Repower project set to wrap up

January 2, 2020

From the Wessington Springs True Dakotan; published December 24, 2019; reprinted with permission.

Construction activity will soon be winding down at a Jerauld County wind farm located south of Wessington Springs.

“Wessington Springs Wind,” a subsidiary of NextEra Energy Resources, has undergone repowering project over the course of the last several months.

The site, which began commercial operation in February 2009, currently consists of 34 General Electric (GE) 1.5 MW turbines with 77-meter blades. Each wind turbine is 262 feet tall from the ground to the center of the blade hub.

A crane waits to lift new blades onto a turbine at the Wessington Springs Wind farm.

The GE turbines are capable of generating enough electricity to power more than 12,700 homes, create no air or water pollution, use no water in power generation and allow land to remain in agricultural use.

NextEra Energy Resources upgraded the performance of the turbines by installing longer, 91-meter blades. According to the company, the longer blades can capture more wind energy to convert it to electric energy, making the turbines more efficient and improving their performance.

“This repower provides an upgrade to newer, more efficient turbine technology, extending the benefits of the project to the community and to landowners for a longer period,” said Jeffrey Bryce, NextEra Energy Resources Associate Project Manager. “The repower will allow the site to operate at peak efficiency with lower wind speeds. The increased efficiency reduces the cost of generating clean, renewable energy and extends the operations of the site for the foreseeable future.”

A discarded rotor hub, which the three blades attach to on a functioning turbine, sits near the base of a turbine at the wind farm. The components within the rotor hub are responsible for controlling the pitch of the blades for desired turbine output.

Through a long-term purchase power agreement with NextEra Energy Resources, Heartland Consumers Power District, the provider of wholesale electric energy to 30 municipalities including Wessington Springs, purchases the full output of the turbines at Wessington Springs Wind.

Nate Jones, Heartland’s chief operations officer, said that Heartland maintains a diverse power supply portfolio, including the output from the wind farm in Wessington Springs to serve their customer base.

“All the resources we have, we use for our customer base,” said Jones, when speaking about the Wessington Springs Wind output contract. “This is part of the energy mix that provides enough resources to service all our customers.”

Heartland officials recently visited the wind farm along with staff from NextEra Energy Resources to check on progress of the repower. From left to right, Heartland Customer Relations Manager Kelly Dybdahl, Chief Operations Officer Nate Jones and Director of Market Operations McCord Stowater.

Jones said that the repower project puts in place the newest and best equipment to produce more wind energy.

When it comes to the flow of energy, Heartland picks up the wind farm output at the high voltage power line. From there, the energy becomes part of the larger mix of energy Heartland uses to provide power to all of its customers, including Wessington Springs.

“It’s hard to describe energy flow,” Jones explains. “Electrons, or energy produced, goes out on the bulk grid and gets used up. Our Wessington Springs Wind contract gives us the right to the energy produced there.”

The repowering project brought approximately 100-150 crew members to the area for this project.

Officials from Wessington Springs also recently toured the wind farm. From left to right, Heartland Director of Market Operations McCord Stowater, Chief Operations Officer Nate Jones, NextEra Energy Resources Wind Tech Leader Darin Clabaugh, Wessington Springs city employee Bailey Willman, Wessington Springs Area Chamber and Development Director Loree Gaikowski, and Heartland Customer Relations Manager Kelly Dybdahl. Not pictured is Wessington Springs Electric Superintendent Phil LaBore.

Heartland says that in addition to efficiencies, this project will also financially help their customers.

“Heartland will receive a lower wind energy rate due to increased efficiencies from more wind power produced and reduced maintenance costs,” said Heartland Chief Finance Officer Mike Malone. “Heartland’s customers, in turn, will experience wholesale rate stability as a result.”

A gearbox, rotor shaft and brake assembly from Turbine #1 of the wind farm.

Bryce said that additional repower projects will not be needed in the future. He explained that this repower will not only increase the efficiency and performance of the site, but also include state-of-the-art monitoring systems that will allow NextEra to predict required maintenance and prevent unscheduled outages.

“Wessington Springs Wind will continue to bring clean, reliable energy to Jerauld County for many years to come.

With the repower comes state-of-the-art monitoring systems, which allows NextEra to view real-time data of each wind turbine.