Texas Tech Receives Department of Energy Grant for Wind Power Research

Project will assist site developers in choosing locations based on bird populations.

Texas Tech University is included in a $3 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy to advance the work of 16 institutions doing wind power research. Of the total funds, Texas Tech’s Department of Natural Resources Management was awarded $223,322 over two years to study the response of grassland avian species to the construction of a wind farm in the Texas panhandle. Matthew Butler, research assistant professor, and Warren Ballard, professor, are co-principal investigators on the project. “Our research will identify important habitat conditions for grassland birds and provide wind energy developers with needed information for responsible siting decisions,” Butler said. Two other institutions divide $358,000 with Texas Tech to research siting and potential environmental impacts of wind power, including the National Aviary in Pittsburgh and the University of Michigan. The $3 million investment will advance wind turbine technology research and development, enhance wind technology curricula for university coursework, provide students with educational opportunities for hands-on wind technology research, develop training programs that will build the wind power workforce and research possible environmental impacts of wind power deployment. In the spring of 2009, the DOE dispersed 53 other grants, totaling $8.5 million, of which Texas Tech received $258,393 over two years to better understand the density and distribution of lesser prairie-chicken (LPC) leks – male prairie chicken gathering areas – in potential wind energy development areas. Modeling the relationships among variables such as habitat components and disturbances like oil and gas development, transmission lines and wind energy development, provides wildlife managers and wind energy developers estimates of where LPCs may occur. Texas Tech’s study is ongoing through 2011. For more information on the DOE’s work in this area, see the Wind & Water Power Program Web page. CONTACT: Leslie Cranford, senior editor, Texas Tech University, (806) 742-2136 or leslie.cranford@ttu.edu.