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JMU Team Tops VA Tech – Places First at National Collegiate Wind Energy Competition

A virtual format for a national wind energy competition didn’t stop James Madison University students from excelling once again.

The U.S. Department of Energy announced that JMU placed first in the project development category of the 2020 Collegiate Wind Competition, topping 11 other universities from around the country. In 2018, a JMU team finished first in the business portion of the competition sponsored by the U.S. DOE and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

“We couldn’t be more proud of these hard-working young men and women,” said Jonathan Miles, professor of integrated science and technology and one of three advisors to the team. “Mostly seniors, they operated under extraordinary and imperfect conditions while juggling competing priorities.”

This year’s competitors were challenged to design a turbine to withstand continuous winds of 22–25 meters per second and to research and develop a plan for a hypothetical 100-megawatt wind plant in eastern Colorado. JMU’s wind plant design was judged the best; the JMU turbine design placed fifth.

Originally scheduled to be held the first week of June at the American Wind Energy Association’s CLEANPOWER conference in Denver, the competition was moved online due to COVID-19 and was held via webinar on May 20, June 2, June 3 and June 17. The 12 collegiate teams replaced their poster presentations with digital slides, shared their computer screens with the judges, and presented their turbine designs and project development plans from their homes around the country.

“This year’s Collegiate Wind Competition was a particularly memorable one, as everyone involved had to quickly adapt to holding the competition in a virtual format,” said Daniel R. Simmons, assistant secretary for energy efficiency and renewable energy at the U.S. Department of Energy. “I am inspired by the flexibility, resilience and dedication of this year’s competitors. These talented students are the next generation of the wind energy workforce.”

Two students from the JMU team already have jobs with wind energy companies.

The JMU team consisted of 21 students representing eight different majors — computer science, engineering, geographic science, industrial design, ISAT, management, physics and theatre — the most diverse of any of the teams.

“The importance and significance of this is emphasized regularly by the competition organizers and DOE leadership, as it reflects the multi-varied workforce that is required to sustain and grow the renewable energy industry,” said Miles, who also is director of the Center for the Advancement of Sustainable Energy at JMU.

Advising the team in addition to Miles were C.K. Lee, assistant professor of management, and Keith Holland, associate professor of engineering.

Holland said, “Everyone contributed effectively, investing significant time and energy to the project, despite the sudden shift to remote teaming and competition modifications this spring. Investment in such projects positions JMU graduates to be contributors and leaders in the growing clean energy economy.”

Lee, who researches and teaches entrepreneurship, also lauded the collaborative nature of the competition and the value it has for students in the entrepreneurship minor at JMU. “I am proud that JMU has now taken first place twice at this national competition,” he said. “It reflects as well on the importance of entrepreneurship, which is a defining feature of the JMU team.”

This was the fourth time JMU participated in the event, including the inaugural event in 2014. JMU will participate again in 2021.

Other institutions competing this year were:

  • California Maritime Academy
  • California State University, Chico
  • Northern Arizona University
  • Pennsylvania State University
  • Texas Tech University
  • Tuskegee University
  • University of Maryland
  • University of New Haven
  • University of Wisconsin
  • Virginia Tech
  • Washington State University-Everett

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