North Charleston may turn to wind turbines: Devices atop City Hall would result in savings
North Charleston's answer to finding clean, cheap electric energy could be blowing in the wind above City Hall.
City leaders this week will discuss a plan to put five wind turbines on the roof where they will capture the exhaust breezes coming off the building's air-conditioning system. As the turbines turn, the blades produce recycled energy to be carried back inside.
The turbine's manufacturer said the project has national implications, because North Charleston City Hall would be the first municipal building in the country to install the technology.
For taxpayers, the cost savings from recycling the wind also could be significant, with an estimated $4,500 to
$5,000 a year in charges coming off City Hall's annual power bill, based on current municipal energy rates of between 9 and 10 cents per kilowatt hour.
"It's an innovative way to be a community leader in promoting and being a sustainable city," Ryan Johnson, assistant to Mayor Keith Summey, said Tuesday.
The turbine systems are manufactured by TAM Energy of North Charleston, a 22- employee business that operates in Stark Industrial Park off Azalea Drive. The facility has no connection to Clemson University's nearby wind-turbine testing facility at the former Charleston Naval Base.
In the TAM system, each turbine is about 6 feet in diameter and weighs 185 pounds. To be able to turn, the turbines use a system of magnets and stators surrounding an outer ring that act to capture power at the blade tips -- where speed is greatest -- to eliminate mechanical resistance and drag.
Robert Torres, vice president at TAM Energy, said the design of the turbine is similar to that of a turning bicycle wheel. "There are no moving gears, and all the energy is created at the blade tips," he said.
When the building's air-conditioning system turns on, it means the city is "creating their own energy and reusing it again," Torres said. The amount of energy generated won't be enough to power all of City Hall, he added, but there would be enough created that they are "adding back a supplement for reuse."
The cost of installing the fans would be about $57,148, with funding coming from an Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant that was the federal government's stimulus package adopted at the height of the recent economic crisis.
City Council will have a first discussion of the turbine project Thursday at a special meeting of the Finance Committee, where the project is the only item on the agenda.
Johnson said the idea is all about North Charleston taking a local lead in being a "green city."
Reach Schuyler Kropf at 937-5551.