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ILEC wind project first of its kind in the nation

By Staff | Jul 3, 2009

Kirby Berhow, manager of Renewable Energy Services for Iowa Lakes Electric Cooperative, filled Estherville Rotarians in on two wind turbine projects built by the cooperative to serve ethanol plants in Superior and Lakota.

According to Berhow, it was the first time that a renewable project has been built to serve another renewable project in the U.S.

Berhow said seven 1.5 megawatt turbines serve both the Superior Ethanol and Global Ethanol projects. The turbines generate enough energy to power 3,700-4,000 homes.

The projects constructed five miles of industrial-grade roads and five miles of underground electrical services. As for size of the turbines is concerned, Berhow noted as a point of comparison that the turbines measured 262 feet to the hub or nacelle. That compares with the Statue of Liberty at 240 feet. Each turbine has three, 128-foot blades.

Berhow illustrated a breakdown on the structure of the turbines. Each unit has a braking system and the blade pitch automatically adjusts according to wind speed. He said the turbines will start generating power at 6-8 miles an hour and will shut down at 55 miles an hour to prevent gear box damage.

The projects began generation this spring – the project serving Lakota Ethanol March 19 and the project serving Superior Ethanol in April.

Berhow said the systems all proved more efficient than expected.