Partnership to research wind energy

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    Oxford University in England and TCU will team up with the world’s largest wind-energy producer to conduct a five-year research project to focus on the impact of wind power development, Chancellor Victor Boschini said Wednesday during a news conference.

    The research, funded by FPL Energy LLC, will be coordinated by TCU’s Institute for Environmental Studies and Oxford University’s Environmental Change Institute, Boschini said.

    Mike Slattery, director of the Institute for Environmental Studies, said the partnership among TCU, Oxford and FPL will launch a ground-breaking initiative to better understand the wind energy development in the U.S.

    “Our goal is to play a leading role in supplying the science base for what will be a major area of societal concern in this century,” he said. “We want to provide both energy and environmental security.”

    TJ Tuscai, senior vice president of business management for FPL, said it is an exciting time for TCU because Texas is responsible for about 40 percent of wind installations.

    He said the wind industry has gone through tremendous growth, and the company expects it to continue growing in Texas and throughout the U.S.

    The research initiative, to cost more than $2 million, the FLP reported to the Associated Press, is an important and significant investment for FPL, Slattery said. The company will provide financial support for both Oxford and TCU and FPL’s internal resources from multiple departments.

    “We think it is remarkable that FPL is providing funding,” Boschini said. “We are very appreciative.”

    Slattery said the project with FPL and Oxford, which is ranked among the world’s leading research and teaching institutions, focuses on three primary areas – wind turbine impact on bats and birds, ecological impacts and socioeconomic impacts.

    The avian and bat impact studies will produce a greater understanding of the interactions of the birds, bats and wind turbines, Slattery said.

    In regard to ecological impacts, he said research will be conducted to test how wind energy reduces atmospheric carbon.

    He also said there will be a focus on socioeconomic impacts of wind projects that will be analyzed on a local and regional basis.

    Boschini said this partnership will be beneficial to students.

    “This collaboration with FPL and Oxford will afford unprecedented research opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students,” he said.

    Ellen Schwaller, an environmental science major, said society is changing and this partnership will help students become more attuned to environmental problems, such as over-population and pollution.

    “It is with great anticipation and pride that we look to the next five years,” she said. “More than anything, I think students are ready to contribute and want to contribute.”