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Temporary wind-energy tower OK’d for MATC

Fort Atkinson will continue to be a showcase for wind energy technology as Madison Area Technical College installs a temporary meteorological evaluation tower (MET) for instructional purposes at the local campus.

Under the direction of instructor Cris Folk, Madison College students pursuing a wind energy certificate will erect the 100-foot tilt-up tower on the campus grounds adjacent to the existing wind turbine. A Bergey XL 1-kilowatt battery-based wind turbine generator will be mounted on top of the tower.

Madison College Renewable Energy Program director Cris Folk explained that the purpose of this tower is to give students experience installing it and have real-time weather and wind data on the college’s website. The tower assists instruction for the Introduction to Wind Energy Technology certificate program at the Fort Atkinson and Watertown campuses.

The Introduction to Wind Energy Technology certificate provides students with the basic knowledge and skills needed to explore career opportunities in the growing wind energy industry. Folk said that employment opportunities are increasing for skilled technicians who are able to operate and repair wind energy systems. He said employers seek individuals who are knowledgeable in safety, climbing, electrical and mechanical skills.

Courses in wind energy technology are offered at the Fort Atkinson or Watertown campuses.

Folk said one is Introduction of Wind Energy Technology, which provides students with a detailed overview on what it takes to generate wind energy, including siting of a turbine and the basic knowledge and skills needed to explore career opportunities in the industry.

In addition, there is a one-credit course, Wind Turbine Installation, related to assembling and installation of the MET tower and turbine.

The data-collection equipment will be configured to be displayed in real time via the Internet. Topics covered in the course include wind turbine component interconnection, configuration and installation basics, wind turbine siting, tower safety, and tilt up tower design.

The second piece of the wind energy-specific course selection is Wind Technician I.

Twice a year, Folk will take the students out to install or conduct maintenance on the equipment located on the tower.

“Every group of students I have will either install the tower or tilt it down and do an inspection and perform maintenance on it,” he said.

For the initial year, Madison College was able to partner with the Town of Bristol in Dane County, installing a MET tower near the town hall along County Highway N.

The tower also spent a year at Jefferson County Fair Park and also has been located at the Madison College Watertown campus.

Commission member Richard Frame pointed out that one concern he recalled from the installation of the original tower was noise.

Folk acknowledged that all the wind turbines do make some sound.

Madison College has an existing 150-foot Northern Power 100-kilowatt wind turbine at its Fort Atkinson campus, one of two in the city. The second turbine is nearby on the Fort Atkinson High School grounds.

The instructor said this one will be smaller and spin faster and thus have a different sound.

Folk noted that last year just prior to the tower’s removal from the Watertown campus, it sustained a bearing failure and did make some noise.

“That was unique to the failure which has been repaired,” he said.

Per the conditional use, the tower is to be removed by May 20, 2016.

The commission unanimously approved the conditional use for the temporary tower.

Also Tuesday, the commission approved locating a modular data center at the Madison College campus. The pre-manufactured facility will be approximately 50-by-12-feet and 9 feet in height.

City engineer Jeff Woods said it would be located adjacent to the northwest corner of the existing building.

As presented, the building will be painted to match the adjacent buildings. A 10-foot-tall security fence will surround the facility, back-up generator and electrical equipment.

In addition, the city engineer said there would be landscaping provided to screen the building.