It may cost Rim of the World Unified School District as much as $53,000 to address state concerns about the structural integrity of the four steel poles supporting Rim of the World High School’s wind turbines.
That’s the worst-case alternative school board trustees received on June 4 in a report from Rim’s architect consultant and the construction project manager who reviewed the state’s safety concerns and how to address state concerns.
David Bell, architect and principal with PJHM Architects, told trustees the $53,000 is an estimate for what it would cost to disconnect, dismantle, inspect and install four new steel poles, replacing the existing poles. Testing would cost approximately $13,000, and four new poles would cost roughly $20,000.
But because the poles came from China, an inspector might have to go over there to verify fabrication specifications were followed, he said.
Bell also presented two other less expensive alternatives. One alternative, he said, would be disconnecting and dismantling the four wind turbines and their support poles, doing visual inspections and forensic tests on the poles and their welds. Cost estimate was $31,000.
The other alternative would be doing a load test on the two outside support poles, pulling on each of the two poles creating force that was two times the design load as listed by the manufacturer. That cost was estimated at $22,000.
The four trustees attending the board meeting looked less than happy with the options.
Bell said there is no evidence that anything is not safe regarding the vertical axis wind turbines at the high school, and their four support poles. They’ve been operating for two years and have gone through winter storms and Santa Ana winds, he said, without any problems.
The Division of the State Architect (DSA), which provides design and construction oversight for K–12 schools, community colleges, and various other state-owned and leased properties, is concerned about student safety, Bell said.
Rim’s problem with the state, which issued Rim a “closed without certification” letter for the project last July, is that the poles and welds were done in China, Bell said.
“The fabrication took place in China, and it may be that ‘made in China’ is the issue for the DSA,” he said.
DSA administrators have no way to verify if the welds were done to proper specifications, and the only way to satisfy DSA inspectors now would be to test the welds, or do the load tests, he added.
School board consensus was that the $22,000 load testing alternative might be the best way to go. Trustee Scott Markovich, who has been the wind turbine’s biggest proponent, theorized that if the poles snapped under a load test, that would be proof that the DSA was correct.
The board suggested Bell and Tilden-Coil Constructors, the district’s project manager, come back with more information about how to develop the load test. They also asked Bell to see if the company which sold the wind turbines to Rim, Urban Green Energy of New York, would pay for the testing.
Trustee Leslie Bramson, as well as board president Cindy Gardner, asked Bell to determine if there were any U.S.-based manufacturers for steel poles, which might make DSA approval easier. It’s uncertain if there are any domestic manufacturers still making such steel poles, Bell said, adding that he would look into it.
Currently the wind turbines have been locked to prevent them from spinning.