Student wind-power researcher to make case for offshore potential at Quest

At Quest on Wednesday, April 18, Brittany Gibbons will display and talk about the computer-generated maps she has spent the academic year developing for offshore wind power—not for Lake Ontario off Oswego, but for the Atlantic Ocean from Cape Cod to New Jersey.

Ocean-based wind power “has just been a growing source of interest,” said the senior meteorology major. “The onshore wind towers around Oswego are not going anywhere, and we have done previous studies.”

Brittany Gibbons with wind turbine in backgroundGibbons’ presentation will be among hundreds of activities at Quest, the college’s signature day to celebrate the scholarship and creativity of students, faculty and staff.

The senior meteorology major from Binghamton knows offshore wind power is a hot-button topic but sailed into the research project for her honors thesis.

“I could see how it could cause disturbances among fish and migrating birds, and people living oceanside do not want to see the towers from their homes,” Gibbons said. “We just have to figure out a happy medium.”

Powerful research

Gibbons, under the mentorship of Dr. Robert Ballentine of the meteorology department, has worked collecting data on offshore wind direction, speed, sustainability and more from a meteorological numerical prediction model called WRF (Weather Research and Forecasting).

With a computer program developed by meteorology faculty member Dr. Steven Skubis, Gibbons interpolates the data to maps—in vivid colors—showing such features as optimum distance from shore and tower height for the familiar wind-driven power generators. A viable business model is equally important.

“So far with a mini-tab analysis we have found specific distances in the spring where sustainable winds are seen to level off at 10 meters per second,” she said. “Beyond that distance, it doesn’t make economic sense, because the tower foundations would have to be built in much deeper water for relatively the same amount of energy as in shallower waters.”

Gibbons plans to put to work all she is learning. She has an offer from New England utility NSTAR, based in Boston, for a six-month position to help connect customers to the power grid using sustainable energy sources such as wind and solar. She continues to look for her “ideal job,” as a wind analyst.

“I want to make a difference in the world, as corny as that sounds,” she said. “I hope in the jobs I apply for that I can continue to study wind power or solar energy that’s clean.”

The 2012 edition of Quest will offer presentations, exhibitions and events throughout the Campus Center, all of which are free and open to the public. Displays will range from art students’ works to scholarly posters on the building’s concourse to screenings and discussions of student-produced films.

Presentations will come from students and faculty across a wide swath of academic disciplines, from A to Z, anthropology to zoology. A small sampling:

* Earl Bellinger, one of five SUNY Oswego students to receive the 2012 Chancellor’s Award for Student Excellence, will make an astrophysics presentation on star-classification software.

* Damaris Dunn, a senior McNair Scholar, will talk about her study of African women victimized in the transatlantic slave trade.

* Students who scaled Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania for a physical education course will discuss the learning outcomes of the January adventure.

* Theatre and physics students will present plays about historic scientific events.

For more information about Quest, visit

PHOTO CAPTION: Fan of wind—SUNY Oswego senior meteorology student Brittany Gibbons, here perched near the Lee Hall wind turbine, will display and discuss the results of her senior honors thesis on offshore wind power on Wednesday, April 18, at the college’s annual Quest symposium. Her presentation will join hundreds of other exhibitions, events and talks in Oswego’s annual day to celebrate student, faculty and staff scholarship and creativity.

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(Posted: Apr 05, 2012)

Tags: quest, meteorology, energy