Turbine meets expectations

By: Jayne Cole, Staff Writer
April 5, 2012

Luther’s wind turbine is on track to be a spinning success, producing an average of 30 percent of Luther’s energy in the past four months. 

Professor of Religion Jim Martin-Schramm, who monitors the wind turbine’s performance, said that so far the wind turbine has been working as expected to achieve the goals of both environmental and fiscal stewardship. 

“The goal is to produce 33 percent of all energy [on campus], and right now it is closer to 30 percent, but the turbine is in its first year,” Martin- Schramm said. 

Director of Facilities Services Jay Uthoff, who assists Martin-Schramm in monitoring performance, said that there have only been minor repairs which were all very fixable.

“It is just a change, like adding a building,” Uthoff said about the turbine.

Uthoff added that General Electric has been helpful in assisting with repairs. 

The self-monitoring machine can also identify potential problems. If the wind is too strong or switches direction too often, the wind turbine will automatically shut down to prevent damages. 

The wind turbine is in the best location for Luther to benefit from the wind energy. While Decorah is not as suitable as the western side of the state for wind energy, there is still potential to achieve wind speed of up to 7.2 meters per second, which would produce 4.5 to 5 million kilowatts of energy per year. 

Twice the amount of transmission lines were also added to prevent eliminating forestry, which was a concern during construction. 

“It’s a community wind project. Locally owned and locally consumed,” Martin-Schramm said. “It’s the best energy source around campus for one to two miles.” 

Martin-Schramm said that there have been no complaints from the neighboring households. 

Decorah residents Robert and Nancy Shadwick support the idea of the windmill. Their house is located on Valley View Drive, which neighbors the wind turbine. 

“It has been interesting to see all of the residents’ reactions. No one has complained,” Robert Shadwick said.

The Shadwicks have not experienced many problems with noise or flickering, which were both concerns during construction. 

“I did notice an unusual noise at night a few times, when the blade comes by,” Robert Shadwick said. “It sounded like a jet, but wasn’t quite a roar. But we only seem to get that when the wind is out of the southwest. It is like the highway noise, you get used to it.”

Shadows of the blades were only seen during early and late winter and did not exceed one hour.  

The Shadwicks would eventually like to learn more about the wind turbine and would be interested in monitoring it, possibly through a website. 

“We hear people commenting on the wind turbine, if it is not running and why,” Nancy Shadwick said. “But I do think it is a sign of progress.” 

The Shadwicks agree, however, that one wind turbine is enough for now. 

“We are tolerant, not pleased, with the wind turbine,” the Shadwicks said. “There have been no negatives.” 

Luther students are also generally supportive of the wind turbine, although there has been skepticism about the intent of the project.

“I think that if it wasn’t going to improve our image of sustainability, there would be much less of a push for it,” Alli Wright (‘14) said. “But I do think it is a good idea.”