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Clarkson is Helping Make Wind Energy More Viable

Kenneth D. Visser, associate professor of Mechanical and Aeronautical Engineering at Clarkson University, likes to work with air. From teaching undergraduate aircraft design and developing devices to reduce drag and increase fuel efficiency on tractor trailers, to helping bring about a new generation of small wind turbines, he applies his understanding of the intricacies of air motion to modern day problems.

On the other hand, Pragasen Pillay, the Jean Newell Distinguished Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Clarkson, likes motors. Pillay focuses his research on electrical machine drives for industrial and alternate energy applications, including wind turbines. He is currently finishing a three-year Department of Energy research grant improving the efficiency of electric motors.

With wind power becoming one of the nation's fastest growing industries, researchers like Visser and Pillay are helping businesses make wind economically competitive with other forms of energy by combining their knowledge to increase the aerodynamic and electrical efficiency of turbines.

Clarkson University is collaborating with Warner Energy in New York to develop a new small wind turbine that can be used in both urban and rural areas and can operate efficiently even in low wind areas. Warner Energy is a joint venture, combining the expertise of O'Brien & Gere, an engineering and project delivery company, and the Drescher Corporation to develop a new small wind turbine that can be used in both urban and rural areas and can operate efficiently even in low wind areas.

"Today's small turbines are only about half as efficient as theoretically possible," says Visser. "If turbines can be made more compact and efficient, the cost effectiveness would promote owner interest and they could be mounted on building tops in metropolitan areas, on farms and even residential homes across the country."

To accomplish this, Clarkson and Warner Energy are jointly researching ways to improve aerodynamics and generator design to develop new wind turbine concepts. A patent is pending on an optimized design concept and construction is underway on the first full-scale 2.5 kilowatt prototype. The first bench-scale prototype was designed, built and tested at Clarkson.

Visser received his doctoral degree in aeronautical engineering from the University of Notre Dame and went on to work at the NASA Langley Research Center. He joined Clarkson in 1998 from the Boeing Company where he was involved in the design of high-speed civil transport and the 767-44ER aircraft. His research interests include applied aerodynamics, aircraft design, and sustainable energy concepts. Details can be found at

Pillay, a Fulbright scholar, received his doctoral degree from the Virginia Polytechnic Institute & State University. He is a Fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE), a nonprofit, technical professional association with more than 370,000 members in 150 countries. He is also a member of the Academy of Science of South Africa and delivered the 50th Bernard Price Memorial lecture in five South African cities in 2001. Details of Pillay's research can be found at

PHOTO CAPTION: Full-scale wind turbine tests are conducted at Clarkson University's wind turbine test facility. Meteorological and wind turbine performance data is recorded every second. Clarkson professors Kenneth D. Visser and Pragasen Pillay are part of a collaborative research and development effort between the University and Warner Energy to develop more efficient small wind turbines that can be used in urban and rural areas.

[News directors and editors: For more information, contact Annie Harrison, Director of Media Relations, at 315-268-6764 or]

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