By Amy SunseriJanuary 18, 2011
FORT HUACHCUCA, Ariz. -- Soon, those driving near or on Fort Huachuca will have a visual reminder that Fort Huachuca continuously strives to reduce its environmental footprint. The installation of a giant wind turbine on the south range near the aerostat is the beginning of the fort's effort to produce much or all of its own power.
Construction is underway on the massive project. But, before changes can happen here or at any other military installation, the turbine needs to undergo extensive testing.
"We realize we are going to go green; all [Army] posts are going to go green. Its inevitable," stated Sam Montanez, energy engineer with Directorate of Public Works.
Montanez said he believes Fort Huachuca is the first post to have a large turbine installed and undergo this type of testing. Once the turbine is up and running, staff at the Electronic Proving Ground on post will test the wind turbine for a year. EPG will test the turbine against radar; see if it interferes with various frequencies and Unmanned Aircraft Systems operations.
"They're going to test it against everything that they know that could hurt any mission that we [Fort Huachuca] have," explained Montanez.
The project started about four and a half years ago. Originally DPW wanted to put up smaller turbines but Montanez said they had problems obtaining them since nobody was manufacturing the small ones any more. So DPW held off on the project until they could get a large turbine.
Then an issue arose with the Army. Army officials were concerned because they didn't know if the turbines would interfere with the Army's mission. That's why EPG will monitor the turbine and provide updates throughout its testing. After a year Montanez feels they'll be able to discuss the positive impacts of the turbine with other installations throughout the Army.
"I think it's going to open the door to a lot of installations to start putting these up on their installations," he said, adding, "What we're trying to do on post here is just go net zero. We want to produce our own power. We want to not be dependent on an electric company."
Nordic Windpower is the manufacturer of the turbine. The U.S. based company is a technology developer and manufacturer of innovative, two-bladed wind turbines for the rapidly expanding global wind market. This is the first time Nordic Windpower has worked with a military installation.
"The opportunity to serve a community like Fort Huachuca is very exciting; we're looking forward to having the turbine there," said Tom Carbone, CEO of Nordic Windpower.
On average, Carbone said a Nordic turbine produces enough energy a year which can be consumed by 250-300 average sized homes, adding that their turbines have two blades versus three which allows for the turbine to be lighter and work under lower wind sources.
It takes about nine miles of wind per hour to power the turbine. When the wind reaches that speed, the turbine will automatically start. It will point itself into the direction of the wind and make changes with the wind direction, Carbone added.
The turbine weighs 110 tons. From the bottom to the tip of the blade at the 12 o'clock position the turbine stands at nearly 300 feet. The turbine is very low maintenance; Carbone added that they only need to be checked about four times a year for maintenance.
"It's not an eyesore," said Montanez. "I think once people get used to it they won't even know it's there."
The wind turbine on Fort Huachuca is being constructed on Garden Canyon Road at the detour to DeConsini Hill. Those traveling to the aerostat should expect traffic delays while the massive unit is installed, a process that will take several weeks. By the middle of February, Montanez said the turbine should be up, running and ready to produce power.