Let me take you back to a time long, long ago. A new governor had just set up shop in Columbus. Renewable Energy projects were misunderstood and virtually unknown in the Mahoning Valley. And the Cleveland Browns were picked to win their division. Seriously.
The year was 2007.
Three organizations met to discuss the possibility of creating a wind turbine project: A forward thinking school district; Western Reserve Local. An environmentally progressive architectural firm; Olsavsky-Jaminet. And a well-established local company willing to adapt to a new business reality; Tri-County Tower Service.
Fast forward to 2009. After 2 years of planning and effort, and the collaboration of 13 businesses in the state of Ohio, these wind turbines have become a reality.
When Tri-County Tower Service (now operating under the name of their renewable energy division, TCT Renewable Energy) was approached by Superintendent Chuck Swindler of Western Reserve in Berlin Center, Ohio, it was immediately determined that a wind study should be initiated on site. As time passed and it became evident that there was enough of a resource available to support a wind project, system parameters were developed. The school decided that they would like to utilize a single turbine in the 100kW range to produce 10% of their current electricity needs. However, it soon became clear that the marginal wind speed onsite would not support a unit in that kW range. Please bear in mind that “marginal” is a relative term. Wind maps, production charts and return on investment spreadsheets showed that they had enough wind to make a small scale project feasible, but not enough to support a larger turbine.
With that in mind, TCT helped them to choose the three Proven 15kW turbines that are now in place. Proven is the world’s largest manufacturer of small wind turbines. Despite their longevity, they had yet to see a project that was quite like this one. In order to adequately harvest the full potential of the wind, it was decided to place the three turbines atop 150ft. tall self-supporting lattice towers. This decision made the project the tallest Proven installation in the world! With the turbines in place, hub height would be at 160ft. Overall project height is 175ft. once the 15ft. long blades are considered. These units will produce around 85,000kWh annually for the school.
To date the school has received almost$300,000.00 in grant money, mostly from the Advanced Energy Fund administered by the Ohio Department of Development. Additional funds are being sought from the Green Team, the Department of Education and the Appalachian Regional Commission. Integrated curriculum is being developed that will allow the project to be used not just as a power source, but as a learning tool. Furthermore, the three turbines will help Western Reserve to be LEED Gold Certified on their new grade-inclusive facility scheduled for completion in 2011. The wind turbines, coupled with the district’s new 216 well geothermal system, will produce the lion’s share of the power for the new structure.
However, these are much more than wind turbines. They are a tangible symbol of the progressive thinking that can propel our region into a leadership position in the state’s renewable energy supply chain. Renewable energy should not be a partisan political issue, but a jointly pursued goal that produces environmentally conscious and economically quantifiable results.
The leadership of Western Reserve Local Schools should be applauded for installing a wind project that allows them to be fiscally responsible, climatically aware and educationally adaptive.
Western Reserve Wind Project: A Walk on the Technical Side
Due to an overwhelming response for additional information (and a preponderance of incorrect information being disseminated by less than informed sources) on this wind turbine project located in Berlin Center, OH, I have decided to post this article covering many of the technical aspects of this installation. I have tried to include the major components of the system and I apologize in advance for the rather dry nature of the article; it is difficult to make a silk purse out of a synchronous 3-phase AC alternator.
The Western Reserve Local School wind turbine project consists of three Proven wind turbines. Proven is a Scottish company and is the top producer of small wind turbines in the world. The turbines on site are rated at 15kW at 26mph. Their permanent magnet, direct drive, synchronous 3-phase generators produce 300Vac power at 50Hz. They have no gearbox. The project was designed to produce approximately 80,000 kWh of electricity annually at their installed height and wind speed on site.
The hollow core blades of the 30ft. diameter rotor are made of a proprietary material called Twintex. Twintex is a glass thermoplastic composite. The blades are attached to the rotor hub via a polyurethane “blade root” and spring assembly. This setup allows the rotor to “cone in” as the wind speed increases in order for the turbine to maintain its operating speed of approximately 150rpm. Due to this design feature, the turbines can produce electricity from approximately 6mph to well over 125mph. There is no shut down speed. The 2450lb. turbines can be shut down via a mechanical brake and electronic disconnect switch at the base of each tower. In regards to noise, the turbines produce approximately 48dB @5m/s and 65dB @20m/s.
The turbines produce unregulated, or wild, AC which runs down the tower and into the electrical component room via #6 electrical wire. Once in the control room, the electricity is rectified into DC power by ECM15004ME/300 controllers (one per turbine). It is then sent to nine separate SMA Windy Boy 7000 inverters which turn the power into AC end send it to the school via #4 electrical wire. The project is grid connected, so net electricity is returned to the grid and the school receives a credit for production. The district has already realized net production within the first 30 days of installation.
The turbines are mounted on 150ft. tall American Tower Company self-supporting lattice towers. The towers are spaced just over 150ft. apart. There is approximately a 10ft. height variation between tower #1 and #3 due to elevation change in topography. The towers are mounted on separate caisson style foundations that are 2ft. in diameter and up to 31ft. deep.
The project cost about $400,000.00 including the electrical component room, the 500ft. road and wetland restoration. To date, the school district has received over $300,000.00 in subsidies, with the vast majority of that number coming from the state via the AEF and OSFC. Additional subsidies are currently being written for.
I thank you for your interest in renewable energy and encourage you to contact me with any additional questions that you have that have not been covered in this article.
TALCO Electronics “North Americas Leading Wind Turbine Distributor” supplied and trained the TCT renewable team.