A wind turbine outside the state Department of Environmental Quality office in Bay City generates electricity when it spins — and sometimes a “flicker effect” that annoys employees.
The problem is with frosted skylights on top of the building, officials say.
The natural light they give off is great. But when the sun shines just right, shadows from the turbine blades fall onto the roof of the building, creating a strobelike effect inside.
The problem is a touchy one for the DEQ, which has been actively promoting wind power in the state, along with Gov. Jennifer Granholm.
Fortunately, the flicker has been infrequent since the building opened a year ago, said Rhonda Klann, acting supervisor at the Bay City office.
“The conditions have to be just right,” Klann said. “It’s not something that happens routinely or all the time. I’ve seen it twice since we’ve been here.”
Tina Ballard-Atkins, a DEQ supervisor in Bay City, referred questions to Kevin King, an administrator in Lansing.
“We do have 28 skylights, and depending upon the angle of the sun and the clouds overhead, it does create a flicker effect in some areas of the building and we are looking at remedying that now,” King said.
Officials at the agency are waiting for special blinds to be installed in a main conference room inside the building, to block out two skylights if the room needs to be darkened for presentations – or if the flickering causes a problem, he said.
The blinds will be provided by ProVisions of Bingham Farms, which owns the building and leases it to the DEQ. King expects the blinds to be installed by summer.
There also have been problems with flickering in the building’s main office area, some employees say. Klann said the windmill can be shut down, if necessary, but that hasn’t happened yet.
The turbine does appear to be “off” sometimes, and not spinning at all.
But King said that’s because the device is set to start spinning only if wind speeds reach 9 mph or more. The move was suggested by the manufacturer, Entegrity Wind Systems of Boulder, Colo.
“You don’t get much electricity below that and you just end up adding wear and tear,” King said.
The DEQ’s name was formally changed to the Department of Natural Resources and Environment in January, but the local office still is using the old name until work assignments for employees are finalized.
King said he’s not sure how much power the turbine is generating. Officials have said they expect the turbine to offset about 30 percent of the building’s electricity needs.
“We will be going online with that data eventually, where that can be visible over the Internet,” he said.
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