A planned addition to the curriculum at Central Community College-Hastings stands 432 feet tall.
A wind turbine owned and operated by Omaha-based Bluestem Energy Solutions was recently erected just southwest of the CCC-Hastings campus as part of a public-private partnership between Bluestem, the college and Hastings Utilities.
The project includes one $4 million, 1.7-megawatt General Electric turbine, which rises 432 feet above the ground from the tip of a blade. The turbine is interconnected directly into Hastings Utilities’ subtransmission system, with all of the electricity being used locally.
The Hastings Board of Public Works approved a pair of contracts for the project on Aug. 31.
The first contract was a power purchase agreement with Bluestem, which will build, own and operate the wind generator and sell the carbon-free energy to Hastings Utilities.
The second contract was a wind power purchase agreement between Hastings Utilities and CCC outlining the understanding between the parties, including allowing CCC to use a portion of the environmental attributes generated by the project.
“As far as the facility itself, at its peak it will generate enough energy to run the campus,” Campus President Bill Hitesman said. “Everything we get back from Hastings Utilities will be clean energy.”
Construction started on the project in October and finished a couple weeks ago. The turbine was online as of Dec. 23 and is now sending power to the Hastings Utilities grid.
Hitesman said CCC is in the process of putting together a wind energy curriculum. Students and faculty would have access with Bluestem, which will maintain the turbine.
He said the turbine will be part of the college’s alternative energy program, which also includes solar panel and geothermal technologies. He hopes the curriculum will be in place by the fall 2017 semester “if everything goes well.”
Hitesman said the college will hire a full-time instructor for the wind energy curriculum once the program is up and running.
“We wouldn’t be able to do it without a wind turbine,” he said. “We have the ones that are on the ground, so (students) can learn components of it, how they operate, on the ground or with simulators but not up in the air in the actual wind turbine.”
Once the program is running, students will have the opportunity a couple times a semester to climb the 260 steps to the top of the turbine.
Part of the program will be ensuring students can make that climb.
“Even though they may be comfortable with heights, when you get up that high and it’s swaying a little bit it isn’t always comfortable for people, either,” he said.
Installation of the turbine was quite an undertaking, taking 43 truck loads to pour close to 400 cubic yards of concrete.
The concrete base is 9 feet deep and nearly 60 feet across.
“It’s been quite a process,” Hitesman said. “It’s a pretty large structure.”
When wind speeds are more than 45 mph, the blades will lock for safety.
While there’s enough room for more turbines, Hitesman doesn’t think the college will add more, as the location would limit the construction of additional turbines there because of Federal Aviation Administration rules about the proximity of tall structures to the Hastings Municipal Airport.
“It would be highly doubtful,” he said. “I think our interest was having the one, which generates enough.”