University of Minnesota Duluth
University of Minnesota
University of Minnesota Duluth
UMD Sustainability

UMD Small Wind Research Project

The UMD Small Wind Turbine Research Project launched on Earth Day, 2015

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

The goals of the project include:

  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.


Neodymium magnets help transmit force between the input and output shafts

Neodymium magnets help transmit force between the input and output shafts

Learn more: this poster summarizes the high-level goals of the project.

Student Connections

Involving students from early on in this project has provided opportunities for them to study, work on, and brainstorm around the project, from many disciplines.  From planning and feasibility steps to project implementation and energy conversion research, UMD students will be involved.  So far, UMD students involvement includes the following:

  • An Advanced Writing student group researched and wrote a UMD Wind Turbine Recommendation Report
  • A biology undergraduate is counting birds to study Migratory Patterns of Raptors at the UMD Farm both before and after wind turbine installation, including researching bird impacts. (NOTE: these are preliminary data only, final data will be published here after the undergraduate research project is completed)
  • A GIS in Regional Sustainability Applications student group proposed initial wind turbine siting recommendations and map
  • A Civil Engineering student is using the structure/base design as part of their Masters projectGISprojectSitingFarmProject


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 in 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 a grand opening event  happening 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 an down in speed quite rapidly.  To better handle the stormy conditions, a decision was made to replace the original horizontal-axis turbine in Spring 2016. Due to a brake failure that took place on May 13th (the brake is designed to stop the turbine from spinning so fast as to damage the generator when wind-speeds get too high), the turbine spun without a brake during a stormy weekend. On the morning of May 16th, the vertical-axis turbine was brought down for repair.  (All internal components themselves were protected, and the coupling replacement was a simple repair.)  New blades are being made to replace the ones that got stressed while spinning without a break

Check back for updates soon!

See a video of the original horizontal-axis turbine spinning here.

Farm photo, students working at SAP farm

The SAP farm in action: The UMD Farm is a Land Lab for sustainability!

Funding and Resources

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


If you have any input you’d like to share about this project, please enter it in this form and click ‘submit’:

UMD Sustainability
The UMD Sustainability website is administered by the University of Minnesota Duluth's Office of Sustainability.
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