10/01/2010

Expectations for a Greener Tomorrow

Mesalands Community College builds a facility to complement its renewable energy program

 
  • /Portals/1/images/Magazines/1010/B_1010_PI_Finalist_NAWRTC1.jpg

    The energy-efficient facility’s window array resembles wind turbine blades in motion. ALL PHOTOS COURTESY OF MESALANDS COMMUNITY COLLEGE

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    The North American Wind Research and Training Center will be powered by Mesalands Community College’s wind turbine, which is located adjacent to the new facility. ALL PHOTOS COURTESY OF MESALANDS COMMUNITY COLLEGE

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    This 12,400-square-foot blade maintenance complex has high-bay doors at each side for pull-through capabilities of trucks carrying 120-foot wind turbine blades. ALL PHOTOS COURTESY OF MESALANDS COMMUNITY COLLEGE

  • /Portals/1/images/Magazines/1010/B_1010_PI_Finalist_NAWRTC4.jpg

    The choice of a prefabricated steel structure ensured speed and economy in construction of the facility. ALL PHOTOS COURTESY OF MESALANDS COMMUNITY COLLEGE

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Theory and practical application have converged in Tucumcari, NM, home to the North American Wind Research and Training Center at Mesalands Community College, where 59 students are currently pursuing associate degree training in wind energy technology.

This forward-thinking field of study doesn't rely solely on simulations and textbook illustrations, however; a 1.5-megawatt, commercial-grade wind turbine – dubbed "the tallest classroom in the world" – enhances the curriculum by offering hands-on experience in mechanical systems, power generation and distribution, and diagnosis and repair. In addition to its educational contribution to the program, the wind turbine also has a useful purpose. When it is generating electricity, it embodies Mesalands' commitment to the future of renewable energy by helping to power the 26,000-square-foot research/training facility. Revenue provided by any excess energy, which is put on the national grid, helps fund the college's entire electricity bill.


FINALIST:

North American Wind Research and Training Center

CATEGORY: GREEN FACILITIES

Such a win-win situation might seem like a no-brainer, but the learning curve in turning this program and project from dialogue into reality was no small task, according to Dr. Phillip O. Barry, president of Mesalands Community College. When the college's interest in the concept of wind and renewables was piqued in 2004, Mesalands moved forward in developing the concept, eventually receiving state appropriations to conduct a feasibility study and formal business plan that detailed the type of turbine needed, cost of erection, and long-term revenues and expenses.

"The wind turbine was a critical element in having this North American Wind Research and Training Center," explains Barry. "To teach students on anything less than a commercial-grade turbine would be cheating them." Over the next three years, the college continued to solicit funds from the state and local governments. Barry's next move: Teaming up with the famed Sandia National Laboratories in nearby Albuquerque to research new technologies in wind energy, the first-ever partnership between a national laboratory and a two-year school. The synergy grew to include collaboration with Tucumcari Economic Development Corporation; New Mexico Economic Development Department; New Mexico Energy, Minerals, and Natural Resources Department; Coalition for Clean Affordable Energy; and Regional Development Corporation.

Such perseverance and cooperation has paid off: In August 2008, the first class of wind energy students began their training at Mesalands Community College; the General Electric wind turbine became fully operational in December 2008; and construction of the new North American Wind Research and Training Center commenced in late 2009, financed through a $7 million New Mexico Government Obligation (GO) bond.

Project Team

(partial list)

Owner (Award Submitter): Mesalands Community College
Architect: Kilmer and Associates
Contractor: Gerald Martin General Contractor

This month, Mesalands' pledge to a renewables future has been realized, as the new North American Wind Research and Training Center opens its doors. The facility contains a display area, an auditorium, lecture halls, classrooms, offices, and hydraulic and electric labs. A shop complex with high-bay doors at each side ensures pull-through capabilities for trucks carrying wind turbine components. In the elevated front facade of the prefabricated steel structure, an aesthetically pleasing array of windows depicts wind turbine blades in rotation and serves as a statement of the building's function.

Currently pursuing LEED Silver certification, the facility's energy-efficient capabilities include underground cisterns for rainwater harvesting, abundant natural lighting through windows and skylights, and carbon-neutral status on windy days. The greatest satisfaction, says Barry, is "the fact that we're doing it right. By having the turbine and the facility in which to teach it, we've made a full commitment to commercial wind."

 


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Visit our website today to learn about the design flexibility of a Morton building and the endless possibilities of partnering with our designBUILD team.


Wood construction is both cost and energy efficient. Check out Morton Buildings and our designBUILD team online today to discover all the benefits of post-frame construction.


When choosing a metal-clad building for your next construction project, consider Morton Buildings, Inc., and their designBUILD team, we’ll make your dream a reality.

Bluebeam® Revu® simplifies digital facilities document management from design review to leveraging as-builts, maintenance manuals and O&Ms submittals.

Yaskawa drives offer quality performance for air handlers and cooling towers on the roof to secondary chilled water pumps in the basement

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Our mission is to help our customers manage their buildings' energy costs, improve reliability, and enhance performance while having a positive impact on the environment.
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