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City to test the wind as source of electricity

Carmel soon will begin testing to determine whether to install a windmill at the city’s sewer plant.

Mayor Jim Brainard first announced the concept during his state of the city address Nov. 1.
Using wind energy, Brainard said, could save the city some of the $260,000 it spends per year to power the sanitary sewer plant at 96th Street and Hazel Dell Parkway.
The first step in the process would be to put up a test tower at the plant to gauge how much wind is in that area and whether purchasing a windmill would make financial sense.
The testing process would take up to a year, Brainard said.
“Once we do the testing, then we look at the cost of the windmill against the projected savings in electricity,” Brainard said.
“If the windmill costs $1 million, but we save $100,000 a year in electricity, then that’s a 10 percent return and would be worth doing.”
Brainard said he wasn’t sure exactly how much a windmill would cost. Christine Real de Azua, a spokeswoman for the American Wind Energy Association, said most windmills or wind turbines cost at least $1 million.
As energy costs rise, Real de Azua said, the popularity of windmills has grown across the country.
“We’ve had very strong growth. Last year was a record-breaking year, and this year will be another record-breaking year,” she said. “And the outlook is strong for 2007.”
Wind energy still makes up less than 1 percent of total energy nationwide. But Real de Azua said that among new power plants, wind energy is the second-largest source.
“Windmills work. There’s a huge movement across the country to move to windmills,” Brainard said.
“There are communities across the country using them for a variety of reasons. So this is a trend.”
He said he picked up on the trend from meeting with other mayors across the country at various conferences.
“Energy is an issue in the United States,” he said. “For a whole variety of reasons, from air quality to national security, the nation needs to use renewable resources as opposed to nonrenewable resources.”
Even if Carmel finds a windmill to be useful at the sewer plant, the mayor said to not expect them to start popping up across the city.
“We wouldn’t want to put a windmill in most places in Carmel because it might depreciate the value of houses,” he said. “There are no houses near the sewer plant.”
The first step is to conduct tests. Brainard said he hopes to have the test tower up in the next few months.
“Of course, you want to make sure the wind resource is adequate in the area; otherwise, it’s a big investment and the payback will be extended over a long, long period of time,” Real de Azua said. “The better the wind speed, the faster the payback.”
Brainard said Indiana law would let Carmel use wind energy to help run its sewer plant or sell that energy back to the power grid.
“We haven’t made a decision on this yet, but we think it’s worth doing the test,” he said. “We’re always testing new ideas to see whether we can achieve some savings.”

Call Star reporter Bill Ruthhart at (317) 444-2606.