Wind energy to be studied at port

Skyron Systems, Inc. makes vertical axis wind turbines

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This vertical axis wind turbine in The Dalles, Ore., is manufactured by Skyron Systems, Inc. The company will soon study the potential use of turbines at various Port of Camas-Washougal properties.

A manufacturer of vertical axis wind turbines will soon provide a free feasibility study, to determine if its products could provide any economic benefits to the Port of Camas-Washougal.

Brian Sheets, chief executive officer of Skyron Systems, Inc., along with Chief Financial Officer Bill Steele and Marketing and Sales Manager Jon Gruett attended the June 1 port meeting.

The feasibility study will be conducted at locations such as the port’s marina area, industrial park and Grove Field Airport.

“We’re anxious to see what that study shows, and we’ll use that information to take the next steps,” said Port Planning and Development Director Scot Walstra. “The study will show what the best locations [for the turbines] will be.”

He referred to initiative 937, which requires greater use of alternative and renewable energy sources by the year 2015.

Walstra said he approached Skyron officials.

“We are converting all buildings to T5 lighting, so it’s a broader strategy to conserve and be more efficient,” he said. “We have converted three industrial park buildings to all T5 lighting and plan to do all of our buildings.”

According to Walstra, T5 is high efficiency lighting that produces approximately 50 percent more light with up to a 60 percent reduction in the electric bill. A typical T5 light lasts 20 years, he added, and Clark Public Utilities has helped the port with incentives and rebates.

Skyron Systems has offices in Beaverton, Ore., and a manufacturing facility in Vancouver.

“Wind energy generation is a huge growth business,” Walstra said. “We would love to have a wind turbine manufacturer or a supplier to the wind turbine industry at the port.”

According to Gruett, the vertical axis wind turbines are “friendly” to birds and wildlife, compared to the standard, three-bladed propeller type of turbines.

“Birds fly around ours,” he said. “They recognize it as a wall.”

The cost of a vertical turbine can range from $7,000 to $70,000, according to Gruett, who said the Skyron turbines are “mid-range” in price.

There are also installation costs, which can vary by site.

“You’ll always have wind,” he said. “It’s a renewable, sustainable method of generating power, rather than coal or dirtier methods.

“With wind energy, there are initial capital costs,” Gruett added. “It is not free. Ours is like the Mercedes Benz of cars. It is a very durable design.”

Standard three-bladed turbines can cost $9,000 to $10,000, while the types on wind farms range from $1.5 million to $2 million per unit.

The recent annual convention of the American Wind Energy Association, in Dallas, Texas, attracted more than 26,000 people.

According to Gruett, that included approximately 20 individuals from the Portland-Vancouver area and the Columbia River Economic Development Council.

“Everyone here needs to get on board,” he said. “We need jobs. We need to get more companies here.”