Indiana State University Newsroom

Catching the wind: Planning for a wind turbine

February 4, 2011

Throughout the fall semester at Indiana State University, students could be found in small clusters with one patiently holding her arm above her head. With her hand toward the wind, she clutched a small red object.

Students worked to catch the wind in anemometers to measure its speed at 50 points across campus in the project that was more than just a lab activity for the 450 students taking Environmental Sciences 110.

"Those points were taken throughout the semester to calculate which areas on campus have the highest wind speed so we can put the windmill up," said Dorothy Rosene, senior environmental sciences major who plotted the wind testing grid.

The 18-foot, vertical, 3.4-kilowatt wind turbine, which the university plans to use, will generate between 5,000 and 11,000 kilowatts annually to help offset some of the university's energy usage.

"It would produce about 5 percent of the energy needs for Condit House on its own or 5 percent of the energy needs for the Family and Consumer Science Building or Art Annex," said Jim Speer, associate professor of earth and environmental systems.

The project, while aiding students' scientific knowledge, moves the university forward on its Climate Action Plan. The plan, created by 60 members of ISU's faculty and staff, guides the university toward carbon neutrality in the future. The plan examines university life such as food systems, energy systems and buildings before proposing ideas toward becoming more sustainable in the future.

"One of those suggestions is to bring alternative energy to ISU," Speer said. "We are currently working on bringing wind power to campus and hope to be able to bring solar power to campus in the future."

Professors teaching Environmental Sciences 110 classes involved students during their lab and lecture times by giving them hands-on experience in scientific fact finding.

"I think it's important for students to get out and really experience what they're learning and not just being lectured to in a classroom," Rosene said. "It's so they really understand what an anemometer is, they get to hold it. They get to use maps and record their data into a database using Google docs."

Freshman Shelby Kanouse from Mooresville agreed.

"It really helps you learn because you're out there doing it," he said. "It's not like someone's just telling you how it works, you're out there figuring out how it works hands on."

Students sampled from the beginning of classes in August through November.

"Part of what we wanted to look at is if the wind's coming out of the northwest how the buildings channel the wind to have high wind speeds at specific locations around campus," Speer said.

With more than 770 measurements taken during the semester, students found the highest wind speeds north and south of the Sycamore Towers, which is where Speer said they would recommend placing the turbine. Speer said the plan is to have the turbine in place and part of the electrical grid by April 21, when ISU will celebrate Earth Day.

Speer said students will continue to learn from the wind turbine.

"They're teaching tools for us at ISU," he said. "So the College of Technology can participate and look at those windmills. The earth and environmental systems department can look at the windmills and work with those to see how they're productive for alternative energies, how they've off set our energy at ISU. So we're really looking at it right now more as a teaching tool and getting students involved with it and making it a permanent icon on campus."

By getting the students involved, Speer said the hope is that it has a long-term impact on students.

"By getting them (alternative energy options) in the classroom, getting them in front of students, getting the students participating in the science behind it, really helps pass that along to the next generation," he said. "If we really want to make any energy conservation changes on campus, we need to involve the 12,000 students on campus and make it not just a facilities change, but make it a community change at ISU."

Students use an anemometer to measure wind speed at fountain in Dede Plaza. ISU Photo/Kara Berchem
Sue Berta, associate professor of earth and environmental systems, instructs students on taking wind measurements at 50 locations around the ISU campus. ISU Photo/Kara Berchem
A student holds up an anemometer to measure wind speed. ISU Photo/Kara Berchem

Contact: Jim Speer, Indiana State University, associate professor of earth and environmental systems at 812-237-3011 or

Writer: Jennifer Sicking, Indiana State University, associate director of media relations, at 812-237-7972 or