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Meteorologist to discuss wind farms in Cameron

Mike Thompson, retired chief meteorologist for WDAF-TV in Kansas City, will give a free presentation on wind turbine development this week in Cameron, Missouri.

The free event will be at 7 p.m. Thursday, March 21, at the Cameron Community Center located at 915 Ashland Drive in Cameron.

Thompson said he began researching the building of wind towers in the Midwest after learning that wind speeds must be more than 10 miles per hour for a wind turbine to produce measurable energy. He said a turbine does not produce its standard rated amount of 2-megawatts of electricity until the wind is sustained around 25 miles per hour or greater.

“The data from the National Weather Service shows that winds very rarely reach a sustained 25 miles per hour in the region,” Thompson said. “I went through data and looked at the average daily wind speeds and its a surprisingly small number. If you look at the wind in Northwest Missouri and Northeast Kansas most years, you will not have a full day with a sustained wind speed of 25 miles per hour. The electricity that wind turbines are putting out is often less than their rated capacity.”

He said the presentation will be a comprehensive review of historical local meteorological data.

Thompson said the 500-feet towers and blades are composed of steel and mined rare earth metals. The material inside of the nacelle, or interior part of the structure, includes copper wiring around an electric motor that runs on oil. He said gallons of oil are used to lubricate parts of a tower including the gearbox and blades.

ExxonMobil, according to its website, offers the first wind turbine oil to achieve a conformity statement that has earned approvals from wind companies. The oil is used for lubrication and containments from the gearbox is flushed.

Thompson said the turbines require maintenance to prevent rust, and blade removal could be required due to exposure over time. NextEra, one of the largest wind turbine companies in the country, estimates the removal of one turbine costs $125,000.

A complete decommissioning would include dismantling the towers, removing concrete pedestals to a depth of at least 3 feet, reclaiming access roads and removing underground cables.

“I will discuss in the presentation how companies proposes to handle the cost of removal and how projects have been decommissioned in the past,” Thompson said. “The presentation will discuss an array of topics that have come up over the time of wind tower development.”

He said that because the amount of wind in a given area varies throughout a day, a utility company is required to have the equivalent amount of energy produced by a wind turbine project in other forms of energy.

“Where there is a 200 megawatt wind project, the utility company will have to have 200 megawatts of natural gas, coal or nuclear generators available for use when wind power drops offline,” Thompson said.

The presentation on wind energy is sponsored by the organizations Concerned Citizens of Clinton and DeKalb Counties, which serve as educational groups on wind tower development. For more information on the organizations, contact Bruce Burdick by phone at 816-803-4669 or by email at ccfccchair@gmail.com.