Luckily Blaise Sheridan is not afraid of heights, as he climbs up the UD 2-megawatt wind turbine for the second time. With his Master’s thesis revolving around wind energy, he is one of only four people from UD certified to climb the turbine. Although there is an elevator (more technically termed a personnel or ‘man’ lift), it can only be used by those who take a more intensive 4-day training course. Instead, a 2-day Fall Protection/Competent Climber class was taken by two facilities employees (Don Smith and Rodney McGee), as well as two UD students (Blaise and DeAnna Sewell). With this course under their belt, they can climb the ladder to the top of the 256-foot-tall-turbine. For their safety, they are always connected to a guide wire that clips onto the cable grab of each climbers harness. The cable ensures that if a climber falls they will only drop less than a foot.
This goal of this trip was to string up 3 cables to install bat microphones. The microphones will allow researchers to see how often bats pass around the turbine. This anticipated one-day job ended up taking about 2.5 days due to lightning and the large amount of on site planning that needed to take place. With the help of a Gamesa contractor, Blaise and Rodney were able to install the research equipment while the contractor performed routine maintenance and provided his expert guidance.
The turbine is currently producing more electricity than projected, although how much more is still being studied. On average, it produces more energy than the university needs, which makes the excess available to the town!
Inside the nacelle, the bus sized structure on the top of the tower where all the interesting mechanical and electrical components are housed, Blaise notes, “It must be at least 120 degrees” from the waste heat given off by the electrical transformers, not to mention all the gearboxes, friction and the fact that heat rises up the turbine. But, outside, on top of the nacelle, there’s enough airflow to cool you off! Blaise admits it can be very tiring to climb but the incredible view from the top is worth it. He discloses his favorite part is to watch the wake off the boats coming into Roosevelt Inlet. With the hope of additional renewable energy options in the future, “It’s still very novel for a university to have this turbine and its been a once in a life time experience…one to check off the bucket list. Not to mention it’s a great bar story.”
I thought I’d take a minute to share some info on the small and mighty Mini-Top barebones system from Jetway Computer. (Not to be confused with the Small & Mighty Danny Diaz ;?) This unit is basically the guts of a netbook but without the screen so I’ll call it a NetPC. We are thinking about introducing them into the computing site here at work and I was pretty impressed by its feature set and tiny size. Keep in mind that there are several models of ITX barebone systems to choose from over at Jetway. We opted to go with the model JBC600C99-52W-BW, which retails for about $270 at NewEgg. The “-BW” at the end means that it ships with a metal bracket (shown in front of the included remote in pic above) that will allow you to mount the unit to the VESA mounts on the back of most LCD monitors.
Smaller than my hand
Since the unit is so small (see pic to the right) this allows you to tuck it it out of the way quite easily behind a monitor. It also comes with an angled metal bracket that allows you to stand it up on its end and stick-on rubber feet in case you want to lay it on its side. Note that this is a “barebones” system, which means that it’s up to you to add the memory (up to 4Gigs of RAM), a single interior hard drive (2.5″ SATA) and a monitor to the mix. We purchased a 60Gig OCZ Agility 2 SSD (solid state drive) to the unit and a couple of Gigs of DDR-2 800/667 SODimm memory to the box (purchased separately). The unit comes with a driver CD that has both Windows and Linux drivers on it, but since the unit doesn’t have an optical drive you’ll need to copy them to a thumb drive to use them. You’ll also need to figure out how to install an operating system on the unit as well. In our case, since we were installing Windows 7, we used the Windows 7 uSB/DVD Download Tool to take an ISO file version of our Windows 7 install DVD and create a bootable thumb drive with the Win7 install DVD contents on it. Installation was easy peasy.
Hardware specs are pretty impressive given its low cost and small size:
Intel Atom Dual-Core 525 CPU
nVidia ION2 Graphics Processor
DVI-I and HDMI 1.3 video outputs
Integrated Gigabit Ethernet & 802.11 b/g/n wifi
12V DC 60W power input so it can be easily run off battery or ships power
Microphone and Headphone connectors
LCD VESA mount (-BW model only)
Jetway handheld remote control
USB 2.0 ports (5) and eSata connection
As I mentioned, we’re investigating using these as replacements for some of the computing site computers. We installed Windows 7 on the system and between the dual-core Atom processor and the SSD I can’t tell any difference between performance on this system and the Core-2 Duo desktops that are already in the site. Other possible uses include as a thin client, a kiosk PC, a set-top box for large wall mounted LCD displays and as a small low-power PC aboard ship or inside buoys or other deployed equipment. The unit has both DVI and HDMI outputs, so you can easily drive a small LCD or a huge flat-panel TV as long as they have those inputs (as most do). The nVidia ION-2 graphics system will supposedly drive a full 1080p HD display. I took some pics of the units interior (below) so you can have an idea of how the systems are laid out inside and out.
Front Interior View
Rear Interior View
Side Interior View
These aren’t the only mini-PCs on the market. There are others like the Zotac ZBox and the Dell Zino HD and I’m sure plenty of others. They’re just the model that we’re playing with here at the college. Exciting times ahead as these units ramp up in performance and drop down in size and power draw.
Drew Murphy, Northeast Region President of NRG Energy Inc., presented the August 19, 2010 lecture in the University of Delaware’s Coastal Currents Lecture Series. NRG owns offshore wind energy developer NRG Bluewater Wind. Mr. Murphy’s excellent presentation on the company’s planned “Mid-Atlantic Wind Park” project off the Delaware coast provided guests with a broad perspective on the challenges to as well as the economic, environmental and energy-related benefits from developing an offshore wind park.
His presentation helped answer questions I hear quite often: “How can offshore wind be developed in the US?”, “Why is offshore wind a good source of clean and reliable energy?” and “How are they able to install wind turbines so far out in the water?”.
Before this talk, I had no clue about some of specialized vessels and equipment used in the offshore wind projects. Thanks to Mr. Murphy I now have some insights on how it might be accomplished, and why it would be good for Delaware and for the entire country.
I appreciate NRG’s permission to post this interesting presentation online. You can find out more about the company’s offshore wind and other clean and renewable energy development efforts by visiting http://www.nrgenergy.com.