Students gain experience through renewable field work at SUNY Morrisville

Published date
4 p.m.

MORRISVILLE, NY—He worked with different wind turbine towers and took a tower climbing and rescue class. Last week, SUNY Morrisville student Dylan Mathew added wind turbine maintenance to his skill set.

The Long Island native’s goal is to learn all he can through the college’s renewable energy bachelor’s degree program and to sign up for every opportunity offered to him.

“I never know what I will be doing in the future, so I try to learn as much as possible,” he said.  

Mathew was among students in professor Phil Hofmeyer’s Introduction to Small Wind Systems class, which performed maintenance on the college’s Skystream 2.5 kW wind turbine located at the dairy complex off of Eaton Street.

The experience is one of many enriching students’ array of skills.   

Maintenance, which is performed annually on the turbine and is highly dependent on weather conditions, involves tipping the tower down and working with a wide range of tools. Students balanced the rotor blades, torqued rotor and tower bolts and verified proper power electronics functioning. 

At the same time, they also permanently removed the meteorological (MET) tower, a 130-foot temporary structure outfitted with meters to measure wind speed and wind direction, which outlived its life expectancy and was no longer needed. 

“Because it had reached the end of its working lifespan, students gained experience with rigging wire ropes, pulleys and winches during its decommissioning,” Hofmeyer explained. 

The campus invested in wind energy to provide experiential learning opportunities for students, reduce its electricity costs and lower its carbon emissions. Two wind turbines were installed at the Dairy Complex, combined producing about 18,000 kWh/year of electricity.  

While the SUNY Morrisville campus provides many students their first real-world setting, students also perform work outside of class in the local community and through internships. In the past few years, students have designed and installed a solar array at the Fenner Renewable Energy Education (FREE) Center and micro hydroelectricity systems in New Woodstock and Oxbow Falls County Park. 

SUNY Morrisville’s real-world experience is a draw for students like Mathew, who completed a two-year manufacturing degree before deciding to follow his true passion.

“I have always wanted to do something in renewable and then I found Morrisville,” he said. 

Faculty have fueled his drive. “The professors are some of the best,” Mathew said. “They are beyond knowledgeable about what they teach.” 

Internships also play a role in rounding out students’ experiences and providing them with myriad hands-on skills.  

This summer, Mathew is working at a company that installs solar arrays and manages wind turbines they’ve previously installed. He also worked an internship at an electrical company in New York City. 

“With everything you do, you learn something new,” he said. “I learned so much about wiring and project management and how to organize subcontractors.”

Colton Welch, a horticulture business management bachelor’s degree student from Honeye Falls, wants to build eco-friendly houses and knows renewable energy will be a big part of that.

His coursework also is helping him gain the necessary hours toward obtaining an engineering license. An internship in his hometown at ACES, a company that does solar, geothermal and hydronic heating, will expand the wide range of skills Welch has already acquired.