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For Palouse turbines, too much wind not a good thing

By Jeff Humphrey, KXLY4 Reporter , jeffhu@kxly.com
Published On: Nov 19 2012 08:40:24 PM CST
Palouse wind project
ROSALIA, Wash. -

It was so stormy Monday that utilities that use wind to make electricity were hoping for calmer conditions; it was so windy that the turbines of the Palouse Wind Project weren't turning.

While some turbines were making their maximum amount of power at the Palouse Wind Project near Rosalia, others have taken themselves offline because the wind speed at the top of those towers has exceeded 44 miles an hour.

The turbines are designed to catch the almost steady wind that blows across the tops of the Palouse ridge lines.

"Consistent over a long period of time, also being up on the hill without any trees being in the way gives less distortion. It gives very, very clean, non-disruptive energy to the wind turbines," Greg Scorsone with First Wind Energy said.

Gauges and motors on the top of the towers are constantly steering the nacelle into the best airflow. At the same time, the blades themselves are being feathered to catch enough wind to produce up to 16 rotor rotations per minute.

Whenever it's blowing faster than 21 miles an hour, and that happens a lot on the Palouse, the project is performing at it's peak capacity.

"These at full production will produce about 1800 kilowatt hours, so in one hour of running that enough to power your house for about three months," Shawn Elston with First Wind Energy said.

But on Monday, at least along the ridge lines, the wind was putting too much stress on the turbines and they took themselves offline waiting for calmer wind conditions.

"And if it sees a gust or consistent wind pattern or averages over 20 meters per second or 44 mile per hour, too much energy and we want to protect the mechanics of the whole turbine," Scorsone said.

The electricity generated on the Palouse goes directly into the grid that feeds Whitman County. Like the wheat planted in the fields below, these turbines the Palouse Wind Project is a home grown project.

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