The city of El Dorado staff are continuing their efforts to get a functioning wind turbine at the El Dorado Water Reclamation Facility.
“We would still love to have a turbine out there that works,” said Public Utilities Director Kurt Bookout.
Various problems have left the wind turbine not functioning for more than eight months, beginning with the company from which they purchased it going out of business.
Bookout shared the history that has led up to today.
The city began looking into opportunities to lower their utility bills with wind power several years ago. That presented some grant opportunities that led them to hire a consultant to help provide wind energy to El Dorado.
Bookout said they received grants totaling just over $1.34 million, which paid more than half of the $2.3 million project.
“That was money to help pay for the project and does not have to be paid back, which was a pretty great incentive, but it came with a catch,” he said.
“First, the turbine had to be American made, which, by the way, I fully support. Second, and this stipulation was placed on us by Westar, the turbine could not be larger than one megawatt in size. The second stipulation was a requirement of our ‘interconnect agreement’ with Westar.”
Bookout explained because the wind does not blow all of the time, when it wasn’t blowing, they would still need to be connected to an electric utility.
“And, because the excess power would have to go back onto the power grid, which is owned by Westar, our consultant told us the wind turbine couldn’t be sized significantly larger than our power consumption at the facility,” Bookout said.
Their consultant recommended the Nordic wind turbine as the only one that would meet those requirements.
“Early on in the project, we actually visited the Nordic facility when they were in the process of moving and expanding their operation from Pocatella, Idaho, to Kansas City,” Bookout continued.
The problems began when Nordic lost their government loans for their move and expansion following the Solyndra bankruptcy. Solyndra created solar panels and caused the withdrawal of funding for alternative energy. With this lost money, Nordic did not have the money for the move, which was already underway.
“Our project was nearly complete when Nordic closed its doors, so we did the only thing we felt we could do and forged ahead with the commissioning of the turbine,” Bookout said. “Since that time, it is true, we have had significant challenges keeping the turbine in working condition, especially without the manufacturer’s support. However the city remains committed to recouping the city’s investment. But, because our efforts may include legal options, we cannot talk about these efforts.”
Bookout is sure if they had a turbine that functioned they would be saving money.
“There are a lot of good dependable wind turbines out there,” he said, suggesting that if one could be retrofitted to their pole it would work.
The most recent problem with El Dorado’s turbine is the front bearing went out. To repair that, they would have to take down the gear box, to which the blades are attached.
“I am not confident, given the track record of this turbine, that more repairs are a wise investment,” Bookout said.
The city has already completed some repairs early on when the turbine was struck by lightning twice and one of the tips fell off during a severe wind shift.
Bookout said he believes they will be on a path to a resolution for this situation within the next year.