While it’s still uncertain when the turbine blades will start spinning again at Elkton-Pigeon-Bay Port Laker Elementary, there has been some positive movement on the issue regarding DTE Energy requirements that led to the turbines being turned off last week.
“DTE claims that we are in violation of the law by interconnecting our turbines without an interconnection agreement in writing,” Dickens said. “They, however, admit that they have been in violation of the law on at least eight counts by failing to notify the applicant upon us sending the four applications (for projects at the school and at his private residence) and by not completing their interconnection obligations in the six-week time period that they have to do so. “We feel that if they had followed the letter of the law then we would or should have had this written agreement by now.”
DTE was contacted this morning. They did not provide a comment by press time this morning.
Dickens said as a result of DTE’s actions, the school was led into the claimed violations because of phone calls saying the school was OK to run the turbines. In addition, Dickens said DTE set up meters on the smaller turbines even though there wasn’t a written agreement.
On Sept. 20, DTE engineers and regional staff met with Dickens and school officials to discuss DTE’s concerns with the school turbines being connected to the national electrical grid. DTE told the school officials that DTE’s switches, breakers and other equipment are not capable of handling the school turbine’s excess electricity, and the company would need seven weeks to complete an engineering study to determine what the costs will be to the school district to upgrade equipment. Figures such as $50,000 to $60,000 were mentioned. DTE required the turbines be shut down immediately and that the school district pay for the upgrading of DTE equipment from the turbines to the substation by the Cooperative Elevator in Pigeon.
DTE Energy spokesman Len Singer has said there are requirements for any customer that interconnects with the company’s system to ensure that their equipment can safely and compatibly work with the system. Dickens has said the turbines already have safety equipment needed to turn the turbines off when a portion of the grid isn’t working, and he can prove this.
Dickens said State Rep. Tom Meyer, R-Bad Axe, has been working on the issue and told school officials he will accept nothing but a positive outcome for Lakers. State Rep. candidate Terry Brown has been in contact with Gov. Jennifer Granholm’s office, Dickens added.
He said Lakers has been getting a lot of support from various agencies and businesses locally and from other parts of the state.
“We’re not accepting anything but a positive outcome for us,” Dickens said. “The PSC is saying that it is a learning curve for everyone and everyone just needs to take it one step at a time,” Dickens said. “The PSC also is saying that it is still in everyone’s best interest for the project to be up and running and not be forced to be removed because the school can not pay to make it functional.”
Dickens said he hopes the turbines, which were paid for by a $265,000 MPSC grant, aren’t still for too much longer because the school is missing out on saving a lot of money in energy costs.
“Since the shut down we have had some very good wind which is hurting the project,” he said. “With data from our school’s weather station, which was funded by a DTE mini grant, we have averaged 18 mph winds since shut down. When we calculated the turbines’ estimated output in that wind speed, we should have made 12,750 kw/hours. Using a cost of 10 cents per kwh that means that we lost $1,275 in energy savings to the district and the taxpayers of Michigan in one week.”
By Traci L. Weisenbach , The Huron Daily Tribune
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