Wind turbine generating interest

By Lynn R. Parks

On a breezy March day recently, a wind turbine, newly-installed in the yard of the Delaware Electric Cooperative near Greenwood, twirled in the wind. The power that it was generating was flowing onto the electric grid, where it was combined with power from all generation sources and from there fed to houses and businesses throughout the region. The turbine, which became operational Feb. 27, is part of the cooperative's intention to fully understand alternative sources of power and to pass that understanding onto its customers. "A lot of our members have inquired about the feasibility of installing wind turbines, and we felt we really needed to know a little more about it," said Mark Nielson, vice president of staff services and in charge of the windmill project. The cooperative has about 80,000 "members," or customers. While about 50 of them have solar panels, only a couple have put up wind turbines, Nielson said. The small turbine, located north of the cooperative's office building, cost $25,000 to install. It starts generating power when the wind reaches a speed of 6.6 miles per hour and is capable of putting out 5,100 kilowatt hours of power per year. The average house uses 1,100 kilowatt hours of power a month. Nielson said that the cooperative will soon start collecting data about how well the turbine is performing. Within the year, he said, information about its performance will be on the cooperative's website, delaware.coop. The website will be updated daily.

In addition, anyone who is interested in learning more about wind generation of power can visit the cooperative, Nielson said. The cooperative office building uses an energy-efficient geothermal heating and cooling system. Nielson said that plans are in the works to install solar panels that, like the wind turbine, would serve as a way for consumers to learn about using the sun to generate power. All three systems, geothermal heating and cooling and solar and wind energy generation, qualify for tax credits through the federal government. For information, visit www.energy.gov/taxbreaks. Residents of Delaware can also receive grants to put in geothermal, solar and wind systems through the Delaware Energy Office. For information, visit www.dnrec.delaware.gov/energy and click on Delaware Green Energy Program. The new wind turbine was originally installed on a metal building next to the cooperative office. But the spinning of the turbine sent vibrations down the building's metal beams and through the building. Flexera, the Millsboro-based company that installed the turbine, put up a 30-foot fiberglass pole and mounted the turbine on it. Nielson said that the new turbine is already generating interest. "People have driven by and seen it, and are very excited about it," he said. And he believes that the installation of the turbine is one example of what he feels is a growing trend across the country. "This is absolutely something that people are investigating," he said. "And the new [Obama] administration will certainly encourage that." For your information For details about the wind turbine at the Delaware Electric Cooperative, or to arrange to visit it, call Mark Nielson, 349-3147.

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