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Tue, Oct. 15

Green power fails to generate savings
Kingman wind turbine has produced $80 worth of electricity since April

JAMES CHILTON/Miner
Paul Levesque and John Kirby stand in the yard of Dr. John Lingenfelter’s home at 1080 Riata Valley Road. Behind them, their 43-foot telescopic tower stands, several yards away from Lingenfelter’s own 33-foot Skystream 3.7 wind turbine. Kirby and Levesque hope to place an anemometer atop their tower to measure wind speeds at Lingenfelter’s home over the next month, in order to get an idea of why the turbine is producing only a fraction of its advertised capacity.

JAMES CHILTON/Miner Paul Levesque and John Kirby stand in the yard of Dr. John Lingenfelter’s home at 1080 Riata Valley Road. Behind them, their 43-foot telescopic tower stands, several yards away from Lingenfelter’s own 33-foot Skystream 3.7 wind turbine. Kirby and Levesque hope to place an anemometer atop their tower to measure wind speeds at Lingenfelter’s home over the next month, in order to get an idea of why the turbine is producing only a fraction of its advertised capacity.

KINGMAN - Rumors of Kingman's windiness may have been greatly exaggerated. That, at least, has been the experience for Dr. John Lingenfelter.

Lingenfelter made ink in late April, when he became the first Kingman resident to purchase a Skystream 3.7 wind turbine for his home at 1080 Riata Valley Road. At the time the man who sold Lingenfelter the turbine, Scott Travis, told the Miner that the Skystream could be expected to produce anywhere between 30 and 85 percent of the doctor's electricity each month.

"The normal house uses approximately 3,000 kilowatts a month," Travis said at the time. "The generator will produce approximately 1,000 to 1,200 kilowatts a month at eight mile per hour winds, based on an eight-hour day."

But that has not been the case for Lingenfelter's turbine, which has produced only about 770 kilowatts of power since it was first activated June 1, according to John Kirby, the marketing director for the Gardens Rehab and Care Center and the nephew of Lingenfelter's special projects manager, Paul Levesque.

"It's far underperformed, and when you figure that a KW is 11 cents, we're at 770 kilowatts," Kirby said. "You're only talking $77, $80 that's been 'saved,' $80 worth of power in six months."

Considering the turbine cost Lingenfelter between $7,000 and $8,000 to purchase and install - and that's down from $14,000, thanks to rebates - Kirby said it would take many years for the turbine to pay for itself.

Even so, Kirby isn't sure the turbine manufacturers are to blame for the low output. He believes the reality may be simply that Kingman, despite a reputation for heavy winds, does not have consistent enough winds to allow the turbine to generate its advertised capacity.

The turbine, he noted, requires at least a constant eight mph wind to start generating power. It doesn't hit full production capacity until winds get at or above 12 miles per hour and stay there.

Kirby noted the Kingman Airport Authority's relocation guides have stated the highest average monthly wind speed in Kingman falls just under 12 miles per hour. According to data from the Western Regional Climate Center, the monthly reported wind speed at Kingman's airport averaged only 9.7 mph from 1996 to 2006, with June the windiest month at 12.3 mph.

"What we're interested in is finding out whether the wind is sufficient," Kirby said. "Everybody says Kingman is so dang windy, we just want to get a feel for it."

That's why Kirby and his uncle have, with the help of welder Don Jennings, constructed a telescoping steel tower designed to measure just how fast Kingman's winds are. For the next month, Kirby and Levesque plan to leave the tower, topped with an anemometer, on Lingenfelter's property set to a turbine-standard height of 33 feet to measure exactly how fast and consistently the wind blows there.

"We wanted to get a feel for exactly why we're producing as little as we are," Kirby said. "In this situation we're thinking we'll do it a month and compare it to what kind of power is being created. There's some thought here about perhaps going to the next size, the next taller pole."

Kirby said he and Levesque can raise the tower to as high as 43 feet currently, though they've considered eventually modifying it to extend to 60 feet, the maximum allowable height for wind turbines in Kingman. Over the next several months the duo hope to determine whether or not Lingenfelter's problem really is the turbine, or simply the location where it was built.

Kirby noted that once his experiments with Lingenfelter have concluded, he is considering lending the tower to other Kingmanites interested in knowing whether they have enough wind to make purchasing a wind turbine cost-effective.

"We think there may be an opportunity for folks that are contemplating using wind power," he said. "You get out north of town and you get into the Cerbat (Mountains) or something, and you may find it's perfect."

Kirby said he didn't intend for the measuring tower to threaten local wind turbine vendors' business, however, adding that it might even find use in helping to identify areas with suitable - or unsuitable - clients.

"I don't think we'd be making any enemies," he said. "I kind of think they could end up being our biggest customer."

For more information on John Kirby and Paul Levesque's wind-measuring tower, call (928) 715-0394.

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