The Wind Energy Project 2021: A Synopsis and Project PresentationFollow article
The Wind Energy Project 2021
The Wind Energy project is a grassroots wind energy generation project that runs every year and is organised by the FemEng society of the University of Glasgow in conjunction with Equate Scotland. The aims of the project are to teach participants what it is like to work on a multidisciplinary team and to show students what a complex task it is to take a windfarm from concept to reality.
Students are grouped into teams of five and are asked to pick a location for a wind farm, choose turbines suitable to the site, place the turbines on the plot (considering simulations for wind speed and direction), all while keeping in mind the locals’ views on the project, the environmental impact of the development, and of course the bottom line – financials.
Teams chose a location to plant their turbines from a selection of five places. Each location has positives and negatives, and students must consider each aspect of each location to arrive at a decision of where they want to build.
To understand the needs of local communities, students had to put themselves in the shoes of the residents who will be impacted by the new wind farm. They were asked to discuss the project proposal with a local and to set up programs that will invest some of the revenue generated from the farm back into the community.
The design brief for the project stipulates that the farm must break even after ten years of normal operation. To begin construction and operation of their farms, students must create a financial plan for their projects, factoring in the number of turbines they wish to build, money issued to the community, maintenance, grid connections, as well as money spent on environmental factors and laying foundations. The initial cost of the project is balanced by an initial loan investment from a fictitious bank with which the participants must come to a lending agreement with. The revenue generated by the farm should recover the cost of the entire loan by the tenth year of repayment, thereby making a profit.
It is important to also consider the wildlife and creating a safe environment for people walking near the building area while the farm is undergoing construction.
To build on students’ knowledge and understanding of projects such as wind farms, a series of lectures and seminars were held throughout the duration of the week, hosted by industry professionals.
In our team, after careful deliberation, we chose to build on a site in Wales that had already been approved for a wind farm project previously, but since that development went unfinished, the location was a prime candidate. The hilly area allowed us to install large, 110m hub height turbines with a rotor diameter of 150m. These are the largest turbines available for the project, but the site can support them. Wind speeds are high, and the area is far enough from other hills, developments, and forests for turbulence to die away before they reach our machines.
For our project, we decided to award £1,000,000 to build a farm visitor centre and learning hub, as well as to place bike and walking paths on the landmarked for the turbines. We also allocated £500,000 of the revenue annually to the local community in the form of a trust fund, beginning from the tenth year onwards (this is when the initial investment loan is paid off and the farm begins to profit). We also invited concerned citizens to a Q&A forum and encouraged them to put forward their concerns and ideas.
Our farm opted to take out a loan of £64,000,000, which was entirely spent on building the turbines, the visitor centre, connecting to the grid, and environmental studies of the plot. We were able to make about £1,000,000 profit per year even in the first ten years while we were repaying our loan.
To make sure negative impacts on wildlife and surrounding nature trails are limited, we decided to paint one blade of each of our turbines black, which makes the turbines more obvious to birds. We have also made sure to build our concrete foundations in an environmentally friendly way by collecting concrete runoff water and treating it. Local woods will be far enough from the turbines as not to be affected by their presence.
The visitor centre and the trails around the farm will be a source of information for those curious about the wind farm, where the generated power is being used and will bolster the local economy by providing green jobs for locals. There will be business opportunities for shops, a café, and a bike rental shop, and we will assure that locals are offered these first.
The wind energy project has broadened our horizons and showed us how much work and consideration is put into large, decades-long commitments like onshore wind farms. We have seen the myriad details and elements to be taken into account, and we believe we have been given a solid introductory foundation of knowledge on which we can build later. Our farm may never get built, but we may go on to help make another project a reality!