Wind-monitoring equipment may be installed in Gladstone relatively soon if it’s determined the city is economically suited to provide the renewable source of energy.
Wisconsin Public Power is working with a private company that will soon conduct a wind survey.
Gladstone City Manager Brant Kucera said the purpose of wind monitoring is to determine if wind conditions will economically support power generation from massive wind turbines.
“If the project is deemed feasible, and if the company decides to build wind-generation equipment, WPPI would be interested in purchasing the power as part of their renewable energy portfolio,” Kucera wrote in a city newsletter. “Tentatively, there would be two towers – each generating 1.5 megawatts. The city uses seven megawatts.”
Curt Bjurlin, Wisconsin project developer for Eco Energy – the company conducting a wind survey – said monitoring will probably be accomplished on an existing communications tower.
“There are some maps that predict wind speed. At the same time, real data is best. And it’s best to have at least one year of data to understand seasonal variations,” Bjurlin said. “It would be nice to have an average wind speed of 15 mph, but a lower average annual wind speed can be OK if the project can be built cost-effectively, and the price paid for the power justifies the installation.”
Wind towers would be approximately 400 feet tall from the tip of the blade to the ground. As a comparison, Harbor Tower Apartment Building in Escanaba is 164 feet tall. Locations for the Gladstone towers would still have to be determined.
Kucera said typical locations for these massive structures are within five miles of the shoreline of the city.
“The number of towers are not determined or if they are going to be installed is not determined,” Kucera said.
There is no cost to the city for the wind surveys completed by WPPI.
Bjurlin said interest in Gladstone is because of effects from the lake.
“The lake creates its own weather, which means you have to monitor to understand the wind resource. The lake may be causing a good resource, or not,” he said. “Another question to answer is ‘at what height above ground does the wind blow consistently?’ That’s why we have to put monitoring equipment high up on the tower, 200 or 300 feet above ground if possible.”
A wind farm typically has 10 wind turbines.
“In a highly-urbanized area, that’s hard to come by,” Kucera said.
John Sarver of the state energy office said the state’s oldest wind turbine is in Traverse City. He added there are two wind turbines by the Mackinac Bridge and 32 wind turbines at the Harvest Wind Farm in Huron County.
“There are projects being planned all over the state. In terms of actual installations, there is 55 megawatts of wind power,” Sarver said. “There is no commercial scale.”
Kucera said Gov. Jennifer Granholm has made it a priority to develop alternative and renewable energy.
“From a job basis, Michigan’s Great Lakes are ideal,” Kucera said. “The Upper Peninsula has a lot of congestion, and it is expensive to get service up here.”
WPPI would sell the power to Gladstone and the city would then turn it into electricity.
“Clearly, we will never generate enough to offset the needs of the city,” Kucera said. “One main reason is the wind doesn’t blow all the time and you can’t store wind, but it could offset a portion.”
The city’s contract with WPPI does allow the utility to sell power back to the city.
Bjurlin said the utility is interested because this project would provide energy at a stable price and low risk, especially compared to other sources of energy that can be purchased.
“EcoEnergy would develop the project and sell the energy to Wisconsin Public Power, Inc., Gladstone Power & Light’s power supplier, at a long-term, fixed price,” he said. “The project would likely be interconnected to Gladstone Power & Light’s distribution system.”
By Lisa M. Reed
15 March 2008
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