Lordstown turbines continue to frustrate village officials
By Jamison Cocklin
Two wind turbines installed next to the Lords-town Administration Building in 2011 continue to frustrate village officials, after another year of dismal performance.
The technology failed to even remotely make a dent in electricity costs.
A little more than two years ago, Lordstown’s village council was at an impasse over whether to go forward with installing two 100-foot 10-kilowatt-hour turbines in a side-yard at the administration building. Voting to break a 3-3 tie on the council, former Lordstown Mayor Mike Chaffee approved the measure, at which point Lords-town moved forward with efforts to secure grant funding.
The turbines cost $131,700, of which the village paid $13,170, after it secured other state and regional grants. Initially it was thought the technology would save the village between 30 percent and 50 percent on its electricity payments, or $300 to $500 per month.
In their first year of operation, the turbines produced 6,450 kilowatt hours of electricity, finishing well below Lordstown’s initial expectations when it saved only $645 in nearly 365 days of operation.
It got worse last year, when the units produced a mere 5,586 kilowatt hours, for a cost savings of about $557, according to figures provided by Dave Harrison, Lordstown’s planning and zoning administrator.
“That falls very short,” he said Tuesday. “When these things were installed, there were different expectations — I’m not sure exactly what everyone expected, but it’s still very controversial.”
Mayor Arno Hill, who did not support the turbines when he sat on council at the time, said the allure of “going green” and a fear of rejecting state grant money eventually landed the turbines on the administration building’s property.
“These have basically been nonproductive from Day One,” Hill said. “We have to live with them for another six or seven years because of the 10-year grant we received. It would have been better to put in high-efficiency lighting; in my opinion, we would have had our return back by now.”
Last year’s figures were not helped when turbine two was shut down for three months in July, August and September. A problem with the unit’s inverter, which converts direct electrical current to the alternating current required to generate usable electricity, required maintenance.
The costs were covered under warranty by the turbine’s manufacturer, Bergey, one of the country’s most respected makers of residential-sized wind turbines. Harrison said the malfunction likely reduced the combined overall output, even though the summer months are considered to have the least wind.
In all, two turbines with a 10-kilowatt-hour capacity, operating at full strength, have an ability to generate 175,000 kilowatt hours annually, said Paul Veers, chief engineer at the National Resource Energy Laboratory’s Wind Technology Center.
Given last year’s production numbers, that means Lordstown’s turbines operated at 3 percent capacity, which Veers called “extremely low.” By comparison, a commercial wind farm operates at between 30 percent and 35 percent.
“Micro-siting, where a small wind turbine is placed in an area where buildings or trees can block the wind, kills performance,” Veers said. “It’s not uncommon, but you have to site the turbines where they have access to good wind.”