Friday, April 18, 2008

The Trinity Wind Project.

I was on my way to have lunch with my good friend Josh, (not Josh Wilson, I have lots of friends named Josh) and I was trucking up 540 on my motorcycle (47 mpg) and I looked over to the St. Thomas Episcopal Church and what did I see that totally made my day, but three brand new Skystream 3.7 wind turbines.

Now I've mentioned before the distinct lack of wind power in Arkansas, and I've talked about the Skystream before, but now I get to do both.

I decided to do a little research because such a visible change to the landscape had to be covered in some news somewhere, and not only did I find that on the Arkansas Renewable Energy page, but also, I found the feasibility study as well.

The whole project cost $42,000. The first thing about this that I see is that it is way too much. A Skystream costs less than $4500. But churches have always spent more money than needed to do stuff anyway. I suggest that instead of doing things the expensive way, we can do a thing the old fashioned way and build some community by inviting people out to help raise the barn, er wind turbines or whatever. This could have easily saved $10,000. Another waste I see is the monopole mounts. these are more expensive than the regular guyed tower type, plus they are comparibly short. The higher a turbine sits, the more power it will make. However, the monopoles do make for a very tidy and stylish look in front of the church.

Symbolism also went into the design process. They are perfectly lined up with the front of the church, and wind has been traditionally associated with the Holy Spirit and the work of God. Three turbines represent the Trinity, two at 45 feet, one at 60. They should have done them all at 100, but whatever.

Overall, I think this is an excellent project. It is very visible, very well done, and on church property. While putting this type of thing in front of everyone is a great idea to raise awareness, the quicker solution would have been to enhance the efficiency of the building since the turbines are expected to provide only 15% of the power for the church. That puts the church's monthly energy usage at 9000 kwh which is way way too much for such a new building, but this is the south. Remember that when considering a wind turbine, you must take into consideration that saving power by buying new windows and efficient appliances will save you much more money and have a quicker payback period than a wind turbine.

I mentioned the Wal Mart Skystream in Lowell, and I have a picture of it and a little analysis. If you look closely, the tower has a substantial concrete base. This thing looks way more substantial than any of the other monopoles, but Wal Mart has money saving people, so I'm sure they know what they are doing. Perhaps they made it extra reinforced to eliminate the possibility of it being blown over. In any case, this is another excellent example of a wind turbine that is highly visible and a good example.

Indeed, all of the wind turbines I've seen in Arkansas are in very visible places. The one in Prairie Grove is not next to the freeway, but it is much bigger. I've just discovered that there are a few more small scale wind turbines in Arkansas including a couple of Bergeys, both an XL.1 and an Excel.

I am excited about the possibility of more and more wind turbines popping up in Arkansas, and I hope these four Skystreams next to the freeway will help bring that about.

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