Archive for Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Kansas man uses turbines to encourage wind systems

October 27, 2010


— Some assembly required.

Fortunately, Bill Smalley has assembled his share of wind turbines in the past few years, and after opening the box holding the Skystream turbine, he set the thick instruction manual aside.

Smalley, along with Westar employees Mike Nolan and David Stevens, took about three hours Monday to assemble the turbine, mount the blades and erect the 45-foot steel pole just north of Smoky Valley High School.

Smalley, who owns Topeka-based Smalley Heating and Cooling, has begun specializing in installing wind and solar energy systems. He said he donates his time to help install turbines at schools, along with members of Westar's "Green Team" employees, who lend their expertise and the company's equipment to the effort.

Nolan said the turbine, which generates 1.8 kilowatts, would cost about $15,000 installed, but is being provided through Kansas State University's Wind for Schools program, which encourages schools to incorporate wind energy into the science curriculum.

"It's strictly educational," Nolan said, explaining that the turbine generates enough power to run the lights in the school's bus maintenance shop -- and that's about it.

High school science teacher Bill Nelson agreed, saying the point isn't the $50 to $60 worth of electricity the turbine will produce -- but the opportunity for hands-on learning for students.

"We'll work with it when we're studying renewable resources," Nelson said. "This will show kids what's available, and the potential that Kansas has for wind energy."

A small antenna atop the turbine transmits data to the ground; Smalley demonstrated on his laptop some of the dozens of pieces of information available, including line voltage and turbine rpms.

"This is the way of the future," said Smalley, who still services water-pumping windmills as well, including monthly oilings.

"Everything's going to be wireless before long — I'll be able to pull up to a school that's having problems with a chiller, pull out my laptop and figure out what's wrong even before I get out of my truck."

The turbine's three blades bear the signatures of first-, second- and third-graders in Lindsborg — the graduating classes of 2020, 2021 and 2022.

"The little kids thought it was pretty cool to be able to do that," said Superintendent Glen Suppes. "And it's something they'll be using when they're in high school."


gr 6 years, 1 month ago

Did you catch that?

The point is not the $15,000 piece of equipment only produces $50-60 worth of electricity but that it is an educational experience. And that's not saying there's anything wrong with the educational part as when they become worthwhile, it's good to know how to run them properly. It's just that one must not have a misplaced "point" in mind.

tomgraywind 6 years, 1 month ago

Yes, I did catch it--not the best phrasing. The turbine will produce $50-60 worth of electricity PER MONTH, not in total.--Regards, Tom Gray, American Wind Energy Association,

think_about_it 6 years, 1 month ago

So is the life span of this thing 21 years? That is how long it will take to pay for this thing @ $60 per month assuming that it operates maintenance free for that long.

gr 6 years, 1 month ago

Yes, it was assumed the $50-60 was not total, but did not say for what time period. But, the "point" was not how soon it would pay for itself, if ever, but serves for educational use. That's why life span, production, maintenance, etc. never needs to enter the equation. The equation = educational purposes.

Centerville 6 years, 1 month ago

It's educational all right. Lesson: how to throw away $15,000, waste weeks of otherwise productive time, and attain self-righteousness.

EudoraKelty 6 years, 1 month ago

Considering this school received funding for this project through grant money, it's a very sound investment on the school's part. Getting--essentially--a free wind turbine AND racking up savings on their energy usage AND having access to an emerging technology to use in their classes? What's not to like? And being able to show students the conversion of energy is a science topic that is not easy to achieve without a lengthy and costly lab setup, so having a turbine like this on site is a great learning tool to use.

Getting a school and community to rally around a project like this is a great way to encourage learning in numerous subjects, since someone has to tackle the necessary permits and ordinances with local government, has to have decent writing skills to produce a funding proposal, and THEN can use the science and math in their classroom to analyze what the turbine is actually doing.

Yes, there is an easy way for this turbine to turn into a fancy piece of sculpture on the school's campus, by students and teachers ignoring lessons that can come from it. But, obviously, if members of the school system care enough to cut through all the red tape to get it installed, they must have some intentions of using it. "Waste weeks of otherwise productive time", Centerville? I doubt it. Rally students and staff towards a common objective and achieve lesson objectives in the process? You bet.

Want to know more about the Kansas Wind for Schools program? Check out

gr 6 years, 1 month ago

At a $15,000 price, and if $60 per month is recovered, and if no other expenses come up, in 20 years it would almost be paid for ($14,400). I read the lifespan, depending upon which one is 20-30 years. That's why the electricity generated is not "the point". It's also why very few articles specify anything about how much they generates. It's educational. Education costs. But it does help generate interests which could result in producing something that can generate electricity effectively.

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