What's an "Anemometer"?

By Scarlett Kerby & Rebecca Marietta
Thursday, July 1, 2010

JBU Helps Community Invest in Green Energy

MOST PEOPLE CAN'T SPELL "ANEMOMETER"

JBU’s renewable energy director Fernando Vega, however, knows the devices inside and out. Vega says JBU’s anemometer loan program is an important part of renewable energy at JBU. What is an anemometer? The device measures wind power at a specific location over time in order to determine whether or not it would be economically feasible to build a wind turbine. 

JBU has four anemometers it loans out to help farmers, landowners and other businesspeople who are considering investing in green energy. JBU is the only university in Arkansas with an anemometer loan program. Last year, the program received 26 applications and only four of the most promising locations in Arkansas were selected.

After selecting the finalists, Vega and his students installed the 34-foot anemometers, a task which can take around eight hours. Now the students are analyzing the data gathered by the machine for an entire year to determine whether it would be profitable for the landowners to install an energy-generating windmill. Green technology is expensive.

The anemometer alone costs more than $10,000. The loan program was funded in part by the Arkansas Energy Office at the cost of $47,000 for the four anemometers, some of which was covered partially by a $25,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Wind Powering America Program. Jenny Ahlen, coordinator of the Arkansas Energy Office in Little Rock, said she would like to see the JBU anemometer project develop into a long term program with the company.

“We here at Arkansas Energy know that Fernando Vega has a great background and is a good fit for this program,” Ahlen said. Vega’s passion for anemometers comes from wanting to find solutions to energy problems, as well as improving JBU’s home state. In fact, Vega even hopes to possibly power JBU with wind technology, which is why there was a 100-meter anemometer set up measuring the wind blowing over campus.

-Scarlett Kerby

PROFESSOR VEGA'S WORLD OF RENEWABLE ENERGY EXPERIENCE

Anyone asking questions about the renewable energy program at JBU will soon hear the name “Professor Fernando Vega.” After graduating from JBU in 1990 with a degree in engineering, Professor Vega returned to his home country of Honduras and began working as an engineer for a well-known oil company.

In 2002, Vega received his Master’s in Finance, and his research led him to feasibility studies in renewable energy projects, where he explored how wind, solar, and biomass energies fit into the national strategy for improvement. Soon Vega began to feel restless in his work. “I really enjoyed renewables,” Vega says, “so I basically left this ‘conventional’ energy business and started looking for study programs abroad in renewable energies.”

His search led Vega to Germany, where he worked for a wind consulting company and pursued a Master’s of Science in Renewable Energies at the University of Oldenburg. In 2005, Vega was asked by JBU to join the IBCD staff, doing research in indigenous technologies for community development, and in 2009, Vega found himself at the helm of JBU’s new Renewable Energy program.

“My hope is that I can give my students the tools that they will need to get started in the field of RE,” says Professor Vega, “but also, along the way, plant in them the desire to use their skills to help those people who desperately need it the most."

-Rebecca Marietta