Native Unity: SMSC Wind Turbine Completes Successful Year

Native Unity

NATIVE UNITY DIGEST: The Native American people need to find a way to pull together to become more visible to the rest of the world. This concept is being promoted in the Digest through news articles, features, OP/ED pieces and contributor submissions on all aspects of Native life and tribal cultures throughout the U.S.and Canada. Bobbie Hart O'Neill, editor.

Monday, October 04, 2010

SMSC Wind Turbine Completes Successful Year

Generating Electricity With Low Environmental Impact
By Tessa Lehto
Communications Specialist
October 4th, 2010

Prior Lake, MN – For one full year, the SMSC Wind Turbine has held its post overlooking the SMSC Pow Wow Grounds and The Meadows at Mystic Lake. Residents, staff, visitors, and neighbors have enjoyed watching it spin, commenting often on its direction and rate.

“This wind turbine fits nicely into our goal of self-sufficiency in terms of energy production,” said SMSC Chairman Stanley R. Crooks. “It is part of our plan as a sovereign nation to take care of our own needs wherever possible. The wind turbine is also a green technology so the environmental impacts are minimal.”

The First Year -
At 386 feet from foundation to the tip of a blade fully extended vertically, the wind turbine is the equivalent of a 38-story tall building. It is visible for miles around and has quickly become a landmark on the horizon near Mystic Lake Casino Hotel. Its first year has brought a new understanding of wind technology to the SMSC and its staff.

According to Stan Ellison, SMSC Manager of the Department of Land and Natural Resources, “The first six months were without issue. At that point there was a warranty issue with a slip ring. This was repaired by the manufacturer along with some other minor items including replacing the batteries in the blade 1 pitch motor system. The turbine has been operating well since that repair.”

When asked said about the lessons learned in this first year, Ellison replied, “Modern wind turbines are complex machines with thousands of moving parts. Computers control the operation using data from multiple sensors including wind speed, wind direction, gust speed and variation, vibration in the nacelle, blade vibration, bearing and oil temperature, nacelle interior temperature, and many others. They are not ‘start and forget’ machines but require regular maintenance and supervision.”

One exciting addition to the wind turbine this past year was the installation of an antenna by a multi-department team of Community staff. A wireless connection was added using staff from the Land and Natural Resources Department, Maintenance, Mdewakanton Emergency Services, Property Services, and Information Technology. Land staff defined the equipment specifications working with Information Technology.

The Low Voltage staff wired the turbine and Public Works Building. Maintenance set up the antenna at the Public Works Building and helped with the wiring in the turbine. Mdewakanton Emergency Services and Property Services welded the antenna on the tower using the Aerial ladder truck.

“We now have remote control and a data site available for internal use,” Ellison said. “This provides us easier access to data and the ability to control the wind turbine remotely.”

Energy ProductionIn its first year the SMSC Wind Turbine generated 1.8 million kWh, enough for all residences on the reservation. Energy created by the turbine is metered as it enters the nearby Minnesota Valley Electric Cooperative substation that provides electricity to the SMSC and the surrounding area. The generated energy is offset against Community energy costs.

Why Isn't It spinning? -
The question asked most frequently about the wind turbine is, “Why isn’t it spinning?” The wind turbine operates around the clock throughout the year. The only time it stops is if the wind is not blowing or is too variable in direction, it’s blowing over 47 mph or under 8.75 mph, the blades are in the process of changing direction, or excess vibration (like from a thunderstorm) causes it to shutdown.

The blades are not expected to spin all the time because this is an area of moderate to low winds for commercial wind development. The SMSC Wind Turbine was installed as a test of its efficiency in these known wind conditions. It is only expected to spin about 30% of the time.

All wind speeds are measured at the nacelle height (262.4 feet). Generally the wind speed is greater at higher elevations but it is lower on rare occasions. Excess vibration will also cause a shutdown. A nearby lightening strike and resultant thunder has caused this to happen several times. The turbine is lightening protected including the blades, nacelle, and tower.

