Lake Land College has removed two wind turbines after they suffered enough damage to render them inoperable.
"The situation with the two 100 kW wind turbines is a snapshot of renewable energy in the United States in 2017," said Joseph Tillman, the division chair and Lake Land College's renewable energy instructor and coordinator. Wind is going to be around for a while, but other forms of renewable (energy) are gaining in use, particularly in this part of the state. The college recognizes this and is adapting to meet the industry needs."
Lake Land's board of trustees in November approved the $30,000 remediation, which included removing the north turbine and disassembling the south turbine, in part by removing its blades but keeping the nacelle and tower intact. The project was completed last week.
“The blades from the south turbine have been set on the ground and will continue to be used as an education resource,” said Kelly Allee, Lake Land’s Director of Marketing and Public Relations.
The two 100 kW Bora turbines were installed at the start of 2012, thanks to two separate grants.
But during the summer of 2015, lightning struck the south turbine. According to Allee, the college’s insurance provider only covered the known damage while Lake Land technicians believed additional damage would generate immediate and long-term costs.
Even with a donated turbine, the cost to repair the south turbine was estimated at almost $200,000; the college also says it would have taken 14 years of strong performance to see a return on investment.
As for the north turbine, Tillman says a series of voltage spikes and/or brownouts caused it severe damage.
“Given the extent of the damage and the budgetary situation facing Illinois, the wisest path was to remediate the northern turbine and keep the southern turbine for training,” said Tillman.
When it came to deciding which turbine would be left partially intact, Tillman said that ownership was a factor.
"The college 'owned' the north turbine but some question remains as to who owns the south turbine," explained Tillman. "This ownership question did play a role but more of a minor one. The college wanted to keep one large turbine for climbing and safety training. Since the ownership issue was still unsettled on the south turbine, it became a natural choice for saving."
Tillman added that even if the college had clear ownership of both turbines, the north turbine would likely still be chosen for removal since its electronics were heavily damaged. The college may also want to make use of the site for other programs in the future.
"At some point, the college may build a metal truss building on the site of the north turbine since the location already has a power feeder and fiber optics on site and is nearby to parking lots," said Tillman. "It already has rock road which could be paved and the location is near water and sanitary hook-ups. This will be at least a few years in the future and a new building may never be built there as it will depend upon need and budgets."
With the remediation now complete, the college will now focus more of its attention on other forms of renewable energy.
“Moving forward, the college will focus its efforts on solar and geothermal installations which have proven to be very successful for us,” Vice President for Business Services Bryan Gleckler said. “For example, the photovoltaic panels are expected to save the college between $50,000 and $60,000 this year.”
The college still has its smaller 10 kW Bergey wind turbine, which Tillman said has operated for five years without any maintenance; only recently did it receive upgraded blades.
But because the south turbine will continue being used in the renewable energy program, the college doesn’t expect any faculty or reductions in class offerings.
“The turbines were used primarily for climbing and safety training with some maintenance,” said Tillman. “Lake Land College is retaining the south turbine so that these skills will still be taught.”