wind power

Student-Designed Windmill Blade Outperforms Manufacturer

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (Apr. 23, 2015) — Students throughout northern Alabama competed in the inaugural Switchblade Competition April 23 at the University of Alabama in Huntsville.

Each team was required to redesign the blades of a windmill to adjust to the low power wind conditions of Alabama. Senior Systems Engineer Bill Pannell, from the U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Research, Development and Engineering Center, came up with the idea while experimenting with a windmill used for military operations in Afghanistan.

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Wind Power Competition Draws Student Teams

When Bill Pannell was considering how to redesign a windmill used for military operations in Afghanistan, he never thought his idea would start a statewide competition among high school and collegiate students.

Pannell oversees the energy lab at the Aviation and Missile Research Development and Engineering Center within the System Simulation and Development Directorate.

“I have a small Army windmill that puts out about 300 watts of electricity in high winds, but not much in low winds. So, the idea is to have students design and build better windmill blades, to create more electricity in low winds,” he said. “I call it Switch Blade because the students will switch out the Army windmill blades with their blades, then compete in a wind tunnel test. We will measure who produces the most power/energy within three minutes.”

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“Switch Blade”, A Statewide Collegiate Wind Turbine Competition, Announces Full Slate of Teams

“Switch Blade”, A Statewide Collegiate Wind Turbine Competition, Announces Full Slate of Teams

Huntsville, Ala. – “Switch Blade”, a wind turbine competition in which high school and college students redesign and manufacture the blades of a military wind power system, has successfully filled all slots for open teams. Participating teams come from the University of Alabama in Huntsville (two teams), Alabama A&M University, Columbia High School and Hartselle High School. Participating teams are receiving a $500 stipend to defray the cost of participation. The stipends were made possible through generous support by the Association of Energy Engineers Huntsville Chapter and Avion Solutions. The public competition date is set for April 22, 2015 on the UAH campus.

“We’re so excited to have a full slate of teams competing from around the area,” says Daniel Tait, CEO of Energy Alabama “and the amount of local support for this effort is really incredible.”

The Switch Blade Project is a joint effort of Energy Alabama, Avion Solutions, Inc., Energy Huntsville, The University of Alabama in Huntsville, and the U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Research, Development, and Engineering Center. For more information visit:

About the Energy Alabama

Energy Alabama is accelerating the transition to sustainable, clean energy throughout Alabama. We achieve this by widely promoting sustainable energy as a feasible, state-wide goal, by executing high-impact clean energy projects across the State, and by providing people with information and opportunities to help make clean energy choices. We work with policy makers, public agencies, local governments, educational institutions, utilities, business and civic leaders and individuals to transform Alabama’s energy marketplace and beyond. ALCSE is committed to NetZeroHSV – powering Huntsville with 100% clean and efficient energy by 2025 and Alabama by 2035.

About the Energy Huntsville Initiative

Energy Huntsville is a nonprofit collaboration of more than 100 businesses, federal agencies, universities, and other organizations focused on facilitating the innovation, education, and coordination needed to drive our community’s energy economy.  Energy Huntsville contributes to the diversification of the region’s research and test portfolio, workforce, and economy by linking the engineering, modeling and simulation, testing, and technology strengths of the North Alabama region with key customer requirements and national policy directives for advanced energy systems and applications.

About the University of Alabama in Huntsville

The University of Alabama in Huntsville offers over 80 areas of study, is ranked #1 for “Return on Investment among AL Schools”, has launched two satellites into space, and is home to over 12 on-site research centers. While UAH is one of the nation’s top research institutions, the University has also become a leader in sustainable initiatives for other Alabama universities.

About Avion Solutions, Inc.

Avion Solutions, Inc. is the 2014 Small Business Champion of Energy, awarded by Nexus Energy Center in Huntsville.  Avion supports clients within the Department of Energy’s Portfolio Manager Program.  Avion is a professional product and engineering service organization, specializing in the solution of technical and operational problems through the application of research, analysis, and software technology.

About US Army Aviation and Missile Research, Development, and Engineering Center

AMRDEC’s mission is to plan, manage and conduct research, exploratory, and advanced development, and provide one-stop life cycle engineering, technical and scientific support for Army manned and unmanned aviation weapon systems, missile weapon systems and related or assigned weapons systems and their support systems. AMRDEC’s Energy Lab is focused on energy modernization of 266 buildings on Redstone Arsenal and on military systems developed and deployed by AMRDEC. Reduced power bills on military bases and reduced fuel consumption on the battlefield can result in more funding available to provide the best tools and technologies to deployed troops.

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If you would like more information about this topic, please contact Daniel Tait by phone at (256) 303-7773 or by email at