Windmill Project SignThese pictures were taken on the Silver Star Wind Project near Dublin, Texas. Dublin is located in Erath County southwest of Ft. Worth. When complete, the Silver Star Wind Project will have about 45 windmills with a peak capacity of about 65 megawatts.

The turbines will be 1.5 megawatt units manufactured by General Electric. They produce the rated output in winds from 27 to 56 mph. At lower wind speeds, they produce less electricity. A sustained 27 mph wind is uncommon in most locations, particularly at night. As a result few, if any, wind power projects actually produce at anything close to rated capacity continuously.


Windmill Construction Site

Viewed from a distance while driving down the road, it is easy to underestimate the size of the windmills that drive the turbines to produce electricity. The picture above shows the construction site with the windmill blades lying on the ground with a SUV parked alongside for size comparison. The people walking alongside the blade to the right of the SUV are barley visible in the picture.

Windmills, obviously, must be located where there is likely to be steady strong wind. Generally that means along ridge lines. The top of the ridge must be cleared and leveled to provide a place for assembly and construction. Roads must be built to allow oversize trucks to access the site.

Windmill Construction

Moving closer, it is easy to see how massive the windmill blades actually are in comparison to the SUV and people. Each blade is 156 feet long to give a diameter of over 300 feet - the length of a football field. Each blade is hauled to the site separately where the complete windmill is assembled and erected. Like all construction sites, this one is a muddy mess when it rains and a dusty mess when it doesn't.

Tower Base

The base of the tower is about 15 feet in diameter. Before erection, the SUV could be driven through the base section with room to spare. The tower is hauled in sections, each requiring an over-sized low-boy truck.

Each windmill has electrical equipment near the base to convert the generated electricity to a voltage and phase that can be accepted onto the main power grid. There is a door near the base of the tower to allow maintenance access to the equipment at the top of the tower. It is a long climb. Electrical wiring connecting the turbine to the transformers at the bottom of the tower run inside the tower.

Windmill TowerAt the top of the tower is a gearbox. The assembled windmill blades will attach to the front of it and the GE turbine to the back. Beyond that is the Texas sky.

One of the major problems with wind power is that the windiest locations are often in sparsely populated areas with limited power grid access. Building the high-voltage transmission lines to connect the wind turbines to the grid is another major project that must be completed before wind power can be become a significant contributor to the nation's power supply.

Since wind generated power is intermittent (like solar generated power), it cannot be relied upon for base load electrical needs. To assure continuous power to consumers, there must be adequate traditional generating capacity (gas, coal, hydro and nuclear) to supply the total anticipated load in case the wind is not blowing when electricity is needed. Wind generators can only allow some of the traditional power stations to be shut down while the wind is blowing.

Switching back and forth from "spinning" power plants to intermittent sources can cause service interruptions and voltage surges. Currently, less than 2% of the nations power comes from wind. The maximum percentage that can come from intermittent power sources is probably less than 20% without causing power outages on a routine basis.

Below is a picture of the partially completed Silver Star Wind Project from the road.

Approaching the construction stie

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