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Factory tests city's turbines

WILLMAR -- Factory acceptance tests on Willmar's two new wind turbines are under way at the DeWind Inc. plant in Round Rock, Texas.

Wes Hompe, staff electrical engineer for the Willmar Municipal Utilities, is at the factory to watch the tests, which began Monday morning and are to be completed by Wednesday, said Bruce Gomm, Willmar utilities general manager.

The tests simulate response of the nacelle -- the structure that holds the power generating components -- in different weather conditions.

The factory conducts the tests to make sure each nacelle will produce the 2 megawatts of power as specified before shipment, said Gomm.

The utility's two turbines will be erected at a site located north of Willmar Senior High School. Each turbine tower is 250 feet high and each turbine has three 153-foot blades.

The first turbine will be delivered during the first week of June and the second turbine will be delivered during the second week of June.

Gomm said the turbines will be producing electricity sometime in July.

The project grew out of discussion and study that began in 2006.

Gomm reported on the status of the $10 million wind turbine project during the Municipal Utilities Commission meeting Monday.

In related business, Gomm said the soil around the turbine foundations is being compacted again due to moisture and frost problems last year. Gomm said the soil around the foundations must meet certain compaction and moisture requirements.

In other business, Gomm asked commission members for suggestions on the future of Allied Power, the joint venture of the municipal utilities and Kandiyohi Power Cooperative. The co-op and the utilities formed Allied Power in 1996 to work on limited beneficial activities.

Allied Power served a small number of electrical customers in the fringe area between the service territories of the municipal utilities and the co-op. But the number of Allied Power customers has been reduced to Willmar's sludge storage facility after the utilities and the co-op signed a service territory agreement last year.

The city is constructing a new wastewater treatment plant next to the sludge storage facility and the facility will eventually be served by the municipal utilities, which will build a substation at the new treatment plant. Power is now being provided through the co-op.

After the service territory agreement was signed, Gomm said, the Allied Power Board discussed whether or not the board should be abolished. At that time, the board decided to remain intact.

However, the board met last Friday and decided to ask the utilities commission and co-op for direction, said Gomm. The issue will be discussed by the commission's Planning Committee on Thursday.

Also Monday, the commission approved the $101,183 bid from KC Utility Packaging of Pleasant Hill, Mo., to provide materials for the wastewater treatment plant substation. The bid was one of four bids opened April 28 for substation materials.

KC Utility Packaging also submitted a low bid of $89,940, but staff rejected the bid because some materials were non-compliant, according to a memo from Hompe.

Jeff Kimpling, manager of electric services, said price fluctuations in steel may have accounted for the reason why the bid was above the $96,000 engineer's estimate.

In other action, the commission voted to advertise for bids to construct the substation. Bids will be opened June 16. The cost is estimated at $320,000. Gomm he believes the final substation cost, which includes a transformer and construction of power lines to the substation, will be close to the $1.2 million estimate.