ISHPEMING - A replacement for the wind turbine that stands outside the Pioneer Bluffs Apartments will be among the first of a new design erected across the country, according to company officials.
Set to be rolled out in 2013, the first 100 new Wind-e20 turbines designed by Clean Green Energy, LLC and McKenzie Bay International will be placed in high profile areas around the country, said CGE President Bryan Zaplitny, including the city of Ishpeming. The redesigned model will be a replacement for the prototype turbine that has stood outside the Ishpeming Housing Commission's Pioneer Bluffs for the past few years as the two companies worked to overcome legal and design issues to develop a marketable renewable energy product.
"I guarantee it will be up in 2013," Zaplitny said. "We kept our word. We solved all the issues."
The wind turbine outside the Pioneer Bluffs Apartments is set to be one of the first 100 of a new design set up in 2013. (Journal file photo)
Determined to be too expensive and labor-intensive to produce and install on a large scale, the prototype has been redesigned by Zaplitny and McKenzie Bay to create a smaller 105-foot all turbine in 20, 50 and 65 kilowatt-hour capabilities. The 65 kwh model will be installed in Ishpeming.
Small wind power is the fastest growing segment of the wind industry, Zaplitny said.
Designed to be a supplement to traditional power provided by local utilities, Zaplitny said the new model solves several issues identified by the American Wind Energy Association, a wind energy trade association, with regards to small wind turbines used by residences, schools and municipalities. The main problems are cost and installation.
The Wind-e20, with its 20, 50 and 65 kwh variations, easily meshes with the local power grid, allowing the energy produced to be usable. While installation of the prototype model that currently stands was a long process requiring several large cranes, the new model stands on a pre-fabricated foundation that is made off-site and brought in in pieces and can be installed using a standard back-hoe.
"The Wind-e20 is the first wind turbine that has no need of any cranes," Zaplitny said.
The turbine itself arrives at its location on a 53-foot-long flatbed truck and is set up using a hydraulic control system, with installation taking about a week.
Once installed, maintenance of the turbine is also a simple operation, Zaplitny said, as the generation unit is placed close to the ground and all the components are modular, meaning they can be easily taken out and replaced if needed.
"You pop one component out and pop one in," he said.
The design of the turbine also allows for the production of electricity in very low wind and is virtually silent.
In addition, in case of high winds, the turbines blades can automatically fold up and redeploy following a storm, similar to an umbrella.
Because the companies set up the turbines in conjunction with power purchase agreements, businesses and organizations don't invest in the construction of the turbine itself.
As with the agreement between the companies and the Ishpeming Housing Commission, the organization or business agrees to purchase the power produced by the turbine unit for a set amount of time, allowing them to lower their energy costs.
"The housing commission has never spent any money," Zaplitny said. "They have not borne any cost. They have not borne any liability."
Getting the turbine through the prototype stage, however, has been a long process that began in 2006 with McKenzie Bay at the helm of the project.
After McKenzie Bay began encountering financial and engineering issues, Zaplitny said he was brought on board to get the project back on track when the foundation, tower and electrical system had already been installed, eventually resulting in the redesign and replacement of the turbine blades in 2009.
Other key components of the turbine also had to be redesigned, and legal issues between the company and the engineering firm designing the project also stalled the prototype.
"There were a number of different issues. They lost their management team and had some financial issues," Zaplitny said.
After a new board was brought on and the other issues cleared up, the project began to move forward again, specifically with a new turbine design, he said.
"Let's dispel any thoughts that the wind turbine doesn't work. It does work," Zaplitny said. "We learned what not to do. But we also learned what to do."
The current turbine does produce electricity when allowed to spin, but Zaplitny said the companies want to concentrate on rolling out the new model rather than continue with the older prototype technology.
"Should we spin the turbine?" Zaplitny said. "We're not that far away from replacing it. ... The chances are that we may. But we're more focused on what we're doing today."
Johanna Boyle can be reached at 906-486-4401.