U.S. Collegiate Wind Competition Begins

collegiate wind competition
Competitors test their turbines in a wind tunnel at the Collegiate Wind Competition 2015, held at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory's National Wind Technology Center just south of Boulder, Colorado. (Photo by Dennis Schroeder / NREL)

Wind energy is booming in the United States. There’s now more than 73,000 megawatts of installed wind capacity, enough to power 20 million homes for a year! And it’s just the beginning.

In one scenario outlined in the Energy Department’s Wind Vision Report, wind could supply 35 percent of the nation’s electricity by 2050 and support more than 600,000 jobs. That’s why it’s more important than ever to prepare America’s future workforce with the real-world skills they need through efforts like the U.S. Department of Energy Collegiate Wind Competition, which challenges undergraduates to design and build a wind turbine. Teams also develop a business plan to market their project.

This year’s competition runs May 24 through May 25 in New Orleans, coinciding with the annual American Wind Energy Association WINDPOWER Conference and Exhibition. Here are a few more facts about the competition:

1.  A DOZEN TEAMS WILL BE THERE

These 12 university teams from across the United States and Puerto Rico are participating:

Seven schools took part in the 2014 event and five will be competing for the first time. Students from the University of Alaska Fairbanks — which is 4,200 miles away from New Orleans — are traveling the furthest distance.

2. TO WIN IT ALL, YOU NEED TO BE WELL ROUNDED

The Collegiate Wind Competition consists of four main contests: Business Plan, Technical Design, Deployment Strategy, and Turbine Testing. Tasks include written reports, oral presentations, testing model turbines in a wind tunnel, and a public business pitch before a panel of wind industry experts. Teams can earn up to 1,000 combined points, and the team with the highest point total will be crowned Collegiate Wind Competition champions. There are also awards for teams that score the highest in each contest, win the bonus competition, or are picked as the overall “People’s Choice” winner based on text voting at the event.

3. IT’S NOT JUST FOR ENGINEERS

America’s wind industry currently supports more than 88,000 jobs including researchers, engineers, educators, transportation workers, salespeople and other positions. Similarly, students participating in the Collegiate Wind Competition are seeking degrees in science and engineering as well as disciplines like business and marketing — all essential in building a thriving clean energy workforce.

4. EACH TEAM IS SOLVING BIG PROBLEMS

Each team participating in the Collegiate Wind Competition aims to solve complex energy and environmental problems through their wind turbine designs and business plans. These include well-researched solutions such as using wind energy to provide emergency or backup power, desalinate water for coastal communities, and generate electricity for communities in developing countries.

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