Wednesday, June 2, 2010
White Cloud to Hamburg Iowa - June 1
After an early start and farewell to the Kansas Bocks, we rode the two miles into Nebraska where we immediately picked up a tailwind!! What a difference. We got to Rock Port in less than 3 hours (over 50 miles) and spent almost 3 hours with Eric Chamberlain, the local man who got the Rock Port owned utility to agree to install 4 large wind turbines that feed directly into the local grid.
We wanted to video Eric but he said that he has a face for radio and didn't want to be filmed. Rolf took lots of pictures so that and our memories and the notes that Catherine took will have to describe what we learned today.
I called Eric from the Rock Port City Park and he cam out and we talked for a while about Rock Port's history as a town that not only has its own utility but also has its own phone company. Rather unique for a small town of 1500!
The Rock Port utility company is part of a pool of communities that buy energy from providers when the wind isn't blowing. They also still have their own fossil fuel based energy generation facility that they use when the grid goes down and they can't get power from either their wind turbines or other outside sources. We visited the plant and it was just wonderful to see the huge diesel/natural gas fired turbines sitting idle! We also got to see the penciled in numbers that showed how many KW of power are sent out to the grid above and beyond what the Town of RockPort uses. Over the average of a year, Rock Port produces more wind energy than they use.
Eric is employed by "Wind Capital Group". They install utility scale wind projects throughout Northern and Central Missouri. The four turbines that directly feed into the Rock Port utility were installed at the same time that Eric's company was installing a 50 MW system that we got to see when we left Rock Port later in the afternoon. As with many utility scale projects, the money comes from investors and in the case of Rock Port, the investor is John Deere.
After leaving the Municipal Light Plant, Catherine and I followed Rolf and Eric out to the field where the four 1.2 MW turbines that power Rock Port are located. I was surprised by the small size of the transmission line needed to transport the power from the turbines to the local grid. We discussed public acceptance of wind turbines and their electromagnetic impacts which Eric considers negligible. Especially since the towers are never placed closer than 1,000 feet from homes.
Eric also talked about the green jobs created by the wind industry in the area and they are significant partly since they are all new jobs in a new industry.
When we talked about how much attention the 4 turbines in Rock Port attract, Eric pointed out that this project makes it easy for people to understand wind as an energy source. Since electricity is invisible it's hard for people to understand the relationship between a spinning turbine or a coal fired plant and the lights working in their homes. The Rock Port wind project directly provides power to the town and it is measured. This makes it easy to understand and exciting for both wind power advocates and the residents of Rock Port who can look at those four turbines and say, "That's where our power comes from."
After leaving Rock Port, we headed to Hamburg,Iowa to break our previous record of 3 states in one day. We left Kansas for Nebraska, crossed the Arkansas River into Missouri on one of the worst bridges any of us have ever seen and then finished the day in the southwest corner of Iowa where the lady at City Hall warned us about a storm rolling in and suggested that we get a room at the only motel in town. So here we sit, waiting for the storm in a rather funky motel after a very interesting and high mileage (80 miles) day.
The Kansas Bocks having breakfast
1 of 4
Rock Port's wind man, Eric Chamberlain
The Press catches the Green Riders in action
Catherine does an interview
3 of the Rock Port 4