A decade of harnessing the wind to power BG PDF Print E-mail
Written by HAROLD BROWN Sentinel City Editor   
Saturday, 02 November 2013 08:34
Local residents look up at the first wind turbine during the Nov. 7, 2003 dedication. (J.D. Pooley/Sentinel-Tribune)
Wind power came to Bowling Green 10 years ago on Thursday.
At 9:20 a.m., on Nov. 7, 2003 technicians let the blades spin on the 1.8 megawatt Vestas wind turbine constructed closest to U.S. 6 at the Wood County Landfill.
That moment marked the first operational utility-scale wind turbine in Ohio. Over the next weeks and months three more similar units became operational at the landfill, in what is now officially known as the American Municipal Power Wind Farm.
Many years passed before additional commercial wind farms developed in Ohio. The closest in the area today are 50 to 80 miles south and southwest of Bowling Green.
"One thing that is surprising is how long it took for additional commercial scale wind turbines to be erected in Ohio," retired Bowling Green Director of Utilities Daryl Stockburger said Wednesday. " I had envisioned a few more clusters of four to six wind turbines. We did identify areas where land owners were interested."
He noted that the economics have to be right for such a project. "Bowling Green hit the window in the time that the numbers were right," Stockburger said.
With new turbines designed for the lower wind speeds (versus the western states) Stockburger said it might be a good time for AMP to look at additional turbines. He said significant improvements in technology  have been made "although the V-80s we put in were the workhouse of the day."
It was under Stockburger's direction, the encouragement of then BG Mayor John Quinn and a supportive Board of Public Utilities, that the wind farm became a reality.
The city's entry into wind energy can be traced to 1998 when SEED Ohio, which later became Green Energy Ohio, loaned the city a wind monitor tower. The tower was installed on city-owned property at Green and West Poe roads about one mile east of the landfill. Equipment on the tower monitored wind speeds for a year to help determine the feasibility of installing wind turbines.
"I was just thrilled we were able to go ahead with the project," Quinn said Friday. "One or two would be a help but to be able to do four that would supply power to something like 1,700 homes, even though we shared with other communities, made it different and exciting."
Mother Nature cooperated that Nov. 7 morning with a blustery wind that kept the turbine spinning while the estimated 450 people who showed up squeezed into two tents. Only 175 people had made reservations.
AMP President Marc Gerken told the crowd that morning: "This tells us the customers want renewable power."
Wood County Commissioner Jim Carter noted that the Wood County Landfill had become a tourist attraction.
"Even with all of the other wind mills around today, I think the landfill is still a place people come to visit," Quinn said. "I am surprised it took so many years for others to be built. We we lucky because we had a site no one argued about and it has worked out well."
Stockburger believes advances in wind and solar technology, along with flow battery devices could help make the two sources more of a baseload power source, such as coal and nuclear are considered today. "The technology is there but it is a matter of cost," Stockburger said.
Nine other public power communities joined with Bowling Green to form the Ohio Municipal Electric Generation Agency Joint Venture 6 (OMEGA JV6), and purchased the wind farm at the project's completion. Today Bowling Green remains the largest recipient of generated power, at 4.1 MW, just over half of the project's total capacity.
The final payment on the debt to build the project will be paid in 2016. At that time the cost of power from the turbines could become the least expensive of all of the city's sources of electricity. However, the turbines provide only a small fraction of the power needed by the city's residents, businesses and industries.
The turbines weren't the first renewable energy project for the city.
Several years earlier the city joined other AMP members in the Belleville Hydro Project, which is located on the Ohio River. The hydro plant provides approximately 12 percent of the city's daily electric power supply. Additional hydro units on the Ohio River are being developed by AMP and its members, including Bowling Green. Those plants are to start coming on line in the next two years.

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