No date for wind turbine replacement; Ishpeming facility hasn’t generated anything but anger, controversy
ISHPEMING – Having waited for more than five years for information about when the motionless wind turbine in Ishpeming will be taken down and replaced with a working model, the company responsible for the turbine still can’t provide a date the residents of Pioneer Bluff Apartments can expect to get some of their power from the wind.
Bryan Zaplitny, president and CEO of downstate Brighton-based Clean Green Energy, issued a press release in December entitled “Ishpeming Wind Turbine Not Forgotten,” in which he said the company expected to bring the replacement model turbine to market sometime in 2014.
But in a prepared statement, CGE told The Mining Journal that it cannot yet say when the new, smaller turbine will be installed.
“We remain faithful to our plan to replace the prototype with a fully functional WIND-e20 wind turbine following its completion as well as provide Pioneer Bluff with free power from WIND-e20 for the first five years of production,” the statement noted. “Due to the complexities of building the manufacturing assembly line we cannot yet provide a date for the installation but we will provide an update as the build date grows near.”
The 162-foot tower, which can be seen from many places around the city, has in the past been controversial for the city and the Ishpeming Housing Commission, which owns the Pioneer Bluff Apartments. Some residents have called the motionless turbine an eyesore and the city council has on at least one occasion called for its removal.
CGE has said the current prototype turbine is operational, though it has never operated, and was determined to be too expensive and labor-intensive to produce and install or to run on a large scale, with blades that would likely fail.
“We are appreciative of the Ishpeming community’s willingness to host the early prototype and we have committed one of (the) earliest available WIND-e20 turbines for installation at the Ishpeming Pioneer Bluff site,” CGE’s press release states.
The smaller, 105-foot, 65 kwh WIND-e20 model is expected to correct the flawed design issues of the prototype, and can be installed much more easily using a hydraulic control system and a backhoe rather than in a protracted process involving large cranes.
In December, CGE entered into a partnership with metal fabricator and military contractor Burtek Enterprises Inc., in which the downstate Chesterfield-based company will be CGE’s strategic manufacturing and assembly partner for the WIND-e20. CGE said Burtek is currently designing the assembly line to manufacture the turbines.
“We have full confidence that their patented WIND-e20 will revolutionize the way people think about distributed power and we are committed to taking the time needed to get the details right,” CGE said in the release. “The people of Ishpeming have a right to expect action on getting the new turbine installed.”
On Monday, CGE announced it had received a patent for the WIND-e20’s vertical axis wind turbine, a “fluid-driven turbine that uses a rotor which rotates at an axis transverse to the fluid flow.”
In the release, Zaplitny, named as one of the patent’s inventors, called the turbine model “the face of distributed wind power in the future.”
The release goes on to explain that commonly used propeller-like turbines generate electricity using a rotor on a horizontal axis, which puts them at a disadvantage when the wind changes direction “because they must be mounted so that they pivot … horizontally to face directly into the wind.”
“Being able to produce power from any wind direction is an advantage WIND-e20 has over the traditional horizontal wind turbines you see in large wind farms,” Zaplitny said.
The release stated CGE is also in the process of merging with McKenzie Bay International – the same company that designed the original turbine prototype, then ran out of money for the project and lost its management team. In 2007, Zaplitny, as president of MTI Energy Management, filed a federal lawsuit against McKenzie Bay seeking more than $75,000 in financial damages and injunctive relief.
As part of the merger, announced in January, the public company McKenzie Bay would enact a 1-for-25 reverse stock split, meaning that for every 25 shares of stock held in McKenzie Bay, shareholders will receive one share in CGE Energy. McKenzie Bay stockholders will own 20 percent of CGE Energy. Current members of the private company Clean Green Energy will receive 50 shares of CGE Energy in exchange for each membership unit and will own the remaining 80 percent of CGE Energy.
At the time the merger was announced, Zaplitny said combining the two companies would mean more cash, allowing CGE to expedite the process of replacing the prototype turbine with the working model.
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