MU starts tapping into wind power

Friday, September 21, 2012 | 6:00 a.m. CDT; updated 6:56 a.m. CDT, Friday, September 21, 2012
MU is adding wind energy to its renewable energy sources. Installation of a 100-foot-tall wind turbine is set to begin Wednesday at the Old Beef Barn, a storage building. The energy from the turbine will power the building, with any excess energy funneled into the campus power grid.

COLUMBIA — Wind is being added to the list of renewable energy sources at MU. Installation of a 100-foot-tall wind turbine is set to begin Wednesday at the old Beef Barn off Stadium Boulevard.

"Columbia is progressive in this way; it's showing itself to be a leader," Troy Rule, an associate professor at the MU School of Law, said. Rule's research focuses on renewable energy.

The energy from the turbine will be fed into the 17,300-square-foot Beef Barn, said Karlan Seville, communications manager at MU Campus Facilities. The barn, built in 1922, is used as storage for the campus and serves as the Campus Facilities operations shops. The $360,000 turbine, with its 16-foot-long blades, will be located in front of the building facing Stadium Boulevard. 

Any electricity that isn't used by the storage building will go into the campus power grid. Campus Facilities estimates the turbine will produce about 25,000 kilowatt-hours each year based on wind patterns, Seville said in an email. The average home used 11,496 kwh in 2010, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. 

The turbine will be open to students and faculty for research, and Campus Facilities will provide data such as energy created and wind speeds. The College of Engineering has already expressed interest, Seville said. 

"They will have access to all of our data that we collect," Seville said. "Professors are welcome to come over with classes and see how the wind turbine operates." 

There will also be a website available which will allow people to see how much energy is being produced by the wind turbine and how much is being used.

A similar system, Mizzou Dashboard, is already in place for MU residence halls . Dashboard tracks how much energy each residence hall uses. Part of the goal of the program is to help students realize how much energy they are using as a way to reduce consumption.

"We're setting up a real-time energy usage meter on our website so you can see how much the turbine is producing," Seville said. 

The MU Climate Action Plan calls for a 30 percent reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 2016 from the 2008 levels, according to the 2012 MU Campus Master Plan and Climate Action Plan presentation. 

One of the six boilers at the MU Power Plant is designed to burn wood waste as part of an overall goal to reduce fossil fuel consumption on campus by 25 percent.

"The campus is doing a pretty great job. It's pretty impressive that we have the boiler and now this," Rule said. 

The city of Columbia had its own renewable energy goals approved by 78 percent of voters in 2004.

By the end of this year, 5 percent of the city's energy has to come from renewable sources. The city reached that level in 2011, with 5.4 percent of its energy coming from renewable sources, according to 2012 Renewable Energy Report.

The goal is to have 15 percent of energy coming from renewable resources by December 2022. As of July, 9.1 percent of the city's energy was coming from renewable resources: 5.5 percent was wind and 3.1 percent was landfill gas, said Connie Kacprowicz, the utilities services specialist for Columbia Water and Light. 

The manufacturing of machinery to help harness wind energy has helped the economy and job outlook in Missouri, Rule said. While most of the wind industry in Missouri consists of manufacturing, there is a growing number of wind turbines in use. 

"The state heavily relies on coal, so it's great," Rule said. "We want to gradually wean ourselves away from coal."

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Rodney McGowan September 21, 2012 | 5:11 p.m.

I use about $1500 of electricty in my home anually, the turbin creates approximatly twice that anually. $360,000 divided by $3,000 = 120 year pay back. Please explain how that is a good investment.

(Report Comment)
frank christian September 21, 2012 | 6:13 p.m.

Rod - I don't know how to tell you to do it, but, there is a "saving the planet" factor that you must include in your calculations. This factor makes any expenditure, "worth the price".

(Report Comment)
Mark Foecking September 22, 2012 | 2:50 a.m.

I think that number ($360,000) is wrong. The turbine is something like this:

which could be installed for $15-20,000, so you're talking a total cost of about $60,000, giving a payback of about 25 years.

The cost that is not included is the cost of backup, which is difficult because, for just a few turbines, the current grid can accomodate them without changes. When one starts to get more than a few percent from wind, then the cost of reliability bacomes significant, and can be two to three times the cost of the turbines themselves. So prices would have to drop a LOT before wind can ever be truly competitive with fossil/nuclear. However, there are other reasons to do it that may make the higher cost worth it in some cases.


(Report Comment)

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