(Photo by Patrick Finnegan via Creative Commons)

Big and tall: Wind farm to have Minnesota’s tallest turbines

Wind energy is about achieve new heights in Minnesota.

A construction crew in southwestern Minnesota next month will begin erecting 15 wind turbines atop 100-meter towers, making it the tallest wind farm in the state.

The 30-megawatt Community Wind South project is being built by Juwi Wind of Boulder, Colorado, and will be located in Nobles County, northwest of Worthington.

It’s among a growing handful of wind projects, mostly in less windy states, that are reaching for the sky in order to catch better wind at higher altitudes.

Of the approximately 3,500 wind turbines installed last year, 167 hit the 100-meter mark, according to the American Wind Energy Association’s 2011 annual market report. The average hub height was 81.2 meters.

The Minnesota turbine towers are technically 98.5 meters tall, but their foundations will put them closer to 100 meters, said Jed Van Sciver, juwi Wind’s procurement and construction manager.

While taller turbines allow developers to tap into higher wind speeds, he said, they also cost more to build, requiring more steel and larger cranes to assemble.

“It doesn’t work on every project. It’s a site-by-site analysis that determines whether or not it makes sense to go to a 100-meter tower,” Van Sciver said. “On this particular site, it made economic sense.”

Bill Haman, industrial program manager at the Iowa Energy Center, said wind speeds at 100 meters are generally about 4.5 percent faster than what’s found at 80 meters. However, that correlates with a 14 percent increase in energy production.

Comparing wind resource potential for 80-meter wind and 100-meter wind (Source: National Renewable Energy Laboratory)

“Those turbines should perform really, really well,” Haman said. “They’re going to be capturing those extra high wind speeds, but it’s going to cost them upfront.”

Van Sciver expects taller turbines to become more common, and thinks it’s inevitable that towers even taller than 100 meters will be built in the near future.

Juwi and other wind developers are already building towers taller than 100 meters in Europe. Federal aviation regulations make it difficult to exceed that threshold in the United States, he said.

“It’s become quite predominant in Europe, and we anticipated it becoming more common in the U.S. in the future,” Van Sciver said.

One of the reasons he expect turbines to get bigger is that more efficient turbines are changing the economics of building tall. One reason they’re more efficient is that blades are also getting larger.

Community Wind South’s turbines will have a rotor diameter of 92 meters. That’s pretty typical for turbines these days. Last year, about a third of turbines installed at rotor diameters between 90 and 99.99 meters.

A recent study by Swiss researchers concluded that “the bigger the wind turbine is, the greener the produced electricity is.”

The toughest part about assembling turbines that large is getting a big enough crane to lift segments into place. As far as transportation logistics go, its one extra truck per turbine.

“The sections themselves are not significantly larger than your typical wind turbine tower section,” said Van Sciver.

Crews were already working on preparing the foundations and turbine deliveries were expected to start Sept. 10, with construction complete in October.

8 thoughts on “Big and tall: Wind farm to have Minnesota’s tallest turbines

  1. The bigger the wind turbine, the greater number of bats killed. Bigger is NOT greener or better. Bigger, in this case, is simply bigger.

    FAA documents produced after a FOIA on Cape Wind show that the US government is aware that wind turbines cause micro-climate change. I wonder how great the micro-climate change is at the bottom of these monstrosities? I imagine the wind proponents know, but will classify this as “Trade Secret” like every other inconvenient fact about this nonsense.

  2. Another “capacity” chart substituting for fact-based, real-world data.

  3. @Mary: How many coal fired power plants would it take to poison the same number of bats that the hundreds of wind turbines now kill. Wind power is cleaner and not the navigation hazard the fossil fuel industry would have you believe. As far as ‘micro-climate’ change, it has only taken the fossil fuel pollution of the last 200 years to force a ‘Major-Climate’ change. Replacing coal burning with wind and solar generated electricity is a big win for bats, birds & humans. Using some of that electricity to replace petroleum in transportation magnifies the gain. Once the wind &/or solar equipment is delivered to the site transportation costs end. The energy/fuel is free for the life of the equipment. How many ‘bulldozer hours’ are involved in bringing a gigawatt of coal-generated electricity to the grid? Coal plants also create waste in the form of ‘fly ash’. Do a Google search on coal, fly ash, disasters. I believe it was in Tennessee that a lake of fly ash on a mountain of fly ash was discharged into a river system.

