Vestas and Lego Group partnered to produce a “Wind is Free” exhibit, featuring a Statue of Liberty built of Legos and holding aloft a windmill, to entice children to learn about wind as an alternative power source.
The exhibit will be at the Greenville-Spartanburg International Airport through August and will spend several years touring national and international airports.
Four mini exhibits – representing urban, desert, forest and offshore potential for wind energy – surround the main exhibit. They are interactive and include a play area for children to build with Legos, said Kathy Alexander, president of AMG Airport Advertising.
“It gives us an opportunity to provide some entertainment for children and passengers,” said Rosylin Weston, GSP spokeswoman. “And it’s educational.”
Nicholas Rigas, director of the South Carolina Institute for Energy Studies at Clemson University, said he thinks the exhibit is a great idea.
“Most adults are set in our beliefs,” he said. “Getting children to understand the value of wind power – they can influence their parents.”
Vestas, a leading producer of high-tech wind power systems, began manufacturing wind turbines in 1979 and has concentrated exclusively on wind energy since 1987.
Currently, more than 30,000 wind turbines generate electricity in more than 60 countries, according to Vestas.
General Electric’s Greenville operation also is involved in wind turbine production – one of two GE plants where the company makes wind turbines. Greenville makes “machine heads,” the part of the wind turbine to which the blades connect.
Bill Standera, head of GE’s manufacturing in Greenville, said Monday the two plants should together make about 2,000 wind turbines this year for the U.S. market. They are expected to produce 2,800 to 3,000 next year and 3,500 to 4,000 the following year.
“It’s a growing, growing business,” he said.
So far, the Greenville plant has 80 to 90 hourly employees building the wind turbine machine heads.
Rigas’ group at Clemson has partnered with other research facilities to put up 160-foot high wind anemometer stations on the shore near Charleston and North Myrtle Beach. A third will be erected this fall near Georgetown, he said.
“Once we complete the studies, we’re considering putting up wind turbines” in those areas, he said. “We want to introduce the public to windmills. We want to prepare the coast for offshore projects,” where the steadiest wind is found in South Carolina, he said.
Plans are to study the wind for a year, with the first reports coming out in the late fall at the six-month mark, he said.
“So far, the data looks good,” Rigas said.
And what’s not to like about wind energy, he asked.
“It’s a very clean, simple technology,” he said, adding it’s not for all locations. “You’ve got to have a wind resource. Sometimes the wind resources don’t match the demand. They do in South Carolina, where the coastal population is growing. It’s an emerging technology, but the costs are coming down. Storage is a disadvantage.”
But some researchers are considering the possibility of using excess winds to produce hydrogen that could then be used as a power source, he said.
Another problem could occur in the mountains and foothills, he said. Although the Upstate has plenty of wind, the windmills would have to be placed on ridgelines – making them very visible. That could be a problem as many states have legislation protecting ridge views.
Overall, “I don’t think wind power will become dominant in South Carolina,” he said. “I don’t think renewables are looking to totally offset fossils. They are looking to complement fossils.”
By Jenny Munro
14 August 2007
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