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Grant Will Establish Wind Energy Test Site in Avery County

061804windenergy_dl.jpgBy Jane Nicholson

BOONE–Electricity-generating wind turbines will be studied during a two-year project being conducted by Appalachian State University.

The N.C. Energy Office has awarded a $140,000 grant to Dennis Scanlin in Appalachian’s Department of Technology to establish a demonstration test site in Avery County on which six small-scale wind turbines will be erected.

Called the North Carolina Small Wind Initiative, the project will allow Scanlin and others to test a variety of the residential scale wind turbines currently available on the commercial market, including wind turbines manufactured in Scotland and Africa.

Three of the wind turbines will be in operation for a June 26 ribbon cutting and open house. The event runs from 2-4 p.m. on the site near the Pinnacle Inn on Beech Mountain.

The research project will demonstrate the various wind turbines available for residential use, and facilitate the transfer and adoption of wind technology in the state and region.

Project participants also will learn the technology’s effectiveness by determining the cost of producing electricity and maintaining the units, and assessing their reliability. They also will study the turbines’ effect, if any, on the area’s bird population.

Part of the grant will be used to lease a three-acre site located on private property on Beech Mountain. Avery County officials approved building permits for the wind turbines since the project is temporary and part of educational research.

” The project will provide a concrete example of the range of products that exist in the marketplace today to those living in the region, so people can see them and experience them firsthand,” Scanlin said.

The project should also help dispel myths about wind turbines that have developed over the years.

” Some people do have the opinion that wind turbines are visually obstructive and unacceptable,” Scanlin said. “By giving people a chance to see them, they will be able to make a more objective opinion.” The public also can hear what the turbines sound like when in operation. Newer technology means lower noise levels.

Scanlin said the structures, 60 to 120 feet tall, will range from 300 watt turbines, which could generate enough electricity for about half the needs of an average home, to a 20 kilowatt wind turbine that can supply electricity for five to seven homes.

Energy generated through the two-year project will be sold to the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) and resold to customers of Mountain Electric Cooperative through TVA’s Green Power Switch Program. TVA also will help test the turbines, provide direction and help manage project.

In 2003, Scanlin helped map the state’s wind resources, identifying the most feasible locations for wind turbines. The map and other information about wind energy is available at http://www.wind.appstate.edu.

The Beech Mountain site is considered a wind power class 5 site, with an average annual wind speed of 16 to 18 miles per hour. “It represents an outstanding wind site,” Scanlin said.

” I think a demonstration project is a prudent next step to take following our wind assessment work, which indicated outstanding wind resources in western North Carolina,” Scanlin said. “The next logical step is to demonstrate and experiment with the technology, see how reliable it is and give people the opportunity to see and experience wind turbines firsthand.”

Directions to the demonstration and research site: From Hwy. 105 South from Boone, turn right into Hwy. 184 toward Banner Elk. In Banner Elk, turn left at the traffic light. Turn right onto Beech Mountain Parkway. Travel for five miles then turn right on Elderberry Ridge Road near Beech Mountain Sports. Travel 2/10 of a mile and bear left at the Pinnacle Inn sign. Travel another 2/10 of a mile to the parking area for the research site.

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Picture Caption: Half a dozen wind turbines, including this 20 kilowatt Jacobs turbine, are being installed on a site in Avery County as part of a $140,000 project to test and study wind energy. The grant was awarded to Appalachian State University by the N.C. State Energy Office. Students and researchers will study the technology’s effectiveness, determine the cost of producing electricity, and assess the turbine’s reliability. (Photo courtesy of Cole McVey)