From business to government to schools, wind power is creating new opportunities.
Wind Power is Going to the Big City
Del Williams | Koenders Windmills Inc.
“Wind energy is the fastest growing source of electricity in the world,” states the website of the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), the leading science-based nonprofit working for a healthy environment and a safer world. “In the United States, a record 2,431 MW of wind power was installed in 2005, capable of producing enough electricity to power 650,000 typical homes…. Resource assessments have found that the windy areas (class three and above) in the United States—if fully developed—could supply more than four times the nation’s current electricity needs.”
A growing number of businesses are looking to wind power not only to offset rising power costs, but also to present a “green” marketing advantage. State-of-the-art technology improvements have convinced many that now is the time to act.
“Why did we jump into the wind market?” asks Don Van Houweling, General Manager of The Van Wall Group, the Midwest’s largest John Deere dealer with locations throughout Central Iowa and the greater Kansas City area. “For the first time, the technology is designed for commercial farms or businesses on the electric grid, not just remote off-grid sites. Unlike traditional windmills requiring a complex DC to AC power inverter prone to breakdown, grid-compatible technology like Endurance’s can provide up to 30% more power and greater reliability.”
Van Houweling both uses wind turbines and is a dealer of them. At his Perry, Iowa dealership, for instance, he has installed an S-Series wind turbine by Endurance Wind Power, a leader in small wind turbine technology. The unit is capable of producing up to 20,000 kWh per year, about 20% of the site’s needed power. A larger unit capable of producing over 200,000 kWh per year is scheduled to produce about 85% of the power needed at his upcoming west Des Moines, Iowa site.
When a tornado destroyed Mike Estes’ family-owned John Deere dealership in Greensburg, Kansas as well as most of the town, wind power got his BTI-Greensburg dealership back on its feet again.
“The first thing to go up after the tornado was an S-Series Endurance wind turbine that powered the construction of our new building,” says Estes, co-owner of BTI, a fourth-generation John Deere dealer with four Kansas locations.
The renewable power provided by the wind turbine, along with other measures taken, helped the new BTI-Greensburg facility become the world’s first LEED Platinum John Deere facility. LEED (Leadership In Energy and Environmental Design) is the U.S. Green Building Council’s highest certification for sustainable design.
Inspired by the performance of the Endurance S-Series turbine that can produce over 20,000 KWH per/yr in certain wind conditions, Estes and his family started a new business, BTI Wind Energy, which has become the North American distributor for Endurance.
“We turned to the state-of-the-art wind turbines because they offer the best features of large megawatt units brought down to the individual user and dealer level,” says Estes.
With the Endurance turbines, for instance, grid-compatible power and large rotor diameters that capture more wind enable up to 60 to 70% slower rotor speeds with similar or greater output than traditional units. Like a healthy slow-beating heart will outlast a chronically fast-beating one, this means less wear and tear, quieter operation, plus a service life of over 30 years.
Estes points out a number of features that will help users get the most out of the next generation technology.
“Unlike traditional wind turbines with the controls and generator high above ground, these are designed for easy maintenance with the controls and electronics at ground level,” explains Estes. “For safety and productivity, these have a high wind sensor and dual disc brakes that automatically stop and release the rotors when appropriate; and for those who want total peace of mind, as an option, dealers can remotely monitor and control the turbine operation via a wireless interface.”
While the U.S. Department of Energy’s “20% Wind Energy by 2030” report examines the feasibility of using wind energy to generate 20% of the nation’s electricity demand by that date, current policies are of more immediate help to those looking at wind power.
“As of March 2009, the federal government offers an investment tax credit for the purchase and installation of qualifying small wind electric systems, worth 30% of the value of the system,” according to the U.S. Department of Energy Wind & Hydropower Technologies Program website.
Some local government agencies have already found an answer to significant challenges in wind power.
“To reduce odor and potentially expensive sludge build up in one of our lagoons, we needed a solution,” says Wayne Hanson, Responsible Charge Officer of Montpelier, ID’s city wastewater treatment facility.
The main concern was lagoon number one, where waste solids settled and odor became a problem when the lagoon’s winter ice melted. Also a concern was sludge build up, which reduced lagoon capacity and could require dredging at a cost up to $1 million, including treatment to meet EPA standards.
“Putting enzymes in the lagoon during winter helped control some odor, but cost $10,000 annually and wasn’t a complete solution,” says Hanson. He wanted to aerate the lagoon to reduce odor and the sludge bed, but found most approaches too expensive. “Electric aeration would’ve cost $80,000 a year just in electricity.”
“Of the ten companies we contacted, only Koenders made aeration affordable, and they did it with wind power,” says Hanson. “Continuous aeration keeps the microbial activity aerobic and prevents the build up of noxious hydrogen sulfide gas. We expect it to reduce the sludge bed so we won’t have to dredge.”
Bottom up-water aeration gives water the strength to burn off the excess chemicals and pollutants that cause algae, weed growth and stagnation. The water becomes much clearer and cleaner when air, diffused into tiny bubbles and transported by tube, is continuously pumped to the bottom of a pond or dugout.
