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MIT to build wind turbine on its campus

Posted by Brock Parker  March 17, 2010 01:10 AM

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The Massachusetts Institute of Technology will erect a wind turbine on its campus by the end of the summer after the City of Cambridge approved the project Tuesday.

The turbine, which will be 67.5 feet tall, is the first proposed under new zoning laws Cambridge passed last fall in an effort to make it easier to build wind turbines in the city.

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“MIT feels the wind turbine will be a positive addition to the campus and will serve as a strong symbol of MIT’s commitment to energy research and education,” said Adam Serafin, a campus planner for MIT’s department of facilities campus planning and design.

Cambridge’s Planning Board unanimously approved a special permit for the project.

“I think this turbine project is something that has tremendous potential and I’m hoping that the research that comes out of it does benefit all of us at some point,” said Charles Studen, associate member of the board. “Anything we can do to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels, as far as I’m concerned, is something I feel we should be paying close attention to, especially our reliance on foreign oil.”

The turbine will be used for educational and research purposes, and will be located near Vassar Street either at Briggs Field or Steinbrenner Stadium on the campus.

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Kathy Araujo, a doctoral student in urban planning at MIT and co-president of Wind Energy Group, said both sites are good candidates for a turbine, but a study is still underway to determine which would be best.

Students will be using the turbine for a number of different research projects, including how to optimize wind power and the effects of urban terrain on wind turbines.

The 2.4 kilowatt turbine will generate a small amount of power that will be run into the power grid, but Serafin said how the electricity would be used has not been determined. It could be used to power neighboring lights for athletic fields, he said.

Last year the Museum of Science installed five wind turbines and in December of 2008 Harvard University installed several small building-mounted turbines on top of the Holyoke Center in Harvard Square. The museum and Harvard each had to obtain a variance to install turbines in Cambridge.

Under new zoning laws adopted by Cambridge last September, the construction of some wind turbines are allowed as of right. Others, such as the freestanding turbine MIT plans to build, still need a special permit from the city. Even obtaining a special permit to build a wind turbine can be easier than obtaining a variance to build something not allowed by zoning laws, said Beth Rubenstein, Assistant City Manager for Community Development in Cambridge.

“The city wants to be green,” she said.

--brock.globe@gmail.com

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