan students who not only erected the anemometer tower but will be monitoring its data throughout the coming year.

Megan Frankle, 20, a junior electrical and computer engineering major from Wharton, said her involvement in the clinic is enabling her to apply lessons from civil engineering classes to a real-world problem.

"I feel it's our job as engineers to try to halt the human effect on global warming," Frankle said.

Junior mechanical engineering major Jeff Ouko, 23, of Willingboro, said he's excited about the Rowan wind study whether or not a windmill or wind farm is one day built at the site.

"The more research we do the more viable wind as an energy source will be," he said.

Dr. Riddell said existing wind maps suggest that Glassboro - the highest point in Gloucester County - may or may not be ideal for a turbine or wind farm.

"Based on the wind maps, Glassboro is just shy of what you would want to put up a turbine," Dr. Riddell said. "However, the wind maps aren't too detailed in this area, and the small local hill (near the Tech Park) is just the sort of geography that has given us pleasant surprises in the past."

He said because the maps show Glassboro has borderline wind conditions it is actually perfect for a detailed wind study.

"If you know you have great wind you would just put a turbine up," Dr. Riddell said. "Once we get site specific wind speeds from the anemometer we will take a look at a few different sizes of turbines to see if anything makes sense."