Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Wind turbines on the horizon?

It looks like the City of Ann Arbor will be partnering with Ann Arbor Public Schools to build two educational wind turbines thanks, in large part to a DOE grant. The turbines will be mid-sized: between 30-50 meters according to this article on the Com. This puts their hight at about 50%-75% of the Bell Tower for comparison. Personally, I am all for these turbines, so long as there is a reasonable return on investment for the project. Sounds like it could help net AAPS some discounted kWh for a couple of decades.

I'm always astonished at how vehemently some folks oppose renewable energy projectors. Take for example, this comment from the Com article:

So I am to be "educated" yet again about how wonderful this technology is. I anticipate a visual blight of giant out of human scale wind turbines similar to that in Essex county in Ontario, or comparable to the huge solar panel array that has cut off all the view south of Plymouth Road opposite Krogers(sic).
It never ceases to amaze me how strongly some folks argue against the aesthetic aspects of wind power. Personally, every time I see the wind turbines on the opposite shore of Lake St. Clair, I am overcome with a deep sense of jealously. Why should those Canadians in Canada get a sweet wind farm? I realize that it's hard to make the argument that wind turbines are objectively aesthetically pleasing, but I have to say I'd much rather have a "viewscape polluted with a wind turbine" than a body polluted with mercury from coal-fired power plants. Though I do get where the above commentor was coming from regarding the new photovoltaic solar array on Plymouth road. The view facing south from the Kroger parking lot has long been considered one of the most scenic vistas in Ann Arbor.

This view has now been ruined by several rows of low solar panels.

Ok snarking aside, some comentors did raise some valid concerns about the cost of the project relative to the proposed size of the turbines. This post here has some respectable back of envelope calculations that call to question some aspects of the proposal:

At the city hall meeting, we learned it would be a 60 foot diameter wind turbine and it would be on a pole that was between 100 and 150 feet high. Here is an exampe of a 63 foot diameter wind turbine that can go on a pole from 100 to 140 feet. http://tinyurl.com/byg6mrx

There is a diagram on that webpage, that students can take from the website for free. That diagram can be used for education and the students can be taught with that. That'll save $1.4 million.

According to wind maps, Ann Arbor wind is about 5.5 to 6.0 m/s, BUT... that's on a windmill that is at 80m or 262 feet. The windmills in question for Ann Arbor would be at 100 to 140 feet. A map at 80m http://tinyurl.com/9w6zk4s

To be more realistic, at the 30 meter mark or 98 feet Ann Arbor gets wind at 4.0 m/s or less. A map at 30m http://tinyurl.com/a755zqc

And if we go back to that wind turbine that I had as an example, then it would produce less than 59,100 kWh. And it would produce practically nothing back to the electric grid.

How much does 59,100 kWh give? Well, according to this 'energy screw', that is enough for 12 homes. http://tinyurl.com/b55gln2

According to the EIA, an average house uses 11,496 kWh. So it is enough for 5 homes. Pathetic. http://tinyurl.com/c4o2gwc

And according to this page, the G3120 would cost $300K to $400K fully installed. So, if they are spending $1.4 million, someone is getting ripped off. http://tinyurl.com/aen7mw7

What a waste of money. I'm not an engineer, but I just saved people a ton in consulting fees. You can pay me $4.51 instead of $1.4 million.

Any engineers, or alternative energy consultants out there on the interwebs willing to share their two cents on this? Is the $1.4 million price tag a little high for this project?

1 comment:

  1. And go up on the St. Clair River to see the lovely coal fired or gas fired electric plants. Whatever the energy source is, it's going to be ugly.