A 900 kilowatt wind turbine at Clay High School that was shut down in May will be up and running next week.
FirstEnergy Toledo Edison shut down the turbine, which had been installed in the spring, because a Direct Transfer Trip Switch was never installed. The cost to install the safety measure was estimated at $200,000, which SUREEnergy, the general project contractor for the turbine, could not cover.
A cheaper wireless trip switch was proposed, but Edison was wary, according to School Board President P. J. Kapfhammer, who met last month with officials from Edison and SUREEnergy. But Edison this week has been conducting tests to determine if the less expensive trip switch could do the job. So far, it is, said Kapfhammer.
The trip switch will prevent backfeeding of electrical energy to and from Edison’s substation in the event of an electrical mishap, such as a lightning strike.
The 285-feet wind turbine, which generates electricity by wind and is expected to provide power to Clay High School, is backed by $4.5 million in bonds underwritten by the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority. The school board last year signed an agreement with SUREnergy, who guarantees savings on electric costs from the first month of operation under a 15-year lease to own finance package.
Kapfhammer said the problem arose because SUREEnergy did not submit a connectivity plan to Edison for the turbine.
Two turbines installed at Eisenhower Middle School by SUREEnergy earlier this year did not have to have trip switches because they were much smaller. SUREEnergy assumed the larger commercial grade turbine at Clay would also not need a trip switch. But Edison believed the turbine at Clay was designed for a wind farm, not a distribution system. The switch would be a necessary safety feature. Edison denied a request from the district for a temporary operating permit to run the turbine until the matter could be resolved.
“I met last month with the president of FirstEnergy’s Toledo division, their external affairs manager, and the president of SUREEnergy to discuss where we’re at and how we can work through some hurdles to make sure the turbine would be running for the schools,” said Kapfhammer. “There was some bickering back and forth at first. I thought the turbine would never run again. Then we settled down and had a very good meeting. The focus was on why it stalled out and did not having a connection plan, and how we can move forward. I don’t think anyone wanted egg on their faces. Edison assured me that they would be hands on and make sure everything is done right.”
SUREEnergy will pay to install the switch, which could cost over $100,000, said Kapfhammer.
The district’s first electric bill on the turbine is expected this month.
“There’s a $500,000 insurance policy built into the contract. So if the wind doesn’t blow for a month, those payments are covered by that $500,000 safety net from SUREEnergy,” said Kapfhammer.
Tests were being conducted on the turbine on Wednesday to make sure the shutoff switches were working properly, said Kapfhammer.
“They are doing multiple tests,” he said. “It is working flawlessly.”
“We’re expected to be on the grid and running fully by September 24,” he added.