Historic wind turbine headed to Smithsonian

By Amanda Koeck

The historic wind turbine off of North Pleasant Street near the Orchard Hill residential area will be dismantled this month and eventually used for an exhibit on the history of renewable energy that will be displayed at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.

According to James Manwell, director of the campus’s Renewable Energy Research Laboratory, the campus was the home of one of the first modern wind turbines in the United States. It was built between 1973 and 1976. The turbine served as a platform for many different student projects, but was first used in an experiment to see if a wind turbine could heat the solar habitat building nearby. According to Manwell the turbine was way ahead of its time with its variable speeds and blade pitch, computer control and fiberglass blades.

The turbine will be taken down by a group of field engineers from UMass with the help of a crane and Louis Manfredi, who helped build the apparatus. It won’t be easy though; the turbine’s yaw bearing, which orients the turbine atop the tower, is stuck.

Because of contributions from alumni and friends of the College of Engineering, the turbine will be stored at the Astronomy Research Facility on campus for three years until the exhibit is put on display.