Michigan company says $1.4M wind energy project in Ann Arbor will be in good hands
The New York company was mentioned by Ann Arbor officials earlier this month at a City Council meeting where the project was discussed, but the Michigan company's name never came up.
Brian Steglitz, a senior utilities engineer for the city, said that's only because Lake Effect Energy is a proposed subcontractor, and since the city doesn't yet have a contract with Wind Products Inc., it didn't seem appropriate to identify its proposed subcontractors.
Courtesy of Lake Effect Energy Corp.
Stahl said that's how much his company, which goes by LEEC, believes in the project.
"People need to know there's a Michigan company involved with this thing," Stahl told AnnArbor.com in a recent interview.
The idea is to install two turbines as wind energy demonstrations on property owned by Ann Arbor Public Schools somewhere in the city. The exact location hasn't been determined yet.
Stahl considers it a prime opportunity for the distributed wind energy industry in Michigan to show the public that wind energy is real and works, and he wants Ann Arborites to rest assured they're in good hands with experienced contractors lined up on the project.
California-based Talco Electronics is the distribution partner, according to Stahl, who said LEEC gets a lot of its turbines supplied through Talco.
Stahl said the companies are familiar with one another from being at wind energy conferences together. He described the wind energy industry as a small community in which "pretty much everybody knows everybody" because there's a relatively small number of companies doing projects.
Stahl said the Endurance turbine will be shipped in from British Columbia and the Gaia turbine will come all the way from Scotland.
"We're going to be providing the construction services and partial engineering," he said. "We're probably going to be doing some of the foundation engineering. And I think we're going to be going to all the initial meetings on public hearings and permitting, being we're the closest ones to the site."
The City Council voted 10-0 this month to accept and appropriate up to $951,500 in federal grant money from the U.S. Department of Energy for the project. Wind Products Inc., based in Brooklyn, NY., is expected to provide the local match for the project.
Steglitz said Wind Products Inc. is interested in making money out of the deal, so the turbines will have to deliver real results, which could translate into reduced-cost energy for AAPS.
The City Council is expected to be asked at a future meeting to approve agreements with AAPS and Wind Products Inc. to move the project forward.
Courtesy of Lake Effect Energy Corp.
"Unfortunately, our state — we're like five years behind the curve compared to everybody else as far as wind goes," Stahl said. "We just don't have a lot of systems up here in the state yet to see they really work.
"That's really the big question we run into all the time: Do they actually work? Well, some of them do and some of them don't, but you have to know what systems you're looking at."
Stahl said it's been his observation that when government money becomes available, "a lot of garbage" gets rushed to the market that shouldn't be out there.
But he said the two turbines his company plans to help bring to Ann Arbor are solid pieces of equipment with proven track records. He noted his company recently finished commissioning a Gaia turbine, just like the one being considered here in Ann Arbor, in Cross Village.
"The Gaia is a very reliable piece of equipment," he said. "It's very quiet. It's a two-bladed machine. It is a smaller generator."
The maker of the Gaia 11-kW boasts that tests conducted by the U.S. Department of Energy showed the turbine outperformed its nearest competitor by a factor of more than 2 to 1, and it generates enough clean energy to erase the carbon footprint of the average four-person household.
The maker of the Endurance 50-kW says its turbine is ideal for larger farms, schools, hospitals and commercial/industrial sites, and will produce 100,000-250,000 kWh per year in appropriate winds.
Some have expressed concerns Ann Arbor isn't a good location for wind energy generation. The city's staff responded to those concerns at the Jan. 7 council meeting, saying the purpose of the project is not to construct a wind farm, but to demonstrate the viability of wind technology and use it as an educational tool for the community, including giving local students some hands-on experience.
Watch a video from LEEC of the Gaia 11-kW turbine in action:
Ryan J. Stanton covers government and politics for AnnArbor.com. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 734-623-2529. You also can follow him on Twitter or subscribe to AnnArbor.com's email newsletters.