Redesigning wind power
Marin County is home to high winds and hawks. Its headlands, abutting the Pacific Ocean, make it a great location to harvest wind, but the county has strict regulations discouraging traditional, horizontal wind turbines — in part because they are so deadly for raptors. For the past three years, teams of Master of Engineering students have been working with county officials to devise a new, efficient wind turbine that would meet Marin’s regulations and create a local and sustainable renewable energy source. For the past year, Austin Campbell, Ali Elashri, Erica Horton and Chahal Neema, all mechanical engineering students (with a blend of interests in energy systems and product design), have been working with mechanical engineering professors Alice Agogino and Philip Marcus and with industry advisor Tom Flynn, from the Claremont-based company California Energy and Power, to design a low-slung turbine that operates vertically, rather than horizontally. Not only does their design spare the birds, but it operates with less noise and is better adapted to turbulent erratic wind flow. The design is also modular, so it can be stacked in towers larger than are currently permitted in Marin.