Is there enough strong, steady wind at the university's Mann Valley Lab Farm to justify building commercial turbines that could supply half the campus's energy needs?
That's what a study underway will show. A report is due by Dec. 1.
Mike Stifter, UW-RF director of facilities management, says the idea was spurred by the university's off-the-grid energy goals. That not only means being more self-sufficient but using sustainable energy sources.
"As a campus and given some of our land resources, we're likely more uniquely poised to look at a wind project than many campuses," Stifter said. "It would indeed go a long way in terms of providing clean, renewable energy."
Energy-producing wind turbines would also bring learning benefits.
"The educational opportunities are there in small and big ways," Stifter said. "In small ways, I would anticipate educational kiosks for the passive learners as well as more advanced opportunities for actual classes to programs built around renewable energy."
The $40,000 study is being done by Spicer, Minn.-based Windations, a firm that helps plan and guides the construction of community wind farms. Founded in 2006, the company recently completed a wind-energy project for the building of two turbines for the municipal utility of Willmar, Minn.
The assessment will be made at UW-RF Mann Valley Laboratory Farm, town of Troy, 2.5 miles northwest of River Falls on County Road MM. Stifter said there's room on the wooded north hill overlooking the lab farm for two 400-foot-high, 1.5- or 2-megawatt wind turbines to operate.
"We think it would fit nicely," he said. "Once we work through initial construction, which would minimally require a temporary road to the top of the hill, generally all of the land would then go back to its pre-construction purpose.
"The initial concepts do a nice job of maintaining all of the grazing, pasture and fields that are there. The site is actually quite favorable for up to two turbines."
He says the project's estimated building cost is $7.5-$9 million. Most of the money would come from the state in the form of "energy funds" or from the Capital Budget.
Once the study is made public in December, Stifter said there will be a series of "town-hall style" meetings to discuss the topic, both on campus and off.
If the project was approved and funding received, wind-turbine construction could occur in two years. Stifter said it would take 3-6 months to build.
Read more on this story in the Oct. 21 print edition of the River Falls Journal.