My experience studying wind energy at St. Anthony Falls Laboratory began in early June. In between the end of school and the start of the laboratory experience, I spent two weeks on a WWOOF farm in Gresham, Oregon. Here, I shoveled, weeded, and relocated a variety of farm supplies. This manual labor felt refreshing and productive after spending a year completing mental labor. The intimacy that I had with nature on the farm was very meaningful. The best part, however, was the interesting philosophy of the farm. Everyone shares work as well as resources, and no money is exchanged. The farmers also advocate working slowly in order to thoroughly live and learn. They even practice a five-hour workday as opposed to the standard eight hours. This was a fascinating demonstration of how to elude stress and promote cooperation and love. This farm was both idealistic and idyllic.
After the farm, I visited the beautiful Oregon desert, and then I flew to Minneapolis, Minnesota. I settled into my summer residence - a house inhabited by Macalester College students. I found this inexpensive room through a classmate at Reed, for there is a sizable large crossover between the Reed and the Macalester communities.
I then visited the laboratory – and it is amazing. It is located where the Mississippi River runs through downtown Minneapolis. While the urban skyline is beautiful, it pales in comparison to the natural scenery. The lab is located below a magnificent 50-foot waterfall and next to roaring rapids. This setting dramatically demonstrates the power of fluids. The lab was built below a waterfall so that gravity could be harnessed in bringing the water from above the falls to the experimental facilities below the falls. As a fluid mechanics laboratory, it uses a lot of water.
Upon my arrival, I participated with an Orientation for a REU group at the laboratory. Through this relationship, I found a network of resources including fellow visiting researchers, an ID card, and a great mentor who helps me with administrative issues. Then, I met the senior scientists that I will collaborate with on my research project. These mentors include the director of the lab and local professors. These mentors have been essential in bringing me up to speed on the technology behind wind energy, which is not studied at Reed College. Thanks to their generous help, my research can really thrive.
Originally, I planned on studying both wave and wind energy. The wave energy experiments, however, are not available. Since wave energy is a new research area, it suffers from many technical issues. Consequentially, I will focus solely upon wind energy. I will specifically study the structure of the wakes that are cast behind wind turbines. As wind moves past a turbine, it becomes slower and more turbulent. If this wake then runs across a nearby turbine, it will interfere with that turbine’s productivity and longevity. One cannot, however, merely distance turbines far away from each other, because that would increase land, installation, and maintenance costs. Researchers must investigate how to balance these costs and benefits. So, I will research these turbine wakes in order to discover ways to design more efficient wind farms.