El Dorado's Water Reclamation Facility has added a new feature to the El Dorado skyline, a wind turbine standing 326-feet tall at blade tip. The lofty wind turbine can be seen from every entrance into the city and lets people know, El Dorado believes in renewable energy.
In 2008, the El Dorado Wetlands and Water Reclamation Facility won the National Environmental Project of the Year award from the American Public Works Association. At this time, staff began to look into other opportunities to become more self sustaining and environmentally responsible. The city applied for and was awarded 2 grants, totaling $1.1 million, from the Department of Energy and the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act. The grants covered about half of the cost of constructing the 1 megawatt wind turbine.
The return on investment is projected to be about 7-8 years and the turbine has a 20 year life. Depending on Westar's escalation of rates, the turbine will save the citizens of El Dorado $5-8 million over the life of the turbine. When the wind is blowing, the turbine will produce all of the energy required to run the advanced wastewater treatment facility. Excess energy goes back on the power grid and is sold to Westar Energy.
The turbine is an impressive structure, the base tower rises to a height of 230-feet and has a diameter of 10-feet. On top of the tower is the nacelle, the part of the turbine the blades attach to. The nacelle weighs 50 tons, which is about the weight of 25 cars. The nacelle houses the gearbox, generator, weather station, and communication equipment for the turbine. The blades are 90-feet each, weigh 4.5 tons, and spin at a blade tip speed of about 160 mph. The wind turbine is designed to start spinning at about 10 mph and produces a maximum amount of electricity at 35 mph. The last 10-feet of the blade tips rotate to brake the wind turbine when wind speeds exceed 56 mph.