Work is expected to start this week on the long-idled wind turbine at Southwind Park.
The turbine was installed in April 2011, but the Springfield Park District has had multiple problems over the years. It was most recently shut down in May 2013 after the park district was warned that high winds could cause significant damage to the system.
Workers are scheduled to be at the park Monday and Tuesday to retrofit a new turbine onto the existing tower. The new turbine should soon be generating electricity by the end of the week if all goes as planned.
Derek Harms, executive director of the park district, said officials are looking forward to having the turbine up and running. Environmentally friendly features are one of the cornerstones of the park.
“Coupled with the geothermal and photovoltaic elements also included in the original design of the park, the wind turbine is an equally important feature that helps to produce clean energy and works to reduce our overall utility costs,” Harms said.
Southwind Park, which is located south of the Trevi Gardens subdivision on South Second Street, officially opened to the public in 2010. The park was designed to be accessible to everyone, and the main building, Erin’s Pavilion, had a number of environmentally friendly features. Recycled materials were used in its construction, and water from the nearby lake is used in the heating and cooling system.
The wind turbine was another green feature. The park district received a $50,000 grant that paid for part of the cost of the turbine, and the district itself covered the remaining $100,000.
The problems with the wind turbine started Jan. 1, 2012, when there was a malfunction with the electrical equipment inside Erin’s Pavilion that transferred the power from the turbine to the building. The malfunction resulted in a small fire that was contained to the electrical box.
The park district tried to repair the turbine, but it learned that the manufacturer, a Canadian company called ReDriven, had declared bankruptcy and replacement parts weren’t available.
Despite the difficulties, the turbine was repaired in October of 2012.
Seven months later, in May 2013, however, the district received notice from a technician who formerly worked for ReDriven that the redesigned controller still had a high failure rate during winds of 35 mph or greater. The technician suggested that the turbine be shut down during high winds. Failure to do so, the technician said, could cause significant damage and safety concerns.
“In light of this information, administrative staff made the conscious decision to shut down the operation of the turbine until a more reliable method of operation could be explored,” said Elliott McKinley, director of parks for the park district.
Last year, the park board decided to get the turbine working again.
The contract for the replacement of the turbine and control system is $47,085. To cut down the overall cost, the park district was able to sell some of the older wind turbine equipment for $12,500.
The Springfield Parks Foundation, a private group that helps the park district with some projects, has agreed to donate up to $25,000 toward the project.
Jen Aholt, vice president of the foundation, said the wind turbine is an important part of Southwind’s message of sustainability.
“I hope that when people see the wind turbine working they will become thoughtful about their own practices,” Aholt said.
Harms is hoping that the worst of the turbine’s problems are behind it.
“Although the original turbine experienced several problems, a strong partnership with the Springfield Parks Foundation has allowed us to fund the retrofit of an American-made turbine that we believe will produce clean energy for years to come,” Harms said.
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