the new 1.5 megawatt wind turbine at the SMSC Pow Wow Grounds has arrived and is assembled. Over the weekend October 3-4, 2009, the components were lifted by a giant crane and put into place. Approximately 10 days will be required for testing and commissioning of the wind turbine before it becomes operational by mid-October 2009.
At 386 feet from foundation to the tip of a blade fully extended vertically, the wind turbine is the equivalent of a 38-story tall building. It will operate around the clock throughout the year, anytime the wind is blowing. This single turbine will supply enough energy for all of the Community residential energy demand. It is expected to produce .5 megawatt per year since wind does not blow all the time in this area.
“This wind turbine fits nicely into our goal of long term energy self-sufficiency in terms of energy production,” said SMSC Chairman Stanley R. Crooks. “Right now we are selling the energy but in the future we may use it directly to power the reservation.”
The wind turbine was made in Changzou, China, and shipped over a seven week voyage first to Shanghai and then to Houston, Texas, where it was loaded onto trucks for its overland journey. The manufacturer, Changzhou Railcar Propulsion Engineering Research and Development Center, was selected because it provided the most economical and fastest way for the SMSC to obtain a unit. A team of four engineers traveled to the reservation from China for the assembly, testing, and commissioning of the wind turbine.
Components of the turbine are the foundation or base, the steel tower, three blades, a hub, a nacelle, and internal systems to transfer the power to the base. Due to their sheer size, transport was somewhat complicated. Once all the parts arrived, it only took two days to assemble using a 600 ton capacity crane with 335 feet of boom. Muddy conditions did not deter the crew, though it created quite a mess around the site.
Ground site preparation was completed in the summer, when the foundation ring was installed and buried underground in August. It was later covered with sod. Burial of the foundation 12 feet deep was necessary to provide adequate support. Federal aviation requirements due to the nearby Flying Cloud Airport in Eden Prairie, Minnesota, mandated the maximum height at the tip of the blade at 1,340 feet above sea level. The location in a small valley at the Pow Wow Grounds helped meet this requirement.
Energy created by the turbine is metered as it enters the nearby Minnesota Valley Electric Cooperative substation that provides electricity to the SMSC and the surrounding area. The energy is sold to Basin Energy, the supply cooperative for the Minnesota Valley Electrical Cooperative. Basin Energy pays the Community for the power on a monthly basis.
Wind data collected by the SMSC over nearly a 10 year period demonstrate that this area of Minnesota has what is considered moderate to low winds for commercial wind development. The data shows a range from 0 to over 25 miles per hour wind with an average speed of 11 mph at an elevation of 164 feet. The turbine blades will turn from winds as slow as six and a half mph and continue through about 40 mph when it will shut itself off. About twice a year maintenance will be required.
The $1.8 million wind turbine, which has a payback period of about 15 years, has a life expectancy of 30 years. The SMSC wind turbine will also demonstrate that wind energy is viable in areas of moderate to low winds.
Wind energy is a low-cost emerging renewable energy resource which does not contribute to global warming. The only pollution that is produced by a wind turbine comes during the manufacturing and transport process. Once erected, the wind turbine is expected to have no negative impacts and will sound merely like an air conditioner running outside a home. The blades will produce a soft whoosh as they cycle which will sound like a whisper to those in close proximity. The sound is expected to be negligible to nearby homes and enterprises.
Like many, the Community is faced with growing energy demands and dependence on outside sources for that energy. Environmental impacts associated with conventional energy sources are known to be destructive to the earth. In response, the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community has actively been exploring local options to supply its energy demands. This focus reduces some of the environmental impacts associated with conventional energy sources like natural gas and oil. Most of the solutions being pursued by the Community do not require extensive infrastructure. Since initial investment costs are recouped over the life of the project, especially with rising conventional energy costs, these other options are preferred by the Community.
Minnesota is the third largest producer of wind energy in the nation, behind Texas and California. The state of Minnesota has set renewable energy standard that requires 25 percent of the state’s energy to come from renewable sources by 2025. The SMSC wind turbine is another example of the effort to meet that goal.
The wind turbine is one of several Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community energy initiatives already underway. The SMSC is a major partner in Koda Energy, a joint venture with Rahr Malting of Shakopee to produce heat and electricity by burning agricultural by-products such as wood chips, barley dust, and oat hulls, and grown energy crops. This stable, clean energy production facility was operational in mid-2009.
Another innovative project converts the Community’s waste motor oil and vegetable oil to heat buildings. Some Community spaces were partially heated by waste oil in the winter of 2008-2009. Using waste oil for heat reduces the use of natural gas. A project to convert 18,000 gallons of waste vegetable oil each year into bio-diesel for use in Community vehicles and equipment also became operational in 2009.
Solar energy is used to capture energy to heat water for showers and equipment washing at the Community Fire Station, reducing the use of natural gas. Skylights also use the free energy of the sun to light a training room and equipment bay, reducing daytime energy usage.
The Dakotah! Ice Center which opened in late 2008 also features skylights specifically designed to complement the arena use. Between the hours of 8:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. weekdays, the arena typically does not have a lot of use. By using skylights and daylight harvestings during these non-peak hours, energy consumption for lighting has been reduced by about 50%.
Another energy saving feature of the Ice Center is the capture waste heat from the refrigeration compressors used to cool the rink floor and use it to heat the arena seats. Dispersing heat in spectator spaces reduces the need to heat the entire arena. This reduces energy consumption and makes the arena more comfortable for guests.
As a steward of the land, the SMSC engages in a number of restoration activities to preserve and protect the land for future generations. The SMSC Land and Natural Resources Department has re-established native prairies and wetlands on more than 500 acres of former farmland. Prescribed burns are used to maintain and improve native prairie conditions on the reservation. Wild rice is sowed in Community wetlands. Maple sap is collected from Community trees, and maple syrup is made. Trees and other native flora are planted. Environmental specialists are also active in restoring and managing wetlands, surveying wildlife, and taking an inventory of existing natural communities. Hydrologists assess water quality, coordinate the Community’s Wellhead Protection Program, plan projects to improve water quality, and implement erosion control.