Article

Residential windmills may prove too idealistic for some

The use of windmills to offset home power costs - and perhaps even spin the meter backward - has produced mixed results in La Plata County. "I'm disappointed in the production I'm getting," said Brad Blake, who installed a windmill 18 months ago on Florida Mesa. "It hasn't produced the power I expected."

Brad Blake expected his windmill, located near Colorado Highway 172 south of Elmore's Corner, to generate more power than it has so far. In general, our area has limited wind-power potential, though exceptions exist.

The use of windmills to offset home power costs - and perhaps even spin the meter backward - has produced mixed results in La Plata County.

"I'm disappointed in the production I'm getting," said Brad Blake, who installed a windmill 18 months ago on Florida Mesa. "It hasn't produced the power I expected."

LaVern St. Clair, who has a windmill in the Animas Valley, agrees.

"It's not doing as much as I thought it would," St. Clair said of a 30-foot-tall windmill with three 9-foot blades he installed two years ago. "It turns a lot, but there's not a lot of production."

But Brad Ray, in the Marvel area, has a different response.

"They're awesome," Ray said. "My wife and I love to watch those blades go round and round."

The output of three windmills knocked his April electric bill to zero, Ray said. The bill for May was $4.16. The $54 bill for June reflects increased power demand from air conditioning and sprinklers, he said.

Mark Schwantes, manager... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

Brad Blake expected his windmill, located near Colorado Highway 172 south of Elmore's Corner, to generate more power than it has so far. In general, our area has limited wind-power potential, though exceptions exist.

The use of windmills to offset home power costs - and perhaps even spin the meter backward - has produced mixed results in La Plata County.

"I'm disappointed in the production I'm getting," said Brad Blake, who installed a windmill 18 months ago on Florida Mesa. "It hasn't produced the power I expected."

LaVern St. Clair, who has a windmill in the Animas Valley, agrees.

"It's not doing as much as I thought it would," St. Clair said of a 30-foot-tall windmill with three 9-foot blades he installed two years ago. "It turns a lot, but there's not a lot of production."

But Brad Ray, in the Marvel area, has a different response.

"They're awesome," Ray said. "My wife and I love to watch those blades go round and round."

The output of three windmills knocked his April electric bill to zero, Ray said. The bill for May was $4.16. The $54 bill for June reflects increased power demand from air conditioning and sprinklers, he said.

Mark Schwantes, manager of corporate services at La Plata Electric Association, knows of a half-dozen customers whose windmills are connected to the grid.

But in the wind-poor region, interest in the technology is small compared with the number of customers turning to solar or mini-hydro systems, he said.
Windmills can work in microclimates - places where unique conditions exist, Schwantes said.

"But overall, the potential for wind here is marginal," Schwantes said. "But that could change with new technology."

When wind makes sense

On a national scale, 95 to 97 percent of wind installations are large-scale, said Ellen Carey at the American Wind Energy Association.

The remainder are community-owned systems or installations that belong to individuals, Carey said.

Carey said Colorado has the third highest percentage of wind-generated power in the country. At least 16 firms in the state produce goods for the wind industry.

Vestas Wind Systems, a Danish company and the world's largest manufacturer of wind turbines, produces blades in Windsor and has an assembly plant near Brighton.

The experience of Blake and St. Clair is not unexpected, said John Kyle, data acquisition program manager at the National Weather Service in Grand Junction.

"The Colorado Plateau, which basically is the Four Corners, is not known for a lot of wind," Kyle said. "Anyone thinking about installing a windmill should research it."

Wind speeds recorded at the Durango-La Plata County Airport bear him out.
The average wind speed from July 2010 through June 2011 at the airport was 5.9 mph, the speed at which windmill blades begin to generate power.

The highest wind speeds at the airport in the last 12 months were recorded this year in April (20.2 mph), May (16.2 mph), February (13.6 mph) and March (13.5 mph). But the average speeds in the four months were, respectively, 9.2 mph, 7.8 mph, 5.5 mph and 6.8 mph.

The lowest average monthly wind speed in the last year was in January 2011 (4.0 mph).

On only a few days in the last year did the average wind speed reach double digits.

Know your wind

Blake thought the location of his windmill on Florida Mesa was logical.

"Look at my trees," he said, indicating an apple grove near the foot of the tower in which prevailing winds have inclined the branches toward the south.
But his windmill, a 30-foot tower with five 15-foot vertical blades, isn't responding, Blake said. The most power the system has produced in a month was 100 kilowatt hours.

He has about $29,000 invested in the system, Blake said.

But he's not giving up. He plans to have experts check the system because he's not sure if his skimpy power output is because of wind speed or a faulty controller that, with an inverter, transfers power from a generator to the LPEA grid.

Ray is so sold on windmills that he wants to add two more to the trio of three-bladed machines on 48-foot poles that he installed two years ago in November.

"I did two years of research, including testing with a wind meter," said Ray, an electrician. "It's not just a matter of putting up windmills and having power."

Ray, who did all the labor himself, said that with an LPEA rebate (the cooperative now buys renewable energy credits) and tax credits, the three windmills cost him $22,000.

Tri-State Generation and Transmission, which supplies La Plata Electric Association and other members of the cooperative, buys 51 megawatts of power from a wind farm in Burlington on the eastern plains, spokesman Jim Van Someren said.

The Kit Carson facility is owned and operated by Duke Energy, but Tri-State has a 20-year lease to buy all its power, he said.

Tri-State also buys slightly less than 1 megawatt of wind power from the Platte River Power Authority in Medicine Bow, Wyo., Van Someren said.
About 4 percent of the power that Tri-State delivers to its members comes from alternative-fuel sources, including wind. By 2020, the number must be 10 percent.


Source: http://www.durangoherald.co...

JUL 30 2011
http://www.windaction.org/posts/31535-residential-windmills-may-prove-too-idealistic-for-some
back to top