Status Report on the Wind Turbine in Berea, OH

In April 2012 a 500 kW wind turbine was installed and began producing electricity at the Cuyahoga County Fairgrounds, located in Berea, OH. This week I discussed the operational experience of the turbine with a wind turbine representative at the Fairgrounds.

The purpose for the wind turbine is to reduce the electric bill for the city of Berea, to promote public acceptance and to provide educational information to the public. It was originally estimated that the turbine would provide sufficient electricity to reduce Berea’s electric bill by $50,000 per year.

After two and one third (2.33) years of operation the facts are available. The turbine has reduced the city’s electric bill, since the start of operation, by a total of $59,000 or about $25,000. per year. During the first two years of operation maintenance on the machine was performed by the seller at no charge to the city of Berea. It is estimated that the city will expend about $10,000. per year for routine maintenance in the future. The machine was recently struck by lightening. A memory card was damaged as a result and had to be replaced.

The turbine has a rotor diameter of 122 ft. The tower height above ground is 200 ft. The turbine is designed to start in 5 to 8 mph winds and produce rated power of 500 kW in a wind speed of 35 mph. The average wind speed at the fairgrounds is much lower than the 35 mph design wind speed. Since the start of operation, the turbine has produced a total of 671,000 kW-hrs of electricity. As a result the capacity factor equals 0.07. This is very low when compared to a typical capacity factor of 0.35 for machines located at an optimum wind site.

So how much has the taxpayer paid for this machine? The DOE and the State of Ohio provided a total of $1,275,000. The DOE provided an additional $400,000. Cuyahoga county provided $476,000. The total bill paid by the taxpayers was $1,675,000. This is a tidy sum to pay for a machine that produces a net financial gain of $15,000 each year to the city. A portion of the money was used to provide a learning center at the fairgrounds. The learning center provides educational tours, a website and literature for visitors. When I think about the overall effort, the main purpose for the project is to promote public acceptance in support of the current administration’s clean energy initiative. My question is: Why are we paying to promote wind turbines when energy experts agree that they are not economical energy producers and are not able to supply baseline electric power?