Zeeland removes wind turbines after falling ‘in the red’
Credit: Kate Carlson | Holland Sentinel | Aug 1, 2019 | www.hollandsentinel.com ~~
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ZEELAND – Two 125-foot-tall wind turbines owned by the city of Zeeland were initially expected to pay for themselves in about 10 years, but are being retired and removed from Helder Park this week.
The removal of the wind turbines is expected to be complete by Friday, Aug. 9. Work will be “substantially done” before that, said Andrew Boatright, Zeeland Board of Public Works utilities manager. Removing large underground foundation is expected to take a little longer, Boatright explained. The structures will become the possession of the contractor removing them.
The non-motorized path along Quincy Street will be closed in the area of the construction site while the turbines are being removed.
The decision to permanently remove the turbines was made at a Dec. 11, 2018 Zeeland Board of Public Works Commission meeting due to equipment failure, economic issues and under-performance.
The total project cost Zeeland $600,000. When they were installed, the manager of Zeeland BPW at the time, Dave Walters, described it as more of a pilot project, but one that would pay for itself in 20-25 years.
“We were nowhere close to covering our costs,” Boatright said. “We lost money on this particular venture.”
Boatright replaced former BPW General Manager Bill Cook, who retired Jan. 21, 2019.
The 50-kilowatt turbines were installed in March 2009 at Helder Park near the corner of 104th Avenue and Quincy Street in Holland Township. Zeeland leased the property from Holland Township. Both turbines were removed from service in April 2018 after a portion of the west wind turbine’s blade was found about 250 feet away in a Helder Park soccer field.
There are break units on the tips of the blades, which are designed to break when wind speed reaches a certain level, Boatright said, which is the piece that was found in the soccer field.
On top of the equipment failure, the turbines “dramatically under-performed,” Boatright said.
The company the turbines were purchased from, Entegrity Wind Systems Inc., projected each turbine would produce more than double the energy that each individual turbine ended up producing, Boatright said.
“Our mission was to at least make back our capital cost, plus maintenance,” Boatright said. “That didn’t happen, our net situation was in the red.”
Another issue Zeeland had with the wind turbines was that shortly after purchasing them from Entegrity Wind Systems Inc., the company based out of Colorado went out of business, Boatright said.
“In the nine to 10 year period we were operating them, it was without support from a manufacturer and cobbled together resources,” Boatright said. “It was difficult for us, if not impossible, to obtain replacement parts.”
When they were installed in 2009, the purpose was to demonstrate wind as an energy source and satisfy Zeeland’s mandate from the state for its renewable energy portfolio requirement.
“In the scheme of our total power supply, yes, I know this was a high capital cost,” Boatright said. “But it really had negligible impact on our retail rates. We maintain among the lowest rates among the state of Michigan.”
Despite the issues with the two wind turbines and their removal taking place, Boatright said the city of Zeeland is still committed to renewable energy.
Zeeland has contractual commitments to the state for both solar and wind to make up 12.5 percent of its retail load this year. In 2021 the state mandate goes up to 15 percent.
“We’ll meet or exceed those requirements,” Boatright said.
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