University of Calgary

University of Calgary

September 30, 2011 12:27 ET

University of Calgary: Backyard wind turbines and solar panels the focus of new renewable energy research chair

Homeowners could one day generate power with their own wind turbines

CALGARY, ALBERTA--(Marketwire - Sept. 30, 2011) - Imagine your backyard transformed into a mini power station with your very own wind turbine and every house on your street equipped with solar panels. Today, the University of Calgary announced the new NSERC/ENMAX Industrial Research Chair in Renewable Energy at the Schulich School of Engineering to explore ways to implement renewable energy solutions at the household level.

"Through this collaboration, we have a top engineering expert working with a prominent energy provider to develop renewable energy sources that Calgarians can use in their own homes," says Elizabeth Cannon, president of the University of Calgary. "Exploring sustainable ways to meet our future energy needs is the type of relevant and high-quality research that makes the University of Calgary such a proud partner in this city."

David Wood, professor in the Department of Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering, will explore the potential of using small wind turbines by measuring wind speeds at various heights in Calgary using a 50-metre mast that was erected earlier this month near the University of Calgary's Spy Hill site. This type of study is unique because wind measurements are normally gathered outside city limits for projects such as massive wind farms.

"People are generally interested in renewable energy technologies but it's a big step going from being interested to actually investing in the equipment," says Wood, NSERC/ENMAX Industrial Research Chair in Renewable Energy. "Through this research, we hope to provide more information about the advantages of having wind turbines and solar panels at the household level."

Wood's research also involves using a wind tunnel to study the effects of wind loads on solar photovoltaic panels to help reduce installation costs and determine the most efficient panel configurations. He is also involved with monitoring the performance of the solar thermal system at the Southland Leisure Centre. Earlier this year, 150 solar panels were installed on the roof of the recreation centre to provide heat for pools and showers.

"This Industrial Research Chair underscores the importance and value to Canada of research collaborations," says Suzanne Fortier, president of the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC). "The work of David Wood and his colleagues will help the renewable energy industry to evolve and prosper, while providing students with the knowledge and expertise they will need to achieve excellent, productive careers in industry and academia."

This research position is part of a plan by ENMAX Energy Corporation to encourage homeowners to adopt renewable energy technologies.

"Advancing research in renewable energy technologies is key to popularizing the adoption of home-based generation," said Terry Tyler, Executive Vice President, Chief Technology Officer and Chief Information Officer, ENMAX Corporation. "Through our Generate Choice™ program, homeowners can now produce a portion of their own electricity and our funding of this industrial research chair for renewable energy will bring even more efficient and cost-effective solutions and practices to light."

Small-scale power generation such as backyard wind turbines is part of the bigger picture of creating distributed generation systems, a concept that is catching on around the world.

"Instead of your electricity grid being fed by one or two large power stations, there are a lot of smaller generators scattered throughout the grid," explains Wood. "That has a lot of advantages in terms of optimizing power capacity and you can avoid building new coal-fired power stations, which increase greenhouse gas emissions."

The total funding for the research chair is $2.25 million over five years, including $750,000 from the Schulich School of Engineering, $750,000 from NSERC and $750,000 from ENMAX Energy Corporation.

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