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Winds can get too strong for energy farms

MONTEZUMA - Wind-powered energy farms can get too much of a good thing.

Wind turbines in Gray County

Wind turbines in Gray County are silhouetted against the setting sun in this 2004 file photo. The turbines shut down automatically when wind gusts are up to about 56 mph. Photo by Travis Morisse.

For safety purposes, engineers designed the individual turbines at the 170-turbine energy farm in Gray County to shut down automatically when the wind gusts up to approximately 56 mph, said Steve Stengel, the Florida-based spokesman for energy farm owner Florida Power & Light Energy.

Stengel declined to reveal how often that has occurred at the company's operation near Montezuma.

Storm weather records, however, indicate it has happened since the energy farm began operating in November 2001 - and it probably happened as recently as Sunday.

Wind raced up to 60 mph Sunday in Gray County, according to a reading taken at the Cimarron Junior/Senior High School weather lab.

The 207-foot-tall, three-blade turbines stand closer to Montezuma than Cimarron, but Mary Knapp, state climatologist with Kansas State University Research and Extension, noted that Sunday's powerful winds raked a multicounty area.

Available data for Gray County shows weather events in which wind speeds reached at least 50 knots - or 57.5 mph... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  
Wind turbines in Gray County

 Wind turbines in Gray County are silhouetted against the setting sun in this 2004 file photo. The turbines shut down automatically when wind gusts are up to about 56 mph. Photo by Travis Morisse.

For safety purposes, engineers designed the individual turbines at the 170-turbine energy farm in Gray County to shut down automatically when the wind gusts up to approximately 56 mph, said Steve Stengel, the Florida-based spokesman for energy farm owner Florida Power & Light Energy.
 
Stengel declined to reveal how often that has occurred at the company's operation near Montezuma.
 
Storm weather records, however, indicate it has happened since the energy farm began operating in November 2001 - and it probably happened as recently as Sunday.
 
Wind raced up to 60 mph Sunday in Gray County, according to a reading taken at the Cimarron Junior/Senior High School weather lab.
 
The 207-foot-tall, three-blade turbines stand closer to Montezuma than Cimarron, but Mary Knapp, state climatologist with Kansas State University Research and Extension, noted that Sunday's powerful winds raked a multicounty area.
 
Available data for Gray County shows weather events in which wind speeds reached at least 50 knots - or 57.5 mph - occurred on 18 different days from 2002 through 2005, according to Knapp.
 
Knapp also noted that not all instances of particularly strong winds are reported, so the actual number could be greater.
 
A peak wind of up to 56 mph "is rare but I would say not unusual," said Tim Burke, the Dodge City-based meteorologist with the National Weather Service.
 
Stengel said the farm requires a wind of about 8 to 9 mph to start turning the machines and generating power.
 
A 15 mph wind is better than a 7 mph wind, Stengel said, but it doesn't correspond that a wind blowing at 40 mph is necessarily better than 25 mph.
 
"These are 660-kilowatt machines," he said, "so regardless of the wind, there's only so much power.
 
"There is a sweet spot, if you will," Stengel said, estimating optimum generation occurs when wind speed probably is in the high teens to low- to mid-20s.
 
Stengel said "an internal computer system" triggers the turbine shutdown in strong winds. He didn't know how much time lapsed before the turbine resumed operating.
 
"These wind farms are spread out over hundreds, if not thousands of acres," he noted, so wind gusts might shut down some turbines, while other turbines remain unaffected.
 
Also, Knapp observed that the recorded days on which strong winds blew did not mean the winds persisted throughout the day.
 



Source: http://www.hutchnews.com/ne...

MAR 19 2006
http://www.windaction.org/posts/1768-winds-can-get-too-strong-for-energy-farms
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