The turbine is pitch controlled with mechanical yaw. The direction of the blades is varied to start or stop the machine. To turn into the wind it must shut down, rotate, and start up.

Background -
After more than 10 years of planning and several years of wind studies and other research, the SMSC Wind Turbine was assembled at the SMSC Pow Wow Grounds over the weekend October 3-4, 2009, using a giant crane. Testing and commissioning of the wind turbine then took several weeks before it became operational.

The $1.8 million wind turbine, which has a payback period of about 15 years, has a life expectancy of 30 years. The SMSC wind turbine will also demonstrate that wind energy is viable in areas of moderate to low winds.

Wind energy is a low-cost emerging renewable energy resource which does not contribute to global warming. The only pollution that is produced by a wind turbine comes during the manufacturing and transport process. Once erected, the wind turbine has no negative impacts and the sound is negligible to residents in nearby homes and enterprises.

The blades produce a soft whoosh as they cycle which sounds like a whisper to those in close proximity. The crackle from the pre-existing sub-station is louder to the untrained ear than the wind turbine itself.

Minnesota is the third largest producer of wind energy in the nation, behind Texas and California. The state of Minnesota has set renewable energy standard that requires 25 percent of the state’s energy to come from renewable sources by 2025. The SMSC wind turbine is another example of the effort to meet that goal.

Other Energy And Environmental Projects Underway -
Like many, the Community is faced with growing energy demands and dependence on outside sources for that energy. Environmental impacts associated with conventional energy sources can be destructive to the earth. In response, the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community has actively been exploring local options to supply its energy needs.

Most of the solutions being pursued by the Community do not require extensive infrastructure. Since initial investment costs are recouped over the life of the project, especially with rising conventional energy costs, these other options are preferred by the Community.

The wind turbine is one of several Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community energy initiatives already underway. The SMSC is a major partner in Koda Energy, a joint venture with Rahr Malting of Shakopee to produce heat and electricity by burning agricultural by-products such as wood chips, barley dust, and oat hulls, and grown energy crops. This stable, clean energy production facility was operational in mid-2009.

In 2010 the SMSC received Silver Level LEED Certification for the building which houses South Metro Federal Credit union. A geothermal heating system for temperature control captures heat and cooling from the ground.

Another innovative project converts the Community’s waste motor oil and vegetable oil to heat buildings. Some Community spaces were partially heated by waste oil starting in the winter of 2008-2009. Using waste oil for heat reduces the use of natural gas. A project to convert 18,000 gallons of waste vegetable oil each year into biodiesel for use in Community vehicles and equipment also became operational in 2009.

Solar energy is used to heat water for showers and equipment washing at Mdewakanton Emergency Services, the SMSC’s Fire Station, reducing the use of natural gas. Skylights also use the free energy of the sun to light a training room and equipment bay, reducing daytime energy usage.

Dakotah! Ice Center, which opened in late 2008, also features skylights specifically designed to complement the arena use. Between the hours of 8:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. weekdays, the arena typically does not have a lot of use. By using skylights and daylight harvestings during these non-peak hours, energy consumption for lighting has been reduced by about 50%.

Another energy saving feature of the Ice Center is the capture waste heat from the refrigeration compressors used to cool the rink floor and use it to heat the arena seats. Dispersing heat in spectator spaces reduces the need to heat the entire arena. This reduces energy consumption and makes the arena more comfortable for guests.

As a steward of the land, the SMSC engages in a number of restoration activities to preserve and protect the land for future generations. The SMSC Land and Natural Resources Department has re-established native prairies and wetlands on more than 500 acres of former farmland.

Prescribed burns are used to maintain and improve native prairie conditions on the reservation. Wild rice is sowed in Community wetlands. Maple sap is collected from Community trees, and maple syrup is made. Trees and other native flora are planted.

Environmental specialists are also active in restoring and managing wetlands, surveying wildlife, and taking an inventory of existing natural communities. Hydrologists assess water quality, coordinate the Community’s Wellhead Protection Program, plan projects to improve water quality, and implement erosion control.

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