One of Chaska’s most noticeable landmarks has had the wind knocked out of it.

A turbine, located near Pioneer Ridge Middle School and just off of Highway 212, has been shut down and bladeless since Sept. 10 for refurbishment, according to a Minnesota Municipal Power Agency (MMPA) official. The repair of the blades is part of a refurbishment and life extension project.

It is scheduled to be fixed over the next couple months and will regain its gusto in November, according to City Administrator Matt Podhradsky.

The turbine is connected to Chaska’s local distribution system and produces up to 160 kilowatts of energy per hour from the wind.

“The agency owns and maintains it, and each city has their own turbine that exists within their city,” Podhradsky said. There are 11 other cities in the MMPA.

Last year, the agency started providing energy to Elk River, which is the only city that still needs a wind turbine built, Podhradsky added.

The turbine in Chaska has been in operation for almost a decade and now needs to be refurbished as part of its maintenance cycle, according to an email from Krystal Knutson, a senior associate at MMPA. The project includes replacing the hydraulic hoses and pumps, replacement of all control systems, and cleaning and painting of the turbine tower.

The 10 other turbines in the other member cities are also down for routine maintenance, according to Podhradsky.

Turbines have a six-month maintenance schedule and the one in Chaska works during the winter. However, it is turned off occasionally because of ice buildup or if it is below approximately -4 degrees, according to Knutson.

The wind turbine was built near Pioneer Ridge so students could learn about wind power. It is located near a trail for residents to check it out. An informational sign explains how wind is converted to energy.

“Additionally, MMPA (Chaska’s wholesale electric provider) sponsors an energy education program that buses fourth-graders from member communities to MMPA’s Faribault Energy Park power plant every May. At the plant, students rotate through three stations that provide educational information about energy efficiency, renewable energy (including visiting an on-site wind turbine), and power generation and distribution,” according to Knutson’s email. “Students from both Clover Ridge Elementary and St. John’s School in Chaska participated in the program this year.”

The maintenance cost of the turbine is covered by MMPA, according to Knutson. When asked what the price of the maintenance would be, Knutson wrote in an email, “MMPA does not want to provide to this information.”

The cost would not be directly billed back to the city, Podhradsky said, adding that it is supported by rates paid by residents in the member communities.

MMPA also has 24 turbines in Blooming Prairie and 39 in Sauk Centre.

ROUGH START

The 80-foot turbine was one of 11 shipped to Minnesota from California, for $300,000 each in 2009.

In 2009, parts for the wind turbine were delivered to Chaska and after delays from the cold winter, it was up and operational the next year.

Initially, energy from the wind turbine was spotty. The turbine had to be repaired three times in 2010. Once because it was creating loud noises, and again almost four months later after a malfunctioning brake at the Faribault site triggered the shutdown of all MMPA turbines.

SOLAR

Last year, MMPA installed solar panels near Clover Ridge Elementary as part of its Hometown Solar Energy program.

The idea was to put the panels near a school so teachers could tie it back to their science curriculum, Podhradsky said.

“The purpose of the grant program is to provide an educational asset to our member communities and to help teach local youth first-hand how sunlight is converted into electricity, as well as the unique characteristics of solar power,” according to MMPA’s website.

Currently, 11 of the 12 member communities have solar panel installations.

MMPA is mandated to have a quarter of its electric utilities supported by renewable energy by 2025. Currently, the agency is on track at about 21-22%, Podhradsky said.

Staff Reporter

Alex Chhith is a staff reporter at the Chaska Herald. In her spare time, she enjoys walking her dogs (Cody and Sam), catching up on the Game of Thrones and finding new restaurants. Follow her on Twitter @AlexChhith.

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