Pre-Engineering Students See Green Technology and Innovation Locally
By Nicole Marvin '12, Staff Writer
I am the first to get off the Kent minibus and step onto the small farm in Torrington, CT. Immediately I introduce myself to our host, Russel Marvin. Marvin, father of Charlotte Marvin ’15 and founder of Optiwind (and no relation to myself), is eager to share his innovative wind turbine design with the thirty-one Kent students and four faculty members who came on the Pre-Engineering Field Trip that day. I look up, and there it is. It is huge. I am amazed—it only faintly resembles the wind turbines I have seen on wind farms, and I can’t hear the spinning blades. The giant structure is cylindrically shaped and has four enclosed five-bladed rotating fans. Its design is puzzling.
Marvin launches into an extensive explanation of the turbine. Despite my awe at its size, at 200 feet, it is actually only considered a mid-sized turbine. The cylindrical shape aids to accelerate the wind, which then rushes around the sides of the structure straight to the fans. It has the capacity to take on four more fans which can be placed below the ones already attached. After an up-close examination of the wind turbine, Marvin invites us to Optiwind’s headquarters, just a short drive away.
The building functions as office space, a warehouse, and a factory. Here, Marvin presents the business aspects of his turbine. His initial vision was to design a way to bring cost-effective wind energy to small businesses and private residences. Beginning work in 2007, he now has a company with over 30 employees and, as we saw, has brought his design to life. As he explains, I begin to realize what it took to get to this point. The man certainly did his research and calculations. The main money saver in the Optiwind turbine is actually its installation—its size and structure allow it to be erected by assembling it on its side and tilting it upright. Getting a wind turbine to stand without the use of a crane saves a significant amount of money and puts Optiwind’s design in the running for providing more affordable energy than electricity from a power company. Marvin also designed the turbine to be quiet, since he knew his prospective customers would potentially want to place turbines near residences. His story of years of extensive research left an impression on all who attended.
“After years of learning about wind farms, it was wonderful to find one this efficient so close to home,” comments Spencer Martin ’13. Mr. Klingebiel raves, “Every component in [Optiwind’s] wind turbine is very different from other systems…I consider wind generated power one of the keys to our successfully producing sufficient energy for our society, and we will need many different ways to capture that wind and make the power we want.” Nilesh Patel ’12 says, “The turbine design was interesting because it answered many of the problems that plague current wind turbine designs, as well as creating a new sector of personal 'backyard' turbines.” The Optiwind field trip was an interesting way to learn about an innovation that is relevant to the energy crisis today.
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