At a quick glance, many people may think that Santa Clara University recently installed a giant fan atop of the Facilities building, but guess again. It’s not a new cooling system of any kind, but instead a wind turbine that generates clean energy. It’s one of the many ways Santa Clara University is reaching climate neutrality by the end of 2015, as promised by President Michael Engh, S.J.
Weighing 185 pounds and measuring 7 feet high and 6.5 feet wide, the unit is capable of producing 1,500 kilowatt hours per year, which is enough to power an average American household for about 49 days.
Joe Sugg, assistant vice president of university operations, and his team of engineers and technicians have been turning the Santa Clara campus into a more sustainable institution by using such innovations.
“We’re converting the University from an energy-consuming campus to a power-generating source,” he says.
The wind turbine can begin generating power at a low speed of .5 miles per hour (mph), instead of the 7.5 mph that’s traditionally required by other wind turbines. The unit also has an auto shut-off mechanism that kicks in at 38 mph, protecting it from any damage that could be caused during a wind storm.
Since the turbine’s energy output is dependent only on the wind, SCU is testing the unit—which is now in its third month of operation—in order to determine how much energy it can realistically produce. Sugg hopes the results will show a significant level of production that will ultimately call for more wind turbines.
“It’s possible that we could see more of them on this building, as well as others on campus, but we don’t have any immediate plans to purchase additional units in the near future.”
SCU is often recognized nationally for its efforts and commitment to green power purchases. The University recently purchased 22,512 megawatt hours of green power, which is enough to power 2,529 average American homes and equivalent to taking nearly 3,000 cars off the road for one year.