A company that builds “luxury megayachts” plans to start manufacturing blades for wind turbines in Howard within two weeks, including one blade that could help wind energy expand into new parts of the country.
Knight & Carver YachtCenter, based in San Diego, is set to start manufacturing turbine blades at a newly constructed building. The nonprofit Miner County Community Revitalization took out a loan to build and own it, as part of its mission to bring new industries to the rural county.
Knight & Carver will make conventional turbine blades at first. But earlier this month, it made a single curved blade designed to tap into low-speed winds not captured with current technology.
South Dakota is one of the windiest places in the nation, yet it trails neighboring states in developing wind energy. The new facility is part of an effort to find a niche in the emerging industry while bringing technology jobs to rural areas.
Randy Parry, executive director of Miner County Community Revitalization, said Howard’s small-town attitude can complement high-tech businesses.
“We consider renewable energy an economic engine,” he said. “We can be on the cutting edge too if we just get out and help one another.”
Knight & Carver’s new blade design is the latest product of that economic engine.
It is curved, which allows it to fit 27.5 meters of length onto a wind machine that normally uses a 25-meter blade. That extra length means it will start cranking out energy at a lower wind speed.
But the curved blade also solves mechanical problems.
“Normally, if a blade is longer, it would either break the machine or break the blade when the wind got real strong,” said Gary Kanaby, manager of the company’s blade division. “The blade is curved like a scimitar, and when the wind is strong, it twists the blade so it automatically sheds some of the load.”
Kanaby and his staff gained expertise in working with fiber from building yachts. He said the orientation of the fibers in the material causes the blade to bend in a manner ensuring it can survive at high wind speeds.
The first blade is now in San Diego, where its response to stress will be tested using a series of weights. Another blade will be sent for fatigue testing at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colo.
Finally, the company will test three of its blades on a windmill, at a site to be determined next spring, Kanaby said.
The technology might eventually be adapted to the latest wind turbines, which currently use blades about 35 meters long, or 115 feet, he said. That could make it economical to build wind farms at sites with lower wind speeds.
The new blade operation will employ 15 to 20 people at first. It is next to a wind turbine repair and remanufacturing facility, run by Energy Maintenance Service, based in Gary.
Howard also has Dakota Beef, an organic, kosher processing plant with about 40 employees, Parry said. And it has the 135 or so employees of PBM, a company that cuts and packages playing cards and baseball cards.
By Ben Shouse
Reach Ben Shouse at 331-2318.
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