Richland plans wind energy research

Richland plans wind energy research

September 16, 2015 4:00 am  • 

DECATUR – Richland Community College students could soon find expanded opportunities to participate in wind energy research.

The college could create a first-of-its-kind wind research plot that would add to what is already available with the four turbines already in place, said Doug Brauer, Richland vice president of economic development and innovative workforce solutions.

“No one else has it,” Brauer said Tuesday during the monthly Richland board meeting. “We’re creating an opportunity for our students to engage in something unique.”

Richland students would work with the University of Illinois College of Engineering on the project, Brauer said. Richland would add 15 turbines that could be moved around the research plot to test the flow of wind from various directions and configurations, he said.

The research plot would be near the existing turbines, Brauer said.

“We’ve got an ideal location for it,” Brauer said. “There is nothing out there to hamper the flow. It will be a year-round activity.”

The addition on the Richland campus would come as plans for the Twin Forks Wind Farm LLC project are moving forward to construct 139 wind turbines for a 24,000-acre facility near Maroa and Warrensburg. The Macon County Board approved the plan for a special-use permit last week.

“We’ve never had a wind farm in our district,” Brauer said. “Our students will be trained to work on the equipment.”

The Richland project is dependent on funding from the Illinois Department of Transportation, which Brauer is hoping to receive by the end of the year. He said students can begin new classes by the end of the year regardless of the funding status for the project.

Another construction project on the Richland campus has been held up by the state budget gridlock. Construction of the $6.3 million Student Success Center is on hold until the state budget situation is resolved, said Greg Florian, Richland vice president of finance and administration.

Richland’s $1.1 million, or 25 percent, share of the project from local funding sources has been used up, Florian said. The structure will be closed up during the winter to protect pipes that are in place, but Florian isn’t expecting to see activity begin to complete the project until the spring at the earliest.

It had been anticipated the project to bring student services under one roof could be ready in the spring.

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