Notre Dame's first wind turbine

Author: Meredith Rowland


Last week, a new addition to the Notre Dame campus skyline demonstrated the University’s commitment to renewable energy in a very visible way. Mounted on the roof of the Notre Dame power plant, a vertical axis wind turbine now looks over campus and will feed directly into the campus electrical grid.

The project to install a wind turbine on campus originated nearly two years ago in the College of Science Committee on Sustainability (COSCOS) and is the product of several key partnerships. Positioning a wind turbine on campus emerged as one of the initial objectives of COSCOS in the fall of 2009. Dr. Anthony Serianni, professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry and Coordinator of COSCOS, spearheaded the project, working with Sean Kassen, Academic Advancement program director in the College of Science, and Christine Maziar, vice president and senior associate provost, to secure University approval and outside funding for the initiative. The project was made possible by generous institutional funding from the Northern Indiana Public Service Company (NIPSCO), a significant personal contribution by Notre Dame alumnus, Dr. John O’Connor, and financial assistance from the College of Science.

According to Rudy Reyes Jr, associate director of development in the Office of Corporate and Foundation Relations, the installation of this wind turbine and Notre Dame’s partnership with NIPSCO comes as “part of a broader, more comprehensive plan to position the University and NIPSCO as innovators in the field of renewable energy, educators in the conservation effort, and leaders in the realm of sustainability.”

Indeed, this vertical axis turbine is one of several renewable energy initiatives currently underway at Notre Dame. Last summer, the rooftop of Stinson-Remick Hall became the site of the first solar array on campus. A second solar array is planned for the rooftop of Fitzpatrick-Cushing Hall of Engineering, and Notre Dame’s Institute for Flow Physics and Control is working toward the installation of two horizontal axis wind turbines in White Field just north of campus. With a generational capacity of only 4 kilowatts, the newly installed turbine’s purpose will be largely symbolic and educational. However, its size, vertical axis design, and highly visible location distinguish it from other campus renewable energy projects.

Serianni explains that because of its relatively small size and low cost, this vertical axis turbine could serve as a test case for community members considering a personal investment in wind power generation. “This turbine is small enough for residential use. The data that we collect from the campus turbine may help people in the community decide whether wind is an option for them,” explains Serianni.

Placing the turbine on Notre Dame’s main campus creates great opportunities for student engagement. Serianni has already formed a partnership with GreeND, a student environmental club, to help with the collection and dissemination of the data collected from the turbine. Anne Whitty ’12, co-president of GreeND remarks, “We are very excited to see the University investing in renewable energy so visibly, and are eager to help disseminate real-time metering data from the turbine.”

While the vertical axis design may not conform to the prototypical image of wind turbine held by most, this design was selected over a traditional horizontal axis design based on the technical results of an equipment assessment and feasibility study conducted by the Department of Utilities. The choice to install a vertical axis system is particularly relevant given the upcoming installation of two horizontal axis systems in White Field. Serianni notes that having both models in the local environment will create additional research opportunities by allowing for performance comparisons between the two designs.

Serianni hopes that the prominent installation of a wind turbine on the roof of the power plant will spur the development of additional renewable energy technologies at Notre Dame. “Our intention was to use this project as a stepping stone to additional sustainability initiatives in on-campus energy,” he explains.