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Cleveland Indians to Install Innovative Wind Turbine Design Developed by Cleveland State University

Alice Henly

Posted October 11, 2011 in Curbing Pollution, Environmental Justice, Green Enterprise, Health and the Environment, Living Sustainably, Moving Beyond Oil, Solving Global Warming, The Media and the Environment

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There will soon be a new homerun target for batters at Progressive Field. At the top of the south-east corner of the ballpark, down the first base line, the Cleveland Indians will be installing a micro wind turbine in March 2012.  NRDC helped the Indians launch their greening initiative more than three years ago and this latest development takes the Indians’ commitment to environmental responsibility to a new level.

An innovative design by Dr. Majid Rashidi, a professor mechanical engineering at Cleveland State University’s Fenn College of Engineering, this “helical wind turbine” rethinks the basic structure of wind turbines. The Indians have partnered with the University to pilot this pioneering design, at no cost to the Club, in the hope that it will teach fans about the potential of renewable energy. The project will also hopefully help boost renewable job opportunities in the region by providing a successful real-world test of a locally-manufactured technology.

2.5 turn - front view.JPGDr. Rashidi’s research focuses on increasing the velocity of wind, and thereby the amount of power generated, by using “wind amplification structures” like the cylinder shown here. The 18-foot wide cylinder is constantly rotating to find the most turbulent wind that will keep the four 6-foot circular turbines spinning, and generating energy, as fast as possible.  

“Wind amplification structures result in higher power output and reduce the minimum wind speed required to begin spinning a turbine,” Rashidi said. “Our research shows that by placing a turbine next to the cylinder, the wind energy output can be up to three to four times greater than a stand-alone turbine of the same size.”

Using grants from the U.S. Department of Energy and the State of Ohio, Rashidi has developed a patented “wind amplification turbine system” that he believes is both cost-effective and commercially viable. These grants also fully cover cost of the turbine and installation at Progressive Field.

The turbine will be assembled on-site in a parking lot adjacent to the ballpark to minimize cost. Platform construction on top of the ballpark will begin in a couple weeks, but assembly of the turbine is not scheduled until March 2012, when there is an appropriate gap in the ballpark’s game and event schedule.

Even though the Indians’ turbine will be only 15 feet tall, it is anticipated to generate a minimum of 40,000 kWh/year, the amount of energy it takes to power four average American households for an entire year, because it is built to generate power even at lower wind speeds.

The Cleveland Indians’ Assistant Director of Ballpark Operations, Brad Mohr, and Dr. Rashidi believe the very visible turbine installation atop the ballpark will help demonstrate that there is a market for renewable energy in Ohio. By installing wind energy on their ballpark, the Indians hope to stimulate greater demand for clean energy in Cleveland while also driving the local economy by promoting jobs in renewable energy manufacturing.

“With this project we hope to not only benefit the environment by increasing our use of renewable energy, but also help an impressive new technology generate local jobs by taking advantage of Cleveland’s great manufacturing workforce and factories,” explains Mohr. “We will also be installing interactive digital kiosks about wind energy—including plans for stationary bikes for fans to try and generate as much power as the turbine—to take advantage of this great opportunity to teach fans about clean energy technologies.”

Mohr notes that apart from the blades, which were made in Michigan, each component of the turbine will be manufactured in Ohio. “Not only is it designed to be a low-cost and easy-to-install product, but all the parts and labor needed to mass produce the turbine system are available in Northeast Ohio,” Rashidi also emphasizes.

solar panels.JPG

This isn’t the first renewable energy project the Indians have pioneered in the region. In June 2007 the Indians installed a 42-panel solar electric system—visible to the thousands of fans who pass through the ballpark each game day—that generates enough power to run all 400 televisions throughout Progressive Field with 8.4 kilowatts of clean renewable energy (approximately 10,000 kWh/year). Although the solar array is small, the cultural message being sent by the Indians about the need to find alternatives to fossil fuels is huge.

In fact, the Indians have an impressive record of environmental initiatives. Since 2008, Mohr’s expanded recycling program—with 125 recycling receptacles around the ballpark—has cut the stadium’s trash tonnage in half and saved the ballpark $50,000 each year. “That's where we see the financial difference, that and in recycling, avoiding trash being hauled away,” Mohr says.  “Green initiatives are here to stay because they save teams money.”

Other noteworthy environmental projects by the Indians include:

  • a comprehensive composting program;
  • fully retrofitting lighting fixtures, bulbs and adding light sensors to increase energy efficiency;
  • rethinking procedures by decommissioning sections of the stadium when not in use to save big on energy, water, staffing, and supplies by using the field more effectively;
  • only purchasing paper products made of 100 percent post consumer content;
  • only using Green Seal certified cleaning products; and
  • developing a staff and fan environmental education program with ad campaign taglines such as, “Our Tribe is Green... Are You in the Tribe?”.  

With help from NRDC and its many greening resources, like the Greening Advisor, the Indians have made impressive strides in improving the efficiency of their operations to save hundreds of thousands of dollars, while benefiting the environment and educating thousands of fans.

And the Indians have no plans to slow down. The new wind turbine is only one of several green projects on the horizon for Progressive Field, with plans in the works for a 4,000 square foot living green roof and pursuing solar thermal technology. Add their up-and-coming hard-hitting young team to the mix and the Indians are hitting one message home—watch this space!—because who knows what’ll happen next at Progressive Field.

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Switchboard is the staff blog of the Natural Resources Defense Council, the nation’s most effective environmental group. For more about our work, including in-depth policy documents, action alerts and ways you can contribute, visit NRDC.org.

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