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Sources: Bob Helm, 785-625-1463,;
Ruth Douglas Miller, 785-532-4596,;
and Barry Kaaz, 785-460-5429,
Web site:

Wednesday, Sept. 8, 2010


MANHATTAN -- A partnership involving Colby Community College, Midwest Energy, Wind Energy Consulting and Contracting, and Kansas State University has received a subcontract award from the U.S. Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory to establish the High Plains Small-Wind Turbine Test Center at Colby.

The Colby center will focus on residential and commercial scale turbines rated at 50 kilowatts and under. Data from the tests will be used in a national certification program to produce standardized rating labels for wind turbines, much like fuel mileage ratings for automobiles.

Midwest Energy's desire to provide realistic savings estimates for its customers sparked the effort, according to Patrick Parke, the company's vice president of customer services.

"Initially, we considered establishing our own test center. When we learned of the competitive grant opportunity, we sought out the expertise at K-State's Wind Applications Center," Parke said.

The wind center's involvement led to the inclusion of K-State's Advanced Manufacturing Institute and Colby Community College, which is a K-State Wind for Schools project participant.

"We're pleased to be a part of this effort to provide reliable information about renewable energy," Parke said. "Midwest Energy will purchase electricity produced in the trials, and those funds will help sustain ongoing operation of the test center."

Midwest Energy, which is based in Hays, also is assisting with grid interconnection for the turbines and test center start-up costs.

The Advanced Manufacturing Institute staff will set up the instruments to measure turbine performance. The institute has expertise in designing, evaluating and improving industrial equipment.

Staff with K-State's Wind Applications Center want to use the Colby center to give wind engineering students experience with small turbines, as well as to provide information to Kansas citizens on the quality of various turbines on the market.

"We're also excited about the collaboration with Colby Community College, which is interested in matching its programs in energy and sustainability to programs at K-State, where its students will come after finishing their associate degrees at CCC," said Ruth Douglas Miller, K-State associate professor of electrical and computer engineering and director of the Wind Applications Center. The project also fits in with K-State's goal of becoming a nationally recognized top 50 public research university by 2025.

Wind Energy Consulting and Contracting, a consulting firm based in Florida but with offices scattered across the country, provided initial help with the first financial modeling and will continue to provide consulting advice to help the High Plains Small-Wind Turbine Test Center best meet the needs of the small-wind industry. The consulting firm specializes in conducting the front-end wind, environmental and financial analyses for wind projects ranging from large wind parks to single one-off installations.

Colby Community College will be home to the High-Plains Center staff.

"The High Plains Small-Wind Turbine Test Center will plant another economic seed for wind energy development in northwest Kansas," said Lynn Kreider, president of Colby Community College. "It will enhance our alternative energy/small wind program, which was recently submitted to the Kansas Board of Regents. This is a tremendous opportunity for Colby Community College and for economic development in the area."

Along with the Colby site, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory announced test centers will be in Texas, Utah and New York. Test data will be submitted to the Small Wind Certification Council, an independent body that will certify small wind turbines that meet or exceed performance and durability standards of the American Wind Energy Association.