Windy days can actually halt turbine power - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Windy days can actually halt turbine power

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TRAER (KWWL) -

Wednesday, winds blew all day around 30 miles an hour, with gusts up to 50!  You might think such a breezy day would be great for the hundreds of wind turbines in Iowa.  But when it comes to wind, there can actually be too much of a good thing.

A wind turbine is helping the city of Traer go green.  Since going online in November, it's been cranking out plenty of power.

"It's produced 40, about 41 percent, of the total needs of the city of Traer:  1,640,000 kilowatt hours since the first of December," said Pat Stief, Traer Municipal Utilities general manager.

That's about 10 percent more than the city expected the turbine to produce.  And in the long haul, Traer sees the windmill as a way to keep energy costs down.

"What we really expect to see is rate stabilization.  As EPA enforces new rules and regulations, it's going to force some coal plants to shut down.  If we've got this energy to offset that cheaper coal produced power, we'll be able to avoid some of the higher costs in energy coming from new sources in the future," said Stief.

And while you might think a super windy day would help the city crank out even more power--it could actually be making less power.  That's because when winds reach 49 miles an hour, the turbine's brakes kick in, shutting it down.

It's a safety feature built into newer turbines to prevent wild windmill malfunctions that you can find videos of by the dozens on You Tube.

But on a typical day, wind is a welcome sight in Traer.  A breeze of just six miles an hour allows the propellers to spin, creating an eco-friendly power supply for the small community.

"Green and affordable," Stief said.

Traer's wind turbine cost $3 million, an initial price paid by investors who are getting a tax credit for the project.  The city's gradually paying to own the turbine and should take full ownership in six years.

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