A Wind Swept Course Takes Advantage Of It

I’m currently working on a handful of alternative energy projects to help courses lighten their energy load, so naturally when I saw this article I felt I had to contact Barbara Mitchell, Owner/Operator of the Highlands Golf Course in Coldstream B.C., to learn of her experience, and to collect some tips.

Turfhugger.com - First of all, tell me a bit about the golf course you run, how many holes?
Barbara Mitchell - It’s 9 hole Short-Game championship course, professionally built in 2000/01. Longest hole is 107 yds over water, total yardage 660. Highlands is predominantly a community tournament course/family reunions, etc. with golf/BBQ dinners.

Turfhugger.com - Do you consider yourself an environmentalist? Or was wind power more of an economic opportunity?
Barbara Mitchell
- I’m environmentally-conscious; not an environmentalist per se. But waste and excess is so entrenched in society that I’m now always looking for ways to do things smarter. Yet economic factors are paramount to business. Nobody wants to go broke “doing the right thing or doing the thing right.” It’s invariably a trade-off.

Turfhugger.com - You've had an interest in wind power for a while, how did the project finally materialize? What were the steps you took?
Barbara Mitchell - I’ve been fascinated by windpower for many years, vowing to pursue it “when time allows”. But last Fall, B.C. Hydro implemented a two-step billing process. Step 1 is charged up to about 1350 kWh per month. After that, Step 2—the Conservation rate—kicks in, at about a penny per kWh more. It’s a penalty rate, intended to encourage conservation.
Sure, I had switched all the clubhouse lights over to compact fluorescents. We even have a rainbarrel under a shop roof overhang. But I felt I could do more. I knew I could do more. Highlands Golf has a 36m long x 30m wide x 4m deep irrigation pond, lined with a 30ml Enviroliner, with a 15 hp Grundfos 7-stage submersible pump that sends water to irrigation valves via three timeclocks—and that pump runs virtually all night on this hot and windswept southslope 15 acre property. It’s expensive to run. A 20-month review of the electrical use showed 92,000 kWh (331 gigajoules).

Barbara Mitchell, Eric Foster and Paul Wende
showing off the finished product.

“When time allows” was suddenly now! Time for a turbine, especially with provincial and federal governments touting their incentive programs. I contacted Paul Wende, of Energy West Power Solutions in Falkland, B.C. (cell 250.306.7697) www.energywest.ca . He had recently installed a 2kW turbine nearby at a residence. When the contractor saw our electricity usage (our residence and swimming pool is located on the same property), he said that a 10kW turbine would be the way to go. He asked what the winds are like on the property. I laughed as I told him I frequently spend my afternoons chasing 100 patio chairs! It was a go!

Turfhugger.com - Did you have any difficulties in getting permits? Was the town/province supportive?
Barbara Mitchell - I was fortunate in that no bylaw currently exists in the Municipality of Coldstream (10 minutes east of Vernon, B.C., in the North Okanagan). I soon discovered that people either love—or hate—the appearance of wind turbines. The province of B.C. had in place until recently a Live Smart B.C. program that provided incentives for green energy, but soon discovered that the B.C. program covered turbines up to 3kW. So I applied to the Federal Ecoenergy Retrofit program. After several months, I discovered my application was denied because my electrical usage was TOO LOW to qualify! But the federal government’s January budget allowed for 45 per cent of green energy projects to be capitalized in Year One. Considering the $50,000 cost of the entire project, I was, of course, disappointed my applications for incentives fell between the cracks of the two programs.

Turfhugger.com - How much energy per year do you plan to produce?
Barbara Mitchell - I’ve “played” with amortization tables, but in the end, it’ll be only the wind that determines the results. I’ve signed the B.C. Hydro net metering agreement, which will pay me 8.167 cents per kWh produced. After a year of operating the turbine, I’ll have a good idea of the amortization period. B.C. Hydro stated (at sign-up) that we are one of 15 net metering customers in B.C., but that Highlands’ 10kW turbine is the largest of their customers.

Turfhugger.com - What are golfers opinions of the turbine? Is the noise an issue?
Barbara Mitchell - Happy to say, our golfers LOVE the turbine! Comments range from “wow, it was really going and I’m surprised at how quiet it is...had always heard they’re noisy”, to “hey son, come and look at green energy production, with no carbon footprint.” Some people ask to see the components, so I happily show them the 10kW controller, two 6kW Aurora inverters, a transformer, the emergency “heat dump”, and two-way hydro meter. A neighbor said her dog barked at the “new thing out there” for the first day or two, then obviously grew accustomed to seeing it. One fellow—during a tournament on a hot and WINDLESS day—came off the course and asked me to “Turn on the fan for our second nine.”

Turfhugger.com - Outside of the turbine is your course involved in any environmental programs like Audubon?
Barbara Mitchell - No involvement with programs beyond the BCGolf Association. I had heard wind turbines were noisy, and that they could impact wildlife—particulary birds and bats—so I made an effort to go out on the course for first-hand experience. When it’s very windy and the turbine is running at say, 50 or 70 rpm, there is a whoosh whoosh sound, but it’s not unpleasant. It’s just a SOUND, not NOISE. Noise can be measured in decibels, but this sound is the equivalent decibel rating of a grove of trees—say Aspen—whose leaves are rustling. That’s the only way I can describe it.
At 100 feet away, I don’t hear a thing. I’ve looked at the turbine base and grassy area nearby, and have not—in its nearly two months of operation—seen any dead bats or birds, or signs of distress like feathers. We still have deer traverse the golf course, and last week a golfer saw the first black bear of the season.
For more information on the project view Barbaras blog here