Is windmill turning point for energy?
Local officials will be collecting local data on wind and power output.
By MARY GRZEBIENIAK
MERCER, Pa. -- Because electricity costs are expected to rise next year, local farmers and businesses may want to keep an eye on an experiment in the use of a windmill to generate electricity at the Munnell Run Farm here.
A 140-foot windmill went into service last week outside Mercer County Soil Conservation District offices on Pa. Route 58 as an experiment in clean energy production.
Data will be collected, and next summer, the district will offer educational programs on using windmills to generate energy. Munnell Run Farm is adjacent to conservation district offices and is used for outdoor education.
The windmill is expected to generate enough electricity to power an average home, said Jim Mondok, Conservation District manager. It is expected to save about 800 per year by producing about half the electricity for the conservation district's educational building and barn. The windmill should also reduce greenhouse gas emissions by eliminating 12,000 pounds of carbon dioxide, 20 pounds of sulfur dioxide and 20 pounds of nitrogen oxide per year, officials said.
Shawn Hedglin, conservation technician and nutrient management specialist at the conservation district, said the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection made the experiment possible by awarding a 55,000 Energy Harvest Grant for the windmill in 2005. Construction began in April, and the windmill began operating Oct. 19.
It consists of a ten-kilowatt wind turbine and a 140-foot guyed lattice tower. The equipment was purchased and work done by North Coast Energy Systems, Erie.
Mondok said that the efficiency of the windmill will largely depend on the winds at the site and that detailed data do not exist on winds in various parts of the county. He said Mercer County's winds, on the average, are not as strong and sustained as some other parts of Pennsylvania. Those in Somerset County, for example, are much stronger, and as a result windmills there have 30-foot blades compared with the ten-foot blades on the conservation district's windmill.
He said his office will begin collecting data on wind and power output to help anyone considering a windmill to make a decision about local efficiency. In the first four days of operation, with average seven mile-per-hour winds, the wind turbine has provided 38 kilowatts of electricity, which is a little more than the average daily need of the average home, according to information provided by Mondok.
Mondok and Hedglin know of only a few other energy-generating windmills in the area, including a privately operated one near the intersection of Pa. Routes 965 and 173 in Hendersonville and two at Slippery Rock University. Mondok noted there is one at Presque Isle State Park on Lake Erie, which is identical to the one at the conservation district.
Educational programs on the windmills will be announced on the Munnell Run Farm Web site, www.munnellrunfarm.org, or those interested can call Mondok or Hedglin at the conservation district, (724) 662-2242.
Information about the Energy Harvest Grants can be found by going to www.depweb.state.pa.us/energy and clicking on grants, loans, rebates, then on Energy Harvest.