Engineering prof’s research could make it a “breeze” for municipalities to reduce energy costs

Engineering prof’s research could make it a “breeze” for municipalities to reduce energy costs
Lisa Grega, PhD

Lisa Grega, PhD, associate professor of mechanical engineering, is helping two New Jersey towns study the feasibility of installing wind turbines that could provide the municipalities with a virtually limitless source of clean, affordable energy.

With funding from a New Jersey Board of Public Utilities (BPU) grant, Grega and officials from Lawrence and Hopewell townships will be installing anemometers, which measure wind speed and direction, on existing communications towers in the two towns. Over the course of the next year, Grega will analyze the data recorded by the equipment, and her findings will help town officials decide if the locations are suitable sites to erect wind turbines.

Wind turbines convert the wind’s kinetic energy into electricity, but in order for them to function at full capacity, they must be placed in locations that offer adequate wind resources.

Grega’s research interests are in the field of fluid mechanics, of which wind energy is a “modern subset,” she said. Her work on the anemometer project will be doing more than just helping two towns find sources of clean, renewable energy: the data she’ll collect will fuel discussions in the aerodynamics class she teaches. She envisioned her students using the data to facilitate the study of how local topography affects the wind’s velocity distribution, or boundary layer, and how this impacts wind turbine performance.

“The data can be used to verify or even refute some of the theory students read about in their books,” she explained.

Grega learned of BPU’s anemometer grant program through TCNJ’s Office of Grants and Sponsored Research. Funded in part by the U.S. Department of Energy Wind Powering America Program, BPU’s program was started to help municipalities and private investors “better understand the local wind resource and how it translates into energy production, as well as the economic and environmental benefits associated with the installation of a wind turbine,” according to the program Web site.

One of the goals set forth in New Jersey’s Energy Master Plan is for the state to obtain 30 percent of its electricity from clean, renewable sources by the year 2020, and wind power is an ideal candidate to realizing this goal. As a partner institution in the BPU program, TCNJ will “help lead to the increased deployment of small wind energy technologies throughout the state,” according to the program Web site.

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