Arkansas Wind Working Group Launches Anemometer Loan Program, Trains University Students for Renewable Energy Workforce: A Wind Powering America Success Story

April 28, 2010

In 2009, the Arkansas Wind Working Group, in conjunction with John Brown University (JBU), used $25,000 in Wind Powering America funding and additional state funds to establish an Anemometer Loan Program. JBU students and faculty are conducting all installations and data collection as part of a new 4-year renewable energy program that includes wind, solar, and biomass.

According to Jenny Ahlen, coordinator for renewable energy programs at the Arkansas Energy Office, "The Anemometer Loan Program is not only helping homeowners with the process of determining whether their site would be good for small wind, but we are also training the future workforce of renewable energy technicians."

The Arkansas Wind Working Group purchased four anemometers to loan to landowners interested in installing small wind turbines. In June and July, the Wind Working Group received approximately 23 applications from interested parties. The Wind Working Group considered several factors when choosing sites: geographic diversity within the state, whether a tower could be easily installed, whether the site offered easy grid-tie access and a cell signal to relay data, and whether the location presented any possible conflicts with birds or bats.

To address wildlife concerns (particularly pertaining to the Ozark big-eared bat, an endangered species in the state), the Wind Working Group shared the applications with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. According to Ahlen, this groundwork could lead to another project for the Wind Working Group in the future.

"We're trying to put together a bat study to see if small wind is actually a threat to bats. If we can demonstrate that it's not, this could open doors for small wind in the future," Ahlen said.

Of the 23 applications, nine received site visits and four were selected for the initial loan period. Anemometer towers are installed at three sites, and the fourth will be completed in the near future. JBU renewable energy program director Fernando Vega said that by collaborating with the Arkansas Wind Working Group on the Anemometer Loan Program, his students are learning valuable lessons that they can use in their professional futures.

"Our faculty and staff have industry experience, so we are able to rapidly go into the field and install the towers," Vega said. "This gives our students a lot of involvement, and it also gives value to the program."