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Economy and Business

Experimental wind energy projects growing with the goal of creating Ohio jobs
Universities and businesses seeing gains in knowledge and energy savings from wind turbine projects

Kevin Niedermier
A pair of Case Western Reserve University wind turbines are generating power and new information about the budding industry.
Courtesy of Kevin Niedermier
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In The Region:

If you’ve been driving I-90 along Lake Erie east of Cleveland recently, you’ve probably noticed a lot of wind turbines popping up. Two experimental turbines sponsored by Case Western Reserve University recently went up behind a manufacturing plant. They join one of the largest turbines in Ohio just down the road at Lincoln Electric.

WKSU’s Kevin Niedermier takes a look at the proliferation, and the goal of making Northeast Ohio a supplier for the wind turbine industry.

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Different turbines
Case Western Reserve University’s 130 foot wind turbine recently started generating power for Stampco Industries in Euclid, and knowledge for the region’s budding alternative energy industry. An even taller wind turbine a few hundred feet away will go on line soon. The property is owned by William Sopko and Sons, a partner in the university’s Great Lakes Energy Institute.

Professor David Matthiesen directs the institute’s commercialization wing: "We’ll open up the medium wind turbine, in part because I want to record how much energy we’ve been generating. It is operating, it’s safe to be inside while we’re running."

Efficiency is the goal 
The goal of Case’s wind turbine project is finding ways to make wind energy production more efficient. The university is also working with the Lake Erie Energy Development Corporation, a partnership with the city of Cleveland, Lorain and Cuyahoga counties and regional economic development corporations. That group’s goal is building an experimental wind farm out in Lake Erie to show it can be profitable, and to establish the region as a wind turbine manufacturer and parts maker.

Matthiesen says one of the university’s turbines is coated with an experimental anti-icing paint from Cleveland-based Sherwin-Williams to see if it can stand-up to Lake Erie’s winter. And he hopes to glean much more from the turbines. 

“We’re looking at financial models and where can you get the most bang for your buck. You may make a slightly better widget out of the 8,000 parts that go into a wind turbine, but is it really going to lower the cost of electricity? And so, we look at the supply chain, the financial models, the energy output, the efficiencies of the unit. There’s just so much.”  

Biggest turbine in the state
Just down the road from Case’s project, the biggest wind turbine in the state is spinning. The nearly 280 foot tall machine at Lincoln Electric was erected last year and started generating power for the welding equipment manufacturer in July. The diameter of the German built  machines three blades is more than the length of a football field.

And, from inside the turbine’s control room, Lincoln’s energy manager, Seth Mason, says the area has plenty of wind to push those big blades. 

“The machine follows what’s called a power curve, and as the wind blows, so the machine produces. So it’s just about exactly where it was predicted to be. We expect in a year’s time to make between 5 and 6 million kilowatt hours. We put it into our main manufacturing facility which uses between 50 and 60 million kilowatt hours, so we expect 10% of the power we use each year to come from this turbine.”

Mason says he's not disappointed in what he's found so far: "It works exactly as planned, and we do have quite a bit of wind. It’s fair to say we haven’t had it run for a full year. You really need to look at it for a few years to see where you’re at, but we’re not disappointed, it’s doing exactly as planned.”

Looking ahead
Mason expects the $6 million wind energy project to hit the break even point in 3 to 4 years. Lincoln Electric is one the industrial partners in Case Western Reserve University’s wind energy commercialization program. The company’s welding machines are widely used by wind turbine tower builders around the globe. Case’s David Matthiesen says it would be great if entire wind turbines were built here.

But that doesn’t have to happen for the region to benefit. “Even if you don’t bring a cell manufacturer here, we still make a lot of things here in Cleveland and there are 8000 parts in a wind turbine. And we hope to be able to demonstrate one of each in our wind turbines.”

Ohio now has nearly a dozen wind farms. Most are small and built in flat and very windy north western part of the state. The first large scale farm opened in that part of the state last October.                                                          

Listener Comments:

What happened to the long promised offshore Wind Farm in Cleveland's Lake Erie? They were ok'd by Governor Strickland and Cleveland's Mayor!
We need the promised 10's of thousands of jobs in manufacturing, delivery, building and maintaining of them.
Not to mention the pollution free and waste free clean energy they will provide!

Posted by: Sanra Pucillo on April 18, 2012 10:04AM
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