If you’ve taken a stroll through the Arboretum recently, you may have noticed a chirping that doesn’t exactly sound natural. It's not the birds, but rather a piece of equipment that may help bring a major sustainability project to the college.
A Triton Sonic Wind Profiler sodar system from Second Wind is in the midst of a year-long process of data collection on the outskirts of the campus. The system will determine whether there are enough sustained winds in the arboretum to make the installation of a wind turbine feasible.
“We’re just very preliminarily reviewing the potential out there,” said Josh Stoffel, manager of sustainability at Connecticut College.
According to its website, Connecticut College has been looking into bringing wind power to the campus since 2006. In that year, Global Energy Concepts examined whether a wind turbine on campus would be practical and what effect it would have on aesthetics, finances, and other issues.
The study concluded that the campus would be able to support a 35-foot turbine, but that it would only provide 1.5 percent of the college’s annual 15,000 megawatt hours. Students conducted their own wind data study on campus in 2009.
These projects gave a significant amount of information for Michael Marshall, a 2011 graduate, to study for a senior thesis on the feasibility of wind power at the college. Marshall and his advisor, geology professor Doug Thompson, determined that the 2006 study did not take into account the effect geographic changes at Connecticut College could have on wind. The thesis also concluded that a large turbine in the arboretum could generate enough energy to cover all of the college's energy needs.
Stoffel said the Triton unit was rented with money available by fees paid to a student sustainability fund. The Student Government Association voted to allocate money from the fund toward the rental.
“The students are really the ones leading the way here, and I think that’s a fantastic sentiment to how things are here at Connecticut College,” said Stoffel.
The proposal is in its early phases, although Stoffel said the sodar data should give an indication of feasibility prior to the completion of the study in May. Discussions would have to take place on the benefits and costs of the project if the results show that a turbine is possible, including the ability to link the turbine to the campus and the effect on the arboretum.
The 750-acre arboretum has its main entrance across from the Williams Street entrance to the college. However, it extends to other areas around the campus including Mamacoke Island in the Thames River and the foundations of the former Bolles Farm. The data collection is taking place at the edge of a field near the latter section in a Waterford section of the arboretum north of Gallows Lane.
Stoffel said the college is always examining possibilities for alternative energy on campus. Recent included a geothermal system installed under Tempel Green, and one residence hall has a 10-kilowatt photovoltaic solar power system on its roof.