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Dr. Hoxie in front of the wind turbine at the UMD Farm at sunset

Dr. Alison Hoxie at the UMD Farm.

A multidisciplinary group of faculty, staff, and students from sustainability, biology, geography, and engineering departments worked together on a project to install a small 5-kilowatt wind turbine in the center of the UMD Land Lab along Riley Road.  The project will provide research and learning opportunities for students and faculty, model incorporating renewable energy into a sustainable farm, and produce additional renewable energy for the UMD campus.

The goals of the project included:

  1. Demonstrate a new wind technology that allows for a zero-contact turbine

  2. Increase small wind turbine efficiency through partnered research with the turbine developer,

  3. Educate the campus and community on a renewable energy technology, and

  4. Reduce the campus carbon footprint.

Student Connections

Involving students from early on has provided opportunities for them to study, work on, and brainstorm around the project, from many disciplines.  

  • An Advanced Writing student group researched and wrote a UMD Wind Turbine Recommendation Report

  • A biology undergraduate counted birds to study Migratory Patterns of Raptors at the UMD Farm (preliminary data) both before and after wind turbine installation, including researching bird impacts.

  • A GIS in Regional Sustainability Applications student group proposed initial wind turbine siting recommendations and map

  • A Civil Engineering student used the structure/base design as part of their Masters project


Construction drawings were finalized in spring 2014. The project was slated for construction in summer of 2014, however a delay regarding tower availability forced the foundation work to be moved to fall of 2014. The foundation was poured in late October and early November of 2014.  Tower was installed in March 2015.

The original wind turbine project was completed in April 2015, with the grand opening event on Earth Day 2015.  Commissioning of the turbine took place throughout Summer of 2015.  

From the first year’s data, it was clear that the wind conditions on this site were a challenge; winds gusted up and down in speed quite rapidly.  To better handle the stormy conditions, the original horizontal-axis turbine was replaced with a verticle-axis turbine in Spring 2016. This upgrade also increased the capacity of the turbine from 5 kW to 8 kW.

 New vertical axis wind turbine being attached to tower as it lay near the ground.


Funding and Resources

Thanks to the following people for funding, expertise, and support of the project:

  • Northeast Minnesota Regional Sustainable Development Partnership

  • Northeast Minnesota Clean Energy Resource Team

  • UMD Facilities Management

  • UMD Swenson College of Science and Engineering

  • UMD Mechanical and Industrial Engineering

  • UMD Civil Engineering

  • UMD Strategic Plan Grant

  • UMD Green Revolving Fund

  • Student research donation from WindTech Inc