Carlton College Minnesota – Wind Power!

WindMill Power

Originally uploaded by JoeDuck.
A single HUGE windmill provides most of the power for Minnesota’s Carleton College. Another, about 5 miles away, provides power to Saint Olaf College. Both are in Northfield, MN about 70 miles south of Minneapolis.

I was very impressed with how a single windmill could provide most of the power needs for an entire college, and based on the financials of this other project it looks like these things may even be revenue positive.

24 thoughts on “Carlton College Minnesota – Wind Power!

  1. Actually small windmills may be sensible, particularly vertical ones but the economics are often distorted by tax credits and utility payments at ‘avoided cost’.

    Back in the days when utilities were ‘geographic monopolies’ there was no research into alternatives. Some utilities even said to those who tried alternatives ‘you take all your power from us, or none of it’.

  2. Joe I heard one of the biggest drawbacks is the noise associated with wind turbines however I have heard they have made tremendous strides in the noise generated so that we might actually get to see a lot more of these.

    Also it is time for solar…solar panels have now reached efficiency levels that make them really practical.

    Too bad it took all the trouble in the Middle East and people dying before we wake up in the country and start implementing worthwhile technologies to get us off of oil!

  3. Glenn –

    I’m wondering if this type may have fixed noise by using the huge size and slow rotor motion. This one was eerily quiet until you got right under it and had the low whooshing sound. What really struck me was how HUGE this was compared the the windmills at the California wind farms I’ve seen.

    Of course wind won’t work in many places or serve huge urban needs which is why I’m for major conservation combined with nuclear, which is a lot safer than people think.

    I predict that history will say that “our” USA activism of the 70’s against nuclear actually led to more environmental and political problems by forcing even more dependence on oil.

  4. Joe you are right about the 70’s…a lot of bad things happened in the 70’s and we are paying big time now! Look at our automotive manufacturer’s…they cut a lot of bad deals in the 70’s and are paying the piper now!

    There is a new vertical moving wind turbine being test overseas that is designed for roof-tops and is virtually silent. The moving element kind of looks like the DNA sequence mounted on a pole. I will see if I can dig up the link. Very cool and a city can have lots of them and it takes advantage of the “wind tunnels” created by the different shapes of the buildings.

    I agree on Nuclear…we need a lot more and we really have blown it on fuel cells as well! Too many short-term thinkers at the controls. All they think about is their family wealth.

  5. Wow Glenn, didn’t realize that type of windmill existed. The comments suggest they are expensive per watt, but as alternatives get adopted those costs go down.

    One thing I sometimes forget in the debate over ROI is that there is a sort of “coolness” factor that inspires mass adoption and new innovation. I think the coolness factor means you may need to look at more than simple ROI when trying to innovate in these areas.

  6. Joe I think the designs aesthetics play a major role with people’s homes now. The designs need to be cool and blend in well with the surroundings.

    I think we need a mandate! Not that I am a big fan of Government involvement but I can’t help thinking if we took all the money we have spent in Iraq and put it toward a mandate to eliminate oil dependence by 80% within 5 years what would have happened?

    Like the space race to the moon – we did it in record time. Can you imagine if we put that level effort into alternative energy sources what would happen?

    After we have it commoditized we then create a leasing deal for the platform for Russia and China and basically neutralize the Middle East once and for all. If the Middle East wants to destroy each other – so be it. They have been fighting for 1000’s of years and they are not going to stop anytime soon.

    However, I do believe it is important for us to fight terrorism outside of the USA – better to fight somewhere else then to have the battles here. The sheeple of this country have no idea what occupation is like and for some reason a lot of people have short memories – 9/11 wasn’t that long ago.

  7. I wonder if windmills would become more acceptable if they are integrated into streetlights, mini cell phone towers, wireless network repeaters or other such items.

  8. (9) Now your thinking…just like wifi, we need coverage and a way to assimilate all the small power into the grid…cool concept.

  9. Also switching everything over the latest generation LED’s will really change things.

    They use 10% of the power conventional lighting does, produce little heat now and provide light from the entire spectrum.

    End result, less energy, less AC needed and you feel better because you are getting a steady dose of full light spectrum.

    To me it is a no brainer…oh yeah their meantime between failure is about 60 years now!

  10. Glenn,,,

    Integrated devices as cost-reduction: Okay, lets come up with a list of such multi-function devices wherein the shared functionality will enhance adoption and use of the device.

    A wind mill that is also a wireless antenna (Mesh network?) would work but what about making it also relay the status of nearby streetlights to the utility company and the signals to flashing road signs as well as automatically reporting weather observations to the weather bureau. Would this multifunctionality share the cost enough to make the devices more likely to be deployed and used?

  11. Fools Good try this one on for a concept…

    Street lamp for parking lot.

    LED white – creates daylight after dark thirty.
    Integrated color LED’s can display an advert directly down on the pavement.
    Wifi repeater.
    Solar panel on top with battery reserve.

    Completely off the grid but connected to internet, ad content is sent through secure internet to lamp.

    LED’s last 60 years – I wonder what the liability reduction would be not having to have works climb to change bulbs.

    I wonder what the cost savings would be in electricity.

    This is another one of my “big” ideas. 🙂

  12. There was some discussion in other threads here about expenditures on rural communication needs for emergency services. After Katrina cell phone towers were lost but some sort of built in redundancy might help because no storm and no terrorist is ever going to be able to take out every single light pole and everyone’s windmill. Even an urban area could benefit from ‘extra’ Mesh network capacity. Far cheaper for the state to send a check to a windmill manufacturer for every windmill installed than for the state to go out and actually build towers. Churches with steeples might like to both generate power and also relay wireless signals during emergencies. Even small towns with terrain obstruction problems would benefit from having some redundancy built into the system. An earthquake in Portland might take out some cell towers but a Mesh Network in a rural area can provide service during peak loads if I understand the workings of Mesh Networks and repeaters. Sure the distribution of windmills equipped with wireless antennae would be somewhat unorganized but that is part of the safety and redundancy of such networks. They seek out and utilize resources as needed. Pathways and traffic loads constantly change, yet a homeowner is more likely to have installed the windmill if the price is lowered by some modest sum that reflects his contribution to the network’s redundancy. Isolated mountain lodges would love to lower their electric bills. What if a windmill AND antenna had been installed at Black Bear Lodge?

  13. Often during disasters local kitchens can not be used to feed disaster personnel or refugees because periods of power loss have resulted in food spoilage and bacterial contamination of food storage and preparation areas. If local schools, churches and nursing homes had power generating windmills, such kitchens could then be used to feed the flood of disaster personnel. Surely some price breaks on the equipment would be worth it for a local utility to know that if they have hundreds of downed utility poles their crews will atleast have hot meals. Maybe someone can work out the actual math on this and see what the avoided cost would be for the state or county to not have to build actual antenna towers but merely subsidize windmills for a brief period of time. Or perhaps a municipal wifi network that supports both routine traffic and also provides emergency services communications when needed would benefit by having such windmills installed? It would not be an overly complex or senselessly gold plated device.

  14. Pringles Can.

    I just want to add that it is well known someone took a discarded Pringles can and turned it into a wireless antenna so don’t think its expensive to construct this stuff.

  15. Fools Gold, yes it is true the basic concept is simple to build and cheap…however to properly harden something for outside continuous use is a completely different ballgame. Wireless access is great but only if it is consistent and reliable.

    Reliability is typically the main reason for cost increases with this kind of technology. You would be amazed at what a squirrel or snake can do to something like this!

  16. I believe there is a desert mouse of some sort that arranges small rocks in such a way as to collect condensation from the night air. The windmill simply does it faster, I guess.

  17. Can anyone give me any information on the magwind turbines?
    I would like to know if anyone out there is familiar with these turbines and their output. For some reason, their site is distorted on my computer. I can not get their contact information, pricing or output specs for this system.

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