  4. Will Wiese is “spot-on”. I only wish to add a few thoughts on health. Mountain top removal in VA and W.VA pushes the coal waste( lead, arsenic, mercury and other toxins) into streams. Guess what contaminates fish? Why are pregnant women advised not to eat certain species of fish? Duh! The city of Richmond VA is the Asthma Capital of the USA and has been for 2 years. VA gets 50%
    of its power from burning coal: the WORST possible source of power known to mankind.

  5. If wind power is the answer, and it works so well, and is so green, why does it need subsidies? The real zero cost, reduced health impact solution to remember is to conserve. Reading recently about the “founding father” of climate change now reversing opinion on what is happening with climate indicates what a scam wind power is. Wall street bankers, foreign entities, and large investors have so twisted and engineered the laws to suit themselves at the subsidy trough, the environment and human health has taken a back seat. Just read what the immense effects of our sun and its solar flares are upon Earth’s climate and electrical infrastructure, and you can realize, perhaps, what a tiny difference wind turbines are making. The fact that the wind industry misrepresents and hides behind “trade secrets” with industry paid “experts” on a very regular basis is wearing thin. The wind industry is losing ground fast in the credibility department. They are creating an indefensible landscape. This is all about the money: subsidy money; campaign money; off shore money. Follow the money. I am not cynical. I don’t see the science to support expensive, variable, environmentally damaging wind power.

  6. That’s it? That’s your justification for wasting money on wind energy systems we know will contribute to wiping out a keystone species……coal is “bad”? Please try to stay on topic and stop your apples to oranges comparisons. I just took a look at the USGS information on the poisoning of bats via coal plants – and found nothing. The situation is difficult enough without people making things up. I am aware of the risk to water from cyanide and arsenic that leach in the mining process, but they mine for rare earth minerals for turbines so you’re no further ahead on that argument. The notion that coal plants cause asthma is ridiculous. Coal plant emissions do not cause asthma. Asthma is a pre-existing condition that is exacerbated by airborne particulates, including those nasty emissions coming from automobiles, dog dander, plant pollen, etc. Health impacts: wind turbine syndrome is finally being studied and is being proven to be very real – very painful, and very problematic. Is the idea here to swap sicknesses? I don’t care how many coal plants you shut down and how many turbines you install…..Richmond, VA will still have airborne particulates that keep them in the running for top spot with asthma. Replacing coal with wind and solar is NOT a win for bats and birds. Solar is great. Wind – destructive of bird and bat populations worldwide, and bats are a keystone species so their loss has serious consequences for the world.
    Wind turbines burn up – do a Google search to see what that looks like. What do you suppose is burning in the engine? Are you aware that because of the current turbine design, if the systems do not dump induced current (enough to melt iron) into the ground, the bearings wear out in less than 5 years? Several projects around the country have experienced problems with their transmission lines burning up. These are Industrial Power Plants – every single one of them. Coal plants and wind turbines are completely different animals, both with major problems, but substituting one set of problems for another, worse, set of problems isn’t a solution at all and wind is decidedly worse when you review ALL of the facts.

  7. Will Weise: I have not heard of the USGS issuing warnings about coal plants “poisoning” bats, but there is plenty of concern about bats and the dangers posed by wind turbines. Coal plants have been around for how long? Why is it that wind energy proponents immediately assume that someone who understands that wind is not a fiscally or environmentally responsible energy option jump on coal? You fail to note “mountaintop removal” for mining of rare earth minerals for turbines. You fail to note the dumping of toxic waste into the ground at turbine manufacturing plants. You fail to acknowledge the fact that the US government has had discussions about the micro-climate change caused at the base of wind turbines. You fail to accept the reality that wind energy is NOT a solution to anything,but base your opinion on wishes. Solar? Hooray! Wind? Not so much! Nuclear? Yes, after upgrading our facilities to re-use rods as this is the only truly green, clean and cheap fuel source available to us at the moment. Coal? Upgrade plants and improve filtration systems. Coal works but it can work better! Wind energy is a Wall Street scam. Follow the money and you’ll find JP Morgan, Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sucks……

  8. Mary: Here’s a study about how mercury from coal power plants is poisoning bats. “Report suggests songbirds, bats at risk of mercury poisoning,” http://bangordailynews.com/2012/01/24/environment/report-suggests-songbirds-bats-at-risk-of-mercury-poisoning/

    “Researchers have shown that mercury levels in soil are higher in areas close to power plants, with the areas downwind of the power plant usually receiving higher inputs;” “Bats are long-lived and have the potential to accumulate high concentrations of mercury over time. High mercury levels may lead to a myriad of problems such as compromised immune systems, which would make it harder to fight infections like white-nose syndrome.”