Saturday, April 27, 2013

Executive Yard Art

We have some! Not in my yard, but in the training lands of a nearby military installation. 

Why do I call it Yard Art? Let me tell you the story -- short version, of course.

The process that allows wind turbines to generate electricity, like most motors, generates some frequency of noise outside the realm of human hearing. Some of the frequencies may interfere with military communications. Most wind turbine manufacturers don't see the military as their market, so they don't test for those frequencies.

Through an Executive Order, the Department of Defense has a mandate for a certain percentage of the power used at each military installation to be from alternative sources, such as wind, solar, etc.  There's the conflict.  The local mission is to test communications, but the mandate for alternative energy drives toward wind and solar in this area. Solar takes up a lot of land and/or interferes with other local missions.

As part of the 'stimulus' the installation had 2 projects funded: one to install the turbine (approx $3.5 mil) and another (about $1.5 mil) to test for frequencies it generates from the big turbine in the sky -- about 250 feet up.  So the turbine went up -- it was a long process, in part because the anchor is essentially a huge concrete counterweight that had to be carefully poured and cured. Also, the turbine was coming from Sweden or some Scandinavian country. Once up, it turned out they sent the wrong thingy to convert the power so it could go on the grid. A new converter-thingy had to be made, in Sweden, and then sent by slow boat.  It took 3 or 4 months.

Once the thingy was installed, the system was going through the 'certification' process when another snag came up.  Management would be remote, via telecommunications.  The foreign software couldn't be used on the DoD network (nice time to find out) so an alternative had to be found. Another 4 to 6 weeks there.

Finally the blade was allowed to spin (it was really impressive and beautiful!) and the power company folks were doing their process to allow the power to go to the grid. Yippee!!  During this process, the most unbelievable part happened.

The project was about $3.5 million along, almost complete and turned over to the installation, when the US subsidiary of the Scandinavian guessed it...went bankrupt!! That was about a year ago.

The software to run the turbine is proprietary to the foreign company. Any business that could maintain the turbine would need to be granted license to the proprietary Swedish software.

So, there it sits, blade locked, no juice.

That's our Executive Yard Art.

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