In this effort, windmill aerators, such as those innovated by Koenders Windmills over 20 years ago, are gaining in popularity over electrical ones for a number of reasons. Powered by wind as light as 3 to 5 mph, windmill aerators were originally developed for farm pond use when running electricity out to ponds was found to be too expensive. Wind costs nothing, and can save thousands per year in energy, maintenance and filter costs.
Another reason for the popularity of windmill aerators is how long they last. While windmills from companies like Koenders Windmills have only three moving parts and will last decades, electrical aeration devices have motors and generally die out in a few years after constant use. Environmentally friendly windmills also reduce the need for costly electric power or pollution-emitting fossil fuels.
Hanson put in two Koenders windmill aerators in lagoon number one, and they have met all EPA discharge requirements. He recently ordered two more. Since each unit aerates about 2.5 acres of open water, according to Hanson, adding about a half dozen more, as his budget allows, will offer full aeration of Montpelier’s 21 acres of wastewater lagoon.
“With renewable wind power, it costs nothing to aerate the lagoon,” says Hanson. “There’s virtually no maintenance, basically just greasing once a year.”
“Over a decade, the wind powered aerators could save us hundreds of thousands of dollars compared to electric aeration,” adds Hanson. “By eliminating the need to dredge the lagoon and reducing our energy costs, the wind powered aerators could save us millions of dollars over their expected lifetime.”
As schools and communities face volatile energy costs, tight budgets, and a growing need for good jobs, some are harnessing wind power to generate energy and opportunity.
For instance, when Sault College recently installed a 35 kW Endurance wind turbine on-campus, they were the first college in Ontario, Canada to power their Student Life Center using renewable energy, while offering exciting hands-on learning opportunities.
As a learning tool, the turbine is its own classroom. Ironworker apprentices lower the tower as required; civil engineering technicians inspect the tower annually; and mechanical and electrical students learn how to maintain the turbine. Even the process automation students get involved, creating a system to analyze data and show how much power the turbine is producing.
“Because the turbine is essentially a scaled down version of large megawatt units, students get practical hands-on experience they can’t get from a book,” says Colin Kirkwood, Dean of Sault College’s School of the Natural Environment, Technology and Skilled Trades. “Companies with wind turbines have already hired our graduates, and visiting international executives say they’re looking for this type of skill set in new hires.”
Despite generating about 50,000 kWh of electrical power in a little over a year, “the turbine is quieter than rustling leaves and a good fit for our residential area,” says Kirkwood. While the college uses all this power, the turbine’s on-grid electrical design makes it possible to sell excess power back to the electrical grid.
Sault College students are now working on a web-based control system interface that will make the wind turbine a learning tool for the wider community, according to Kirkwood.
“The goal is for prospective students, community members, even elementary, middle, and high school students to track our power generation and carbon credits via our website,” explains Kirkwood. “More interactivity means more involvement.”
The college’s Applied Research Center will also offer applied research with the turbine to companies looking to enter the wind energy market.
“The turbine underlines our commitment to build a better environment,” says Trevor Rising, P.Eng, Sault College’s Supervisor of Maintenance and Construction. “It not only changed our skyline, it changed our way of thinking.”
U.S. schools and technology centers are also taking advantage of wind-powered opportunities.
For instance, Autry Technology Center in Enid, OK, one of the five original technology centers in the state, selected a Model S-250 wind turbine by Endurance Wind Power.
“We chose the Endurance turbine as an economical opportunity to start generating our own power and provide students an actual working model for educational purposes,” says Dr. Marcie Mack, Assistant Superintendent of Autry, which is part of the Oklahoma Career and Technology Education system which includes 29 technology centers with over 55 campuses and various programs within Oklahoma high schools.
With Autry’s current Mechatronics program, the school teaches the fundamentals of topics such as pneumatics, fluid power, motor controls, industrial electricity, and programmable logic controllers. For students who want to go beyond the fundamentals and specialize as a wind technician, the school collaborates with other technology centers to help them achieve their career goals.
The wind turbine, which is about 126 feet tall and weighs 650 lbs., once generated 720 kilowatt hours in a two-week period, and generates an average of about 1100 kilowatt hours of power for school use each month.
“The wind turbine creates an awareness of the wind industry in our community,” says Mack. “Other benefits to our facility are its safety features, quiet mode of operation, and its ability to connect directly to our power source.”
While much is said about wind power’s potential to produce clean, abundant energy without greenhouse gas emissions, in the near future more will be said about its ability to generate savings, jobs, and opportunity.
For more information about wind-powered energy, visit www.endurancewindpower.com or call 1-888-440-4451 in the U.S. or Canada.
For more information about windmill aeration, visit www.koenderswindmills.com. Contact Koenders Windmills Inc. From the U.S. or Canada, call 1-888-440-8556; Fax 1-306-721-1496; Email firstname.lastname@example.org. Outside the U.S. and Canada, call 011-306-721-1495; Fax 011-306-721-1496; Email email@example.com.
The content & opinions in this article are the author’s and do not necessarily represent the views of AltEnergyMag
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