August 29, 2012

Cascade Conservation District, Exergy get $1 million for wind turbine project

Written by Erin Madison, Tribune Staff Writer | 29 August 2012

Thanks to a $1 million grant, a new innovative wind turbine aimed at agricultural applications will soon take shape in Cascade County.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resource Conservation Service awarded Cascade Conservation District and its partner, Exergy Integrated Systems LLC, a $1 million Conservation Innovation Grant to build the first prototype of Exergy’s new wind turbine, the Zilo.

The 100 kilowatt grain silo-shaped Zilo wind turbine will be installed sometime next year at the Big Stone Hutterite Colony south of Great Falls.

“The goal of the project is to validate a renewable solution through an appropriately scaled, reliable, cost-effective and visually acceptable wind turbine,” said Peggy Beltrone, Exergy Integrated Systems president.

The total cost of the project to install the Zilo at the colony will be about $2.9 million, said Toni Neslen, Cascade Conservation District administrator. The grant will fund about one-third of the project with Exergy covering the rest of the cost.

The Conservation District and Exergy chose to partner with the Big Stone Colony because they wanted to put the Zilo on a property where it would make a marked difference in energy costs, Neslen said. Hutterite colonies, on average, spend about $80,000 to $90,000 a year on electricity.

“They think the Zilo could cut that in half,” Neslen said. “That’s a marked difference.”

The Conservation Innovation Grants program is intended to stimulate the development and adoption of innovative conservation approaches and technologies in agriculture.

“The point of these funds is to help agriculture find innovative solutions to our energy needs, and this grant puts Montana right in the bull’s-eye of this effort,” Cascade Conservation District board chairwoman Gayla Wortman said.

The Zilo is shaped like a grain silo and doesn’t have the tall pole or long blades of a traditional wind turbine. That makes it easier to maintain, Neslen said.

“If you can fix a tractor, you can fix a Zilo,” Neslen said. “It’s all going to be easy to maintain from the ground.”

There are a number of characteristics that make the Zilo a good fit for the agricultural market, Beltrone said.

“We believe that it’s more appropriately sized, it has more aesthetic appeal and it will be easier to operate and maintain,” she said.

The Zilo is 80 feet tall and 28 feet in diameter.

Exergy Integrated Systems LLC, with offices in Great Falls and Bozeman, is the technology division of Exergy Development Group, headquartered in Boise, Idaho. The company also hopes to eventually manufacture the wind turbines in Cascade County or Montana.

Installing the prototype Zilo at the colony is an important step toward commercializing the wind turbine.

“This federal investment will accelerate our path to market for the Zilo, a prospect that will create American jobs,” Beltrone said.

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