Winds of Trouble: Turbine To Go

Posted: May 4, 2011 in Uncategorized

The experimental wind turbine will be removed. Photo by Casey Titus

Project Failure Deals New Blow to Green Energy Chops

By William MacLeod / for SullReal

Looking at an incomplete wind turbine prototype, unfulfilled promises and unmet obligations, the students at SUNY Sullivan have begun to say “What the hell?” when it comes to renewable wind energy here on campus. Most of the student body agrees, at least in principle, that the vertical axis wind turbine project is or was a fairly cool endeavor and an innovative addition to the school’s burgeoning green technology program. Another question that has circulated around campus has been: Would the turbine’s potential to meet one-half of the school’s electrical needs have had a positive impact on the ever-rising cost of tuition?

One thing is now certain: The vertical axis wind turbine project at SUNY Sullivan is no more.

In a staff e-mail communication dated Monday, May 2, 2011, SUNY Sullivan President Dr. M. Howard-Golladay announced that Environmental Technologies LLC (ETLLC) president Osamu Ikeda has decided to dismantle the vertical axis turbine and restore the location to its original condition as per a previously agreed upon contingency plan. Osamu Ikeda stated that the turbine gear box, which is located in a concrete casing below ground, and the turbine shafts as they were turned by the wind, could not work together properly to generate enough power. Ikeda, whose company owns the turbine, made the decision that he believed was in the best interests of his company, the e-mail memo said. The turbine project has not cost SUNY Sullivan any money.

The wind turbine, which was designed and erected by ETLCC, had the potential to produce 1.25 megawatts of power. After running into mechanical difficulties with the turbine’s gearing system last year, ETLLC’s Ikeda had requested an extension for the project’s completion; this completion was rescheduled for April 2011. Over the past several weeks, SullReal student news has attempted to find some answers and repeatedly visited the ETLLC web-site only to find a blank page that simply and ironically said “under construction.”

SullReal spoke with Helena Leroux, a professor within the Green Technology program at SUNY Sullivan, prior to President Golladay’s announcement. Leroux confirmed that some problems had existed with some of the turbine’s mechanical components including the gear box, which transfers momentum from the turbine’s blades to the electric generator. ETLLC was to have redesigned and reinstalled the gear box by the April 2011 deadline. Tracy Hall, head of Buildings and Grounds at SUNY Sullivan told SullReal that a meeting was scheduled to take place between ETLLC and the college discuss the project’s completion. It is believed that meeting took place just prior to the dismantling announcement.

This failed turbine project comes on the heels of a previous wind turbine project which also failed. The previous project, which cost the college $1.5 million and involved plans for a conventional wind turbine, was never even begun. According to a September 9, 2010 article in the Times Herald Record, the college is suing Sarasota Springs-based Atlantic Energy Solutions Inc. over this failed project. A judge has ordered the company to set aside $1.5 million dollars in the case, the article said.

The recent attempt at the construction and completion of a wind turbine is another blow to SUNY Sullivan’s Green Technology curriculum. The vertical axis turbine is and was a one of a kind technology the world over. It would have been of inestimable future value to the college and its cutting edge Green program. As part of her May 2 dismantling announcement, Golladay wrote, “Despite the engineering problems with the turbine we believed the wind turbine could provide the college and the community with an exceptional learning tool.” The announcement did not specify when the turbine would be removed from the college’s west entranceway.

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