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Agricultural Research Service Has Wind PowerBy Don Comis
August 2, 2006
Texas has moved into first place in the United States for wind power production, with help from the Agricultural Research Service (ARS). The research agency also has helped Minnesota become one of the top 10 wind-powered states in the country.
Nolan Clark oversees the wind power research done by engineers in the ARS Renewable Energy and Manure Management Research Unit at Bushland, Texas, while Abdullah Jaradat oversees wind research at the ARS North Central Soil Conservation Laboratory in Morris, Minn.
At Bushland, ARS scientists built a computer system that seamlessly links wind power with a diesel generator and solar power. This hybrid system switches as needed between power sources without interruption in providing electricity to the power grid.
The Texas scientists are working with the Alaska Energy Authority and the Alaska Village Electric Cooperative to bring this systemminus the solar powerto Arctic towns such as Selawik, Kotzebue and Toksook. There are now about a dozen villages using the hybrid system, and more on the way.
The Bushland unit operates larger, airplane-size, three-blade turbines for wind-farm research for the U.S. Department of Energy. They have also tested small wind turbines to power irrigation pumps and water pumps in remote rangeland areas to provide water for livestock.
The Minnesota researchers are working with the University of Minnesota to power the Morris campus with wind-generated electricity. The Morris campus, which already gets about 60 percent of its electricity from wind, hopes to eventually "ship" enough excess electricity to the main university campus at St. Paul to meet 20 percent of that campus energy needs.
There are also plans to eventually use wind power to generate hydrogen from water to provide electricity for the two campuses.
Steve Wagner, an ARS electrical engineer at Morris, and colleagues have created wind maps that show many other areas in Minnesota suitable for farming the wind.
Read more about the research in the August 2006 issue of Agricultural Research magazine.
ARS is the U.S. Department of Agricultures chief scientific research agency.