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Source: Don Gruenbacher, 785-532-4692,
News release prepared by: Beth Bohn, 785-532-2535,

Thursday, Aug. 19, 2010


MANHATTAN -- Kansas State University is exploring the best way a donated wind turbine can be used for research and instruction. The university also will work with the community on a site for the turbine.

Donated by Westar Energy, the 750-kilowatt Zond turbine is one of two turbines Westar had at the Jeffrey Energy Center but decided to take down.

"The addition of the Zond turbine will enhance our educational and research opportunities in wind energy," said Don Gruenbacher, head of the department of electrical and computer engineering.

"We look forward to working with the community to find a suitable location for the turbine," said John English, dean of the College of Engineering.

Ruth Douglas Miller, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering and director of K-State's Wind Applications Center, said Westar offered the turbine to K-State in 2008, with the other turbine going to Cloud County Community College.

K-State has one of the better wind energy programs in the nation, Miller said.

"K-State's program is right up there. Only the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and the University of Colorado currently have stronger programs," she said.

While Westar donated the turbine hardware, which Miller said would cost $1 million to purchase new, K-State has been working to secure funding to refurbish, install and operate it.

The university recently received $700,000 from the U.S. Department of Energy and $156,000 from the Kansas Energy Office for the turbine project. University funds also are needed to make it operational.

"We're pleased that our retired turbine can fulfill a valuable educational purpose for K-State students," said Jim Ludwig, Westar Energy executive vice president. "We are confident that it will be put to good use at a suitable site. We would like to see Kansas become the premier state for educating and training wind power engineers and technicians."

Miller said no location has been selected to place the turbine. One site getting a very preliminary look is a hill on the west side of Tuttle Creek Boulevard by the Rocky Ford area. The hill is also the proposed site for a new Westar substation, and already has a Cox Communications' tower that is 1.5 times higher than the turbine's height of 160 feet, she said.

"It's much too premature to say the site would be a good possibility for the turbine," Miller said.

Any site selected would have to undergo an environmental impact assessment, she said. The study would take into account the turbine's effect on the area's bird population, endangered species and other wildlife. Other factors include whether the turbine would cast a flickering shadow on any homes in the area when operational.

The educational and research benefits of the turbine would be many, Miller said.

"Students would use it to compare it to other developing wind technologies and to explore how to maximize the benefits of integrating wind onto the grid," she said.

In addition, the turbine would be used in conjunction with the recently awarded $3 million DOE grant Riley County, K-State and a Lenexa architectural firm received for a renewable energy test program, Miller said.