Minnesota schools collaborate on wind research and training

The Mesabi Range College and University of Minnesota have formed a partnership in wind-energy research, education and technology advancement. The goal of the partnership is to develop nationally recognized opportunities within Minnesota for future wind energy educators, technicians, engineers, business leaders, and innovators. The partnership leverages the expertise and facilities of the Mesabi Range College’s Wind Energy Technology Program in Eveleth, Minn. with UMN’s newly formed Eolos Wind Energy Research Consortium in the Twin Cities.

UMN’s Eolos is funded by an $8 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy. With an addition $3.4 million from private sector contributions, UMN has established a research and education consortium with a host of other universities, colleges, industry leaders, and government agencies. A key component of Eolos is the creation of a new research field station where new wind technologies can be studied, tested, and deployed. The field station in Rosemount, Minnesota is home to a new Clipper 2.5MW wind turbine and 420-ft tall meteorological tower, and will be used for researching foundations, structural aspects of the turbine tower and blades, aerodynamics of blades, ice mitigation, and other important topics. The Eolos turbine will also be used by UMN and Mesabi to train students in climbing, safety, and operation and maintenance of utility scale turbines.

Mesabi Range College (MRC) Wind Energy Technology Program is one of two Wind Energy Technician programs in Minnesota. Last month, MRC completed installation of a new Vestas V27 turbine and will be instrumented with nearly identical sensors as the Eolos turbine. This will let technician and engineering students compare and contrast operation and performance of turbines. The MRC turbine installation and a new program in Condition Based Monitoring is made possible by a grant from Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board and the Minnesota Center for Engineering and Manufacturing Excellence.

MRC also has training facilities such as a Sonic Wind Profiler that will be used by students from both institutions in training and research. Some items Mesabi and the U of M have agreed to work towards are:

  • Involving Mesabi Wind Students in the regular maintenance and operation of the turbine alongside Clipper technicians. Likewise, University of Minnesota students will have access to Mesabi Range College’s V27 as an additional research tool.
  • Comparison of data from Mesabi’s wind turbine with the U of M’s wind turbine will be a valuable asset to both teams. Mesabi is able to leverage the donation from OSIsoft that was received in 2010 to share data between schools. Advanced monitoring will provide the U of M with their research data and will provide Mesabi Range College with advanced curriculum associated with Condition Based Monitoring. The data from Mesabi’s SoDAR acoustic wind measurement instrument will be compared with the University of Minnesota’s meteorological tower and Lidar system. This will expose students from both institutions to multiple cutting edge technologies for wind measurement and to those data collection techniques.
  • Develop pathways for Mesabi Wind Energy Technology students to transition into a four-year degree at the UMN. Mesabi Range College says it features an industry-leading curriculum for wind and renewable energy education. “Wind energy companies are growing rapidly and need skilled professionals,” said Dan Janisch, Wind Energy Technology Program Director. “The Wind Energy Technology Degree students learn to work with and troubleshoot actual large scale wind turbine equipment in the campus Wind Lab and on field trips to Minnesota Power’s Taconite Ridge Wind Energy Center. In addition to Minnesota Power’s many forms of strong support, we are grateful for a $300,000 equipment donation from Clipper and the program guidance provided by Clipper’s top management, a $225,000 software donation from OSI, a grant from Iron Range Resources that let us purchase and refurbish a used 225-kW wind turbine, and the grants we’ve received from the Minnesota Center For Engineering and Manufacturing Excellence. Students learn a wide range of skills that will let them go on to further education or get a good job in manufacturing, construction, or operations and maintenance in the wind industry or in the broader power generation field. We are one of the few renewable energy degree programs offering credit for prior learning for Military Vets.”

University of Minnesota

Mesabi Range College

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