By Christine McPhee, NE Ohio Sierra Club member
Hearing of the success of the wind turbine at the Cuyahoga County Fairgrounds, U.S Congresswoman Marci Kaptur suggested in summer 2012 that the Northeast Ohio Sierra Club consider promoting the idea of energizing Ohio’s county fairgrounds with wind turbines. On Saturday, December 15, 2012 a few Northeast Ohio Sierra Club Executive Committee members had the opportunity to tour the “Fair Winds” 500 kW electric generating turbine, installed in March 2012, at the Cuyahoga County Fairgrounds in Berea and Middleburg Heights. Ms. Joanne Scudder, sustainable energy director, recounted the proposal review by the Cities of Middleburg Heights and Berea, the height and site location review by the Federal Aviation Administration, and the environmental assessment of the impact to Indiana bats and other criteria, required for funding approval by the U.S. Department of Energy. Surprisingly, the Western Cuyahoga Audubon Society supports the project’s reduced need to generate greenhouse gas and other air pollution emissions from fossil fuel burning power plants. Residential neighbors, wary of the health effects of the turbine, were invited on-site to view the foundation construction and turbine installation.
Promoting alternative energy use in the region and public education of alternative energy sources are objectives of the fairgrounds’ Education Center, where information about the wind turbine and the rotating solar panels will be displayed. Opportunities for practical study of turbine power generation by sustainability students at Baldwin Wallace University in Berea, and job training opportunities for the electronics and alternative energy systems students from the Polaris Career Center in Middleburg Heights, are currently available. Development of other general programs is planned.
As of April 2012 the turbine’s energy is transferred and sold to the grid and will offset the fairgrounds’ electric bill by nearly $50,000 per year, or about half the annual bill. Opponents of the turbine project have said that the project costs (installation, operation and maintenance) will exceed the project energy returns. Soon a utility grade meter will more accurately measure the turbine’s power generation so that the returns can be better compared to the costs.