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Study shows Wapak viable site

January 23, 2013

Tom Williams, of North Coast Wind & Power, addresses councilors.

Preliminary analysis of a 14-month wind study shows a new General Electric (GE) turbine at 80 meters could generate enough electrical power for Wapakoneta to justify the costs and provide cost-efficient energy for the city’s consumers.

North Coast Wind & Power Managing Director Tom Williams explained his firm’s findings to Wapakoneta City Council members during Monday’s meeting in council chambers. He provided a summary of the firm’s results from a wind study conducted between April 2011 and May 2012.

The study showed a new GE 1.7 megawatt turbine at 80 meters could generate enough electricity to eclipse the firm’s threshold required to make economic sense for the wind project.

It would even be more cost effective if municipal bond financing could be obtained, he said.

Williams projected the cost per megawatt would be $69.25, or 6.9 cents per kilowatt hour, for the first year, $63.91 average (6.3 cents per kilowatt hour) over 10 years and $48.67 average (4.8 cents per kilowatt hour) over a 20-year period. The city currently pays approximately 7 cents per kilowatt hour.

These initial numbers piqued the interest of council’s Utilities Committee chair and the mayor.

“I haven’t studied it with enough depth to know that it says we should move forward with the project, however it did seem to indicate that further examination of a possible project is warranted,” Councilor-at-large Tom Finkelmeier Jr. told the Wapakoneta Daily News.

He favors further review.

“Anyone who has studied energy realizes that hedging your future energy purchases with a known fixed cost is a wise move,” the new Utilities Committee Chair said. “This is merely the first step in the process and it shows a modest municipal wind farm is a possibility. We still have to examine the city’s future power needs and economic development in the Job Ready Sites could radically change that picture.”

Mayor Rodney Metz also addressed the positives of diversifying the city’s electric portfolio, but he acknowledged they are still early in the process and many capital and maintenance costs still need to be determined.

“The wind study, in regards to the numbers they presented, looked very favorably toward supporting a couple of wind turbines and that would correlate into more stable utility costs for residents,” Metz said. “They haven’t gotten final numbers, they haven’t gotten final costs from some of the turbine manufacturers as far as cost and, of course, council has not looked at doing another endeavor or to outside source the entire thing. We are at the very, very beginning of the process.

“It does look promising at this point, but the major component missing is the total invested cost that it takes to do the project, such as the cost of the turbine, the cost of the land, the tie-in costs and the maintenance costs,” the mayor said. “We are looking for GE to give them some answers.”

Williams said the city would need to lease approximately 40 to 50 acres away from residential areas to install the towers. The ground could still be used for agriculture.

The North Coast Wind & Power study included average wind speeds at three different heights from 36.6 meters to 58.5 meters and calculated wind speeds for 80 meters and 100 meters.

At the lowest height, average wind speeds ranged from 3.3 meters per second (mps) in August to 6.8 mps in April, while at 100 meters the wind peaked at 9.5 mps in November with the low at 4.7 mps in August.

Williams suggested placing a tower at 80 meters because the costs escalate in building a 100- meter tall tower. The average wind speed at 80 meters ranged from 4.3 to 8.6 mps.

He also explained a turbine must eclipse a gross capacity factor, or the percentage of the “nameplate” capacity a generator actually produces, of 30 percent to be cost effective. Williams’ report showed Wapakoneta’s factor would be 39 percent with a GE 1.7 megawatt turbine at 80 meters, or approximately 250 feet.

He advised against relying too heavily on wind as part of the city’s electric portfolio, because it should supplement the city’s current electric power load not replace it.

“We tend to suggest you look at anywhere from 5 to 20 percent of your total average load which is probably close to 20 to 25 megawatts,” Williams said. “I would think four units, which would generate about 7.4 megawatts, is what you would want.”

He explained the best option in Ohio is to have each site add up to fewer than 5 megawatts and to put them relatively close, not more than a mile, from a substation. This would place permitting at the state level and not the federal level, which would reduce costs and time by 66 percent.

“We also suggest clusters of two or three units instead of a big wind farm where you see 200 towers lined up in a straight line,” Williams said, referring to the Van Wert County project. “We suggest you have them in clusters so you cut down on the costs of transformers and underground wiring — interconnect costs.”

He told councilors a more detailed report would be coming in the future and he would have more answers regarding wind turbines and generation from GE.

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