Virginia Tech-YMCA wind and solar project dedication ceremony kicks off Sustainability Week

A verticle wind turbine in the forground with an electric pole in the near background

The West Main location provides an interesting juxtaposition of energy technologies.

BLACKSBURG, Va., Sept. 13, 2010 – The Virginia Tech-YMCA wind and solar project has demonstrated significant power generation over the summer, and the team expects an even better showing this fall when the winds return. To acknowledge the hard work and contributions of the volunteer team and sponsors who erected a 28-foot high vertical axis wind turbine and an array of solar panels at the YMCA at 1000 North Main Street in Blacksburg, there will be a ribbon cutting on Monday, Sept. 20, at 6 p.m.

The event also kicks off Virginia Tech and the Town of Blacksburg's Sustainability Week..

The event will begin with a brief overview and history of the project by Cortney Martin, co-principal investigator on Y Wind & Solar and a faculty member with Virginia Tech’s Center for Instructional Development and Educational Research, followed by remarks from project leaders, including Gail Billingsley, executive director of the Blacksburg YMCA, and representatives of Virginia Tech and the town. After the ribbon cutting, there will be tours of the equipment room, where energy output of the wind and solar devices is conditioned and combined. There will also be refreshments.

Initially, project goals were to demonstrate the feasibility of micro wind–based net metering; educate the public on turbine selection, installation, monitoring, and maintenance of wind energy systems; provide information to address zoning regulations; provide opportunities for student research; and collect, analyze, and share data to support economic development through new wind-based business ventures. Subsequently, the project was expanded to include a solar component allowing for direct comparison between the two technologies. "This is a fantastic real-time working model that compares wind and solar power generation -- an experiment that a consumer would not be able to do," said Peter Thompson, CEO of Streamlined Strategies of Blacksburg.

The YMCA has hosted several classes to date to help educate the public to wind and solar feasibility and is planning additional classes through 2011.

David Dillard, adhesive and sealant science professor in engineering science and mechanics at Virginia Tech and co-principal investigator of YMCA Wind & Solar, describes the project as “a success in terms of giving the community a chance to compare both solar and wind technologies, see the benefits that these alternative energy sources represent, and recognize the complexities, risks, and uncertainties, especially of wind energy, in this area.”

"The Town of Blacksburg deserves a lot of credit for their interest in creating a zoning ordinances that are alternative energy friendly," said Billingsley.

The 600-watt wind turbine was in place just in time for Earth Day, April 22, thanks to the significant efforts of Steve Gerus of Bell Electric, Virginia Tech senior design team members, and volunteers from Virginia Tech and the community. Over the summer, Bryan Walsh of Solar Connexion, who has led the effort in designing the overall electrical system and installing many of the components, oversaw installation of the 1050-watt solar panel array and the 160 watt horizontal axis wind turbine that he donated. Thompson installed an anemometer on the large turbine pole to capture wind speed information and built the Y Wind & Solar website, where the energy output can be followed in almost real time.

It has been an unusually windless summer in Blacksburg, but the success of the solar array encouraged the YMCA to submit a proposal for funding an additional 12 kilowatt solar array, which would cover 5 percent of the facility's energy needs.

Project donors and sponsors are Bell Electric, Dean Frantz Inc., Perre LaFlamme PE, Reid Custom Builders, Solar Connexion, State Electric Supply Co., Streamlined Strategies, the Town of Blacksburg, Virginia Tech Department of Engineering Science and Mechanics, Virginia Tech Office of the Vice President for Research, and the YMCA at Virginia Tech. Virginia Tech’s Department of Engineering Science and Mechanics senior design team members, Engineers without Borders, and community volunteers assisted with component design and provided the labor for the project.

Dedicated to its motto, Ut Prosim (That I May Serve), Virginia Tech takes a hands-on, engaging approach to education, preparing scholars to be leaders in their fields and communities. As the commonwealth’s most comprehensive university and its leading research institution, Virginia Tech offers 225 undergraduate and graduate degree programs to more than 31,000 students and manages a research portfolio of $496 million. The university fulfills its land-grant mission of transforming knowledge to practice through technological leadership and by fueling economic growth and job creation locally, regionally, and across Virginia.

Dramatic photo of a white verticle wind turbine against a blue sky

Dramatic photo of a white verticle wind turbine against a blue sky

Roof-top solar array against a bright blue sky

Roof-top solar array against a bright blue sky

Three people in hard hats bent over by a pole look towards where it will be erected

Three people in hard hats bent over by a pole look towards where it will be erected