Wind’s a-comin’ 

The dean of UM’s College of Technology, Paul Williamson, talks of turning Montana’s energy lemons into lemonade through the use of hydrogen power from wind, water and solar sources (see “Hydrogen State,” by Mike Keefe-Feldman, March 20, 2003). Williamson proposed a UM wind turbine at a public hearing before the Missoula Board of Adjustments on Wednesday, Dec. 17.

“We’re trying to make a difference because energy is civilization’s pathway to progress,” Williamson said. “We’re wanting to move toward a more balanced universe.”

Williamson believes the wind turbine would be a step, albeit a small one, in that direction. The proposed Bergey brand turbine—funded through EPSCOR (a federal program aiding research at rural colleges)—would stand alongside the Kim Williams Trail and reach 80 feet into the sky.

Vicki Watson, UM professor of environmental studies, offered public comment, stating that as both a University neighborhood resident and a “heavy user” of the Kim Williams Trail, she feels the positives of the turbine outweigh any potential negatives. Watson pointed out that the compactible turbine could be taken down during the warmer months, when birds and people use the area most often—and when there is little wind to generate power anyhow.

The turbine will generate 10 kilowatts, or enough juice to power two homes for a year. While that may not be much, Williamson says that the point is to have a unit that UM students can work with and learn from, so that when the technology takes off on a larger scale, Montana will be ready with a trained workforce in place.

Carol Bellin of Womens Opportunity and Resource Development (WORD) added that the turbine could aid in her organization’s mission of providing technical skills to low-income women, and called Williamson “a visionary leader.”

Because the University is not subject to Missoula’s zoning laws, the board didn’t vote on the turbine. The final say will rest with University President George Dennison, who says he hasn’t seen the final design, but is confident the project will move forward.

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