Metro may install wind turbine, solar panels atop Love Circle

Thursday, December 9, 2010 at 10:05pm

A wind turbine and 20 solar panels could soon produce energy on Love Circle through a partnership between Metro government and Vanderbilt University.

Taking advantage of one of the highest points in Nashville, Metro officials are hoping to install the devices at a Metro Water Services reservoir atop the hill for a pilot study to explore using alternative forms of energy to power government facilities. Meanwhile, Vanderbilt engineering students would use the facility to research the viability of renewable energy.

The machines wouldn’t generate power specifically to the surrounding Hillsboro-West End neighborhood, project leaders say, but the energy would contribute to Tennessee Valley Authority’s power grid.    

“It’s just a good opportunity to make some steps to see how we can go about reducing our consumption of nonrenewable resources and reducing our bills in the future” said Metro Councilwoman Kristine LaLonde, who represents the Love Circle neighborhood. 

“There’s great interest in Metro government becoming energy self-sustained.”

According to water department spokeswoman Sonia Harvat, the project would cost Metro slightly less than $97,000. The city would take ownership of the turbine and solar panels, she said, and pay for installation and maintenance. 

“This would definitely be something that helps us in determining the feasibility of setting up alternate energy power at some of [the water department’s] remote facilities,” Harvat said. “We think this is going to be a great pilot study.

“We’ll be the beneficiary, but Vanderbilt will be able to utilize it,” Harvat added. “They’re helping us do the up-front work, as well as giving us their data, as far as research and feasibility.”

LaLonde and other council members have sponsored a bill that would approve the agreement between Metro and Vanderbilt and sign off on the funds. The ordinance cleared the first of three votes at Tuesday’s council meeting.

“It’s a small wind turbine, a low-noise wind turbine,” LaLonde said. “The neighborhood that surrounds Love Circle is very excited about being a part of the energy solution.”

Amrutur Anilkumar, professor of mechanical engineering at Vanderbilt, said the university began searching for a site that met all requirements for a wind turbine last year. The spot was found in Love Circle, conveniently located blocks from the school.

Anilkumar, VU’s point man for the project, said Love Circle’s wind/solar-based power-generating facility would produce about 30 kWk each day, which he said is the average amount of power consumed by a U.S. household daily.

“Through a combination of wind and solar, we want to achieve that number,” he said. “Further, we want to set up a station there so people can see what power is being produced. If there’s no wind blowing, obviously there will be no wind power. If there’s no sun shining, there will be no sun power.”

From an education standpoint, Anilkumar said Vanderbilt students would help supervise the site and launch a website to monitor the power being produced.

“What are the returns? What is the investment?” he said. “All of this, we want to make available to the public who are potentially thinking about it.”


14 Comments on this post:

By: Stevec31 on 12/10/10 at 6:21

Ok, we're spending ~$97,000 to install a system that (according to the article) will produce 30 kWh per day. At the retail level, that's about $2.25 worth of electricity. In a year $ 25 years, $20,531. The $97,000 figure does not include maintenance as an additional cost.

Solar panels are a "feel-good" item that represent a staggering waste of resources and energy. See anything wrong with this picture? in 25 years this system will output 273,750 Kwh of electricity, assuming everything is pollyanna and it never breaks. The $97,000 would buy about 1,293,333 kWh of electricity at retail prices.

Perhaps someone can tell me why this project is worthwhile. Don't argue greenhouse gas and all that, think of the energy used making, transporting, and installing those panels and you're already in the red on that point too. I'm a big fan of alternative energy but as of today, solar is not the answer as evidenced by this very article.

Apparently Metro and Vanderbilt do not own 4-function calculators.

By: govskeptic on 12/10/10 at 6:46

It's another Ethanol, cost $1.10 to get ,85 in gasoline. This sounds like another
"it's for the Children" educational cost for the Vandy students. Feel good, look
good, that's what it's all about.

By: nvestnbna on 12/10/10 at 8:15

Exactly Stevec31! Seems like they're going to one up the other Love Circle eyesore.

By: Community-carl-... on 12/10/10 at 8:17

I'm an advocate for finding alternate energy sources, but this project is a waste of taxpayer's dollars. This project is nothing new...extensive research has already been done RE: wind turbines and solar panels. There are much higher priorities for $97,000 than this extremely repeatitious study.

I'm on the same page as Steve31 above.....what a waste.

By: HokeyPokey on 12/10/10 at 8:25

The project costs 97K and Vandy is contributing what? Opinions of Vanderpuppies?

Heck, the darn thing won't even generate enough power for John Rich's studio earphones, despite drawing energy from his hot air.


By: AmyLiorate on 12/10/10 at 9:30

Stevec31 should get an honorary degree from the VU Math department. Economic and Engineering departments also.

In some extreme cases this could possibly make sense. A very remote area where it might cost $40,000 for NES to bring in power lines and such. But I can't see where so little energy is going to be able to power anything significant like water pumps.

A reservoir that is only good on windy/sunny days? No, I think they'll always have NES power as a backup. I think this project is about visibility and convenience, not in the interest of actually saving money.

By: dan3843 on 12/10/10 at 9:52

From a purely economic standpoint this does indeed make no sense but then the same could be said for a baby. At some point we're going to run out of cheap coal and places to store nuclear waste. Isn't it better to plan and test alternatives before then?

By: left on 12/10/10 at 10:00

I am the leader of this city, and I will do what I want,so I want a windmill on top of a hill, and that's it!

By: Stevec31 on 12/10/10 at 10:26

Dan, you make a valid point that I failed to address in my original post. Yes, one day we are going to run out of cheap coal and other resources. My point is we already know the energy yield of the panels, yet we're installing them anyway. We are taking a valuable resource (electricity,and oil) and using it to make products we *already know* will not come close to breaking even... much less make net, on-the-books energy.

To borrow a line from Don Lancaster, a highly educated and respected author, this project makes as much sense as trading two American Dollars for one Mexican Peso.

By: Wild Bill on 12/10/10 at 12:27

Love Circle? Don't you mean MT. Richmore...... haha

By: AT on 12/10/10 at 12:41

The technology is just not there yet to justulify the enormous investment. Billionaire T Boone Pickens has lost over $2,000,000,000 (that's $2 BILLION) trying to make wind power pay off with no return. The "payoff" on solar power is not much better. It's unwise and irresponsible to spend so much money for so little return, or the total lack thereof. It's like shoveling cash money into your furnace to heat your house! Good grief!

By: bfra on 12/11/10 at 9:20

Wind tunnel not needed atop Love Circle. Big mouth Rich is already there. He can blow more wind than any tunnel.

By: Bennyhaha on 12/11/10 at 12:12

Sounds like an April Fools Day article. Is this possibly incorrect? Does it really cost $97,000 to power 1 household and the whole town has to look at it? How much is insurance and maintenance? Probably more than it cost to power 1 household. Will it not be outdated in 10 years? And on a wind-less, cloudy day, I hope that 1 household is out of town. What am I missing??

By: yogiman on 12/11/10 at 1:28

This looks like Maxine's newest question;

'Let me get this straight... we're going to be 'gifted' with a health care plan we are forced to purchase and fined if we don't, which purportedly covers at least Ten million more people, without adding a single new doctor but provides for 16,000 new IRS agents, written by a committee whose chairman says he doesn't understand it, passed by a congress that didn't read it, but exempted themselves from it, and signed by a President who smokes, with funding administered by a treasury chief who didn't pay his taxes for which we'll be taxed for four years before any benefits take effect, by a government which has already bankrupted Social Security and Medicare. all to be overseen by a surgeon general who is obese, and financed by a country that's broke!!!

What the hell could possibly go wrong?'