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Wind energy conference comes to town

By Staff | Oct 30, 2016

The IWEA?Technical Conference took place Wednesday Oct. 26-Friday Oct. 28. The conference was a gathering of people who operate, maintain and repair wind turbines.

“It was an opportunity to gain ‘field perspective’ on the needs, use of tools, and equipment for operating and maintaining wind turbines,” Kat Grems, Iowa Lakes Community College wind energy office associate, said.

The conference included talks from a number of experts in the field. Monika Kramer of Windtest, a wind turbine testing company located in the SERT?building on the Iowa Lakes Community College campus, gave the keynote address.

Kramer’s address focused on the need for wind tower control.

Windtest has developed the use of drones for inspecting wind turbine rotor blades, as well as to adjust the settings.

“Bats and birds, as well as wanting to control the energy output and noise levels at night, have led to the development of drones,”?Kramer said.

An operator can sit at home, the office, or another location and control the drone from a tablet or laptop, Kramer said.

The operator will be able to use the drone’s camera to inspect the rotor blades, and the remote controls to adjust the settings of the turbines.

Kramer said Windtest has had an exciting year in Estherville. The North American branch of the German company has added two people to its staff from the original two, Kramer and Jazmin Holzinger. Martin Falk has been with Windtest in Germany since 2007, and led the group in measurement service, and in load, performance, and power-borne sound.

The company has also added a new administrative coordinator in the last several weeks.

“We are excited to see the increase of the wind energy business in Iowa,”?Kramer said.

“It’s great to be here. We are very comfortable with the community college’s support. We can also support their programs,”?Kramer said.

Kramer also praised Iowa Lakes Electric Cooperative. “There are some opportunities there with the windfarms, developing prototypes, and running test programs,”?Kramer said.

Kramer predicted the wind energy industry would create a lot of jobs.

“The advantages to the public and the economy is greater than the environmental impact,”?Kramer said.

“There is always an impact when you dig up a field, but Iowa can set an example for other states,”?Kramer said.

One issue marking the next several years is that of turbine height, Kramer said.

“The height issue will be a little bit tricky. Right now it is set at 500 feet by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA),”?Kramer said.

The FAA?is studying the issue, Kramer said.

Whenever a wind turbine or wind farm is built, anyone seeking to build a wind turbine must file a notice with the FFA at least 45 days before the start date or construction permit date of a proposed project.

Looking ahead to 2017, Kramer said Windtest would possibly hire several new techs and testers, and create new collaborations in the area.