Marshall University’s Center for environment,
geotechnical and applied sciences (CEGAS) is partnering with the West Virignia
Brownfields assistance center to look at mountaintop removal sites throughout
the state to see if they could be used for locating wind energy turbines.
The project is being sponsored by the West Virginia Department of Energy and the Appalachian Regional Commission. They’ve
been charged with finding ways to use surface mined sites as alternative energy
The first test of the project begins soon for Marshall as the partners
look for usable sites. George Carrico is Program Coordinator with the
Brownfields assistance center in Huntington. He says it’s an interesting time
for the group.
“We’re quite excited about it, it’s a whole new
area for us, and we’ve been exploring and researching a lot of different areas
regarding alternative energy developments,” Carrico said.
The wind analysis is performed by using
state-of-the-art Sonic Detection and Ranging equipment (SODAR). SODAR can
examine winds up to 200 meters above the earth’s surface, recording wind speed,
wind direction, wind sheer and wind veer. The units run on solar and battery
power and can send information to satellites around the clock for later retrieval.
Carrico says the system will allow them to track
things they’ve never been able to track before. He says they realize every site
won’t usable for wind power.
“We’re going to have some sites that the analysis
on it is going to say it’s not a good option for this site. That’s not a
failure by any stretch of the imagination; that’s actually good information
that we can use to help the communities to give them usable data,” Carrico
Tony Szwilski is the director of CEGAS. He says
there is a need to look at the state’s natural resources in new ways.
“Natural resources are with us forever, they are
not depleted in time it behooves us to evaluate the total wind potential in the
state, at present time there are national maps available, but they are not that
precise,” Szwilski said.
Marshall is teaming with the Brownfields center which
focuses on finding uses for areas such as mountaintop removal sites or old
industrial parks. George Carrico says the data from the current study is only
the beginning of an effort to determine whether sites are suitable for wind
“This information is not necessarily going to be
information that’s going to be used strictly to make decisions, but it’s going
to be a first round of data that’s going to help them to determine whether or
not it’s something feasible,” Carrico said.
Carrico says the project will focus on mountaintop
removal sites for the first two years, and then it will extend to other sites.
He says, after the wind analysis, they’ll explore other options such as solar,
hydro-energy and biomass applications.
“With the wind analysis work, if we find a site
that doesn’t have sufficient wind capabilities for us to consider doing
anything there, we’ll take that off the table and look at other alternatives,”
Carrico says it will take a year before they know
the results of the analysis for some sites.