UMore Park, the University of Minnesota's sprawling research area in eastern Rosemount, doesn't typically get much wind.

That makes it the perfect place for the university's new wind-turbine project.

That's because the goal of a turbine to be built there this year is not to feed the electrical grid, but to conduct research on ways to generate wind energy even when gales aren't prevalent.

"It's very easy to put up wind turbines in very windy areas, but if we want to advance wind energy technology, we need to figure out how to harvest the most energy from wind in not-as-windy areas," said project manager Jeff Marr.

At a public forum Thursday in Rosemount, the university detailed how it will use a two-year grant to try to solve some of the technological problems plaguing the wind-energy industry. Researchers will study how to improve wind farm design, how to capture more energy from the wind and how to minimize the impact of turbines on radar, among other things.

The 415-foot wind turbine will be built this winter. The two-year grant is for $7.9 million.

U officials said they couldn't let the research opportunity pass them by. 

"As opposed to many of the projects that people like myself are involved in, where our research is laboratory-based ... this is really a project that is going to be integrated in the community," said Mostafa Kaveh, the associate dean for research and planning in the school's College of Science and Engineering.

The university was one of three institutions to receive the grants from the U.S. Department of Energy, announced last year.

The grant was funded with stimulus dollars from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act in an effort to bring the country closer to generating 20 percent of its electricity from wind power by 2030. Additional funding is coming from the state and industry partners.

For the research, UMore is working with a consortium of academic and industry partners such as Dakota County Technical College and 3M.

Part of the vision for the 5,000-acre UMore property is that it will foster innovations in renewable energy. The long-term plan is to build a master-planned community on the site; it could be home to tens of thousands of people.

Carla Carlson, executive director of the Office for UMore Park Academic Initiatives, thinks the wind research grant matches the park's mission.

"It is a perfect fit given that energy is one of the hallmarks of our sustainable community," Carlson said.

Nicole Norfleet • 612-673-4495