May 15, 2008

Wind no choice for Esky; Gusts not a power option here

A study shows using wind power would be a poor alternative energy source in Escanaba, according to a presentation to the Electric Advisory Committee Wednesday.

Committee member Glendon Brown presented the research on wind power in response to inquiries from individuals asking why the city has not considered this as a power source.

The city has been exploring various energy options to meet increasing electric demands because the city power plant is 50 years old. The city wants to meet energy needs for current and future customers.

“This is a preliminary assessment, not a final answer,” Brown told committee members. He offered a wide range of information, including wind turbine performance specifications, turbine construction costs, wind power classifications and a summary of local wind data.

According to hourly wind data recorded at the Delta County Airport in 2007, the average wind speed, at a height of 10 meters, was 8.3 miles per hour. A wind speed of at least 8.9 miles per hours is needed to start generating power at turbines located in Mackinaw City, Brown said.

In 2007, the local airport wind speed at 10 meters was less than 8 miles per hour about half the time, he said. An estimated wind speed 85 meters off the ground was less than 7.8 miles per hour about 28 percent of the time. No power would be produced for a 2.5-megawatt wind turbine in both those instances.

“Published wind maps and 2007 Delta County Airport wind data indicates Escanaba is a poor wind resource potential area,” Brown said in his report.

Cost-wise, a 2.5-megawatt wind turbine would cost about $5.2 million to construct, Brown said. As a municipality, the city would not be eligible to receive wind generation production tax credits, he added.

“With present wind turbine technology, a commercial wind turbine in Escanaba could not be used to replace an existing electric generation source,” according to his report.

The power plant currently operates on two 12.5-megawatt coal-fired units with a 15-megawatt diesel-fueled peak generator.

After presenting his findings, Brown offered four recommendations to the committee:

• Establish a net-metering policy for residents and businesses who generate some electricity from solar or wind sources, billing only for their net energy usage.

• Establish zoning codes for residential and business owners of solar or wind generation, such as where and how high equipment can be installed.

•l Monitor wind turbine technology for wind turbines with lower cut-in wind speeds – the wind speed necessary for power generation to start.

• Monitor wind speed at a higher elevation, as the city of Gladstone is doing. This is critical in making a sound investment decision and predicting generation costs, Brown said.

The Gladstone wind survey will include monitoring winds at the Gladstone Ski Hill and lake shore locations, he said. Ridges and valleys can enhance wind speed; large lake shores also provide higher wind speeds because of differential solar heating between land and water, Brown explained.

By Jenny Lancour

Daily Press [1]

15 May 2008

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