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Area's first wind turbine will be dedicated Friday

Sept. 12, 2007

KALAMAZOO--The first modern, direct-grid-connected, electricity-producing wind turbine in the Kalamazoo area will be dedicated at 2 p.m. Friday, Sept. 14, at Western Michigan University's College of Engineering and Applied Science.

U.S. Rep. Fred Upton and WMU President John M. Dunn will be among the principal speakers at the dedication ceremony. Engineering Dean Timothy Greene will introduce the program, and Dr. John Patten, chair of the Department of Manufacturing Engineering, will give a brief overview of the project.

Installed at the end of July by the engineering college, WMU's Physical Plant and contractor Bauer Power, the generator provides two kilowatts of power. That is a tiny percentage of the University's overall electrical consumption, but upgrades scheduled for the generator call for more than doubling that output to five kilowatts during the next few years.

Patten also has been fundraising for two larger wind turbines at WMU--a 10-to-15 kilowatt generator and a 100-to-200 kilowatt generator.

Facts about the wind turbine generator

The blades only spin about 25 percent of the time, and they will spin more in the spring, fall and winter when there is more wind than in the summer. The turbine only needs a little wind, about 8 mph, to get started, and once it gets started it doesn't need as much wind to continue operating.

The optimal or design wind speed is 12 mph, and the unit will continue to operate at a maximum output up to 50 mph winds. When the wind exceeds this maximum, the unit will shut down temporarily until the wind dies down to avoid any possible damage to the turbine.

The generator includes a digital wireless remote interface that provides information about the number of blade revolutions per minute (RPM), power output (kW) and accumulated power (kWh) data directly to University computers at the Parkview Campus.

The cost of building utility scale wind energy plants is comparable to the cost of coal-fired plants, although for wind turbines there is no use of fossil fuels like coal.

Media contact: Deanne Molinari, (269) 387-8400, deanne.molinari@wmich.edu

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