Growing up around sailboats, I have always been intrigued with wind as a source of power. Learning that you can sail relatively close to the direction from which the wind is blowing meant to me that there was more involved than simply letting sailcloth capture the breeze to push the boat downwind.
I was thrilled to learn that by sailing at different relative wind angles, or angles of attack, your boat can sail faster than the airstream by adding the boat-speed vector to the wind-speed vector. What could be better than, in effect, making more breeze? Many factors – like the hull’s shape, the sails’ shape and rigging’s effects on sail shape, landforms, cloud cover, and adjacent boats – all impact the potential of this fickle source of power. The more I learned about these variables, the better use I made of the wind’s free power.
Finding myself on land, in the middle of a twelve-month restoration of a 1968 Olympic class 5.5-meter sailboat, I felt I had been giving the wind a free pass for far too long in other areas. After all, it was good for more than just sailing around. So when I was presented with the opportunity to lead a team on a renewable energy project for Quinnipiac University, I felt it was a fitting assignment. The university wanted York Hill, its new residential campus in Hamden, Connecticut to incorporate a range of sustainable approaches, and wind would be very much in the mix. I was charged with finding the right wind generator, one that could be clustered as a “farm” in the heart of the busy campus. It would be green infrastructure serving as a park-like destination, as sculpture even, a campus conversation